A couple of weeks ago, a struggling Bryan Bigley joked with his older brother, Robby, that he was considering retiring from professional golf, regaining his amateur status, and then coming back to the Capital Region at least once a year to win the Schenectady Classic. He warned his older sibling that there would be precious few opportunities for Robby to expand on his three Schenectady Classic titles once Bryan, a two-time champ, was back in the picture.
But Bryan Bigley’s outlook on his pro career changed dramatically last weekend, when he nearly won his first Web.com Tour title, eventually tying for second after losing to winner Henrik Norlander of Sweden on the third playoff hole of the Wichita Open at Crestview Country Club.
The Web.com Tour, which is now called the Korn Ferry Tour after switching sponsors during the week, is the official feeder system of the PGA Tour. Bigley a Schalmont High School and Siena College grad who turned pro in 2008, has enjoyed a few bright moments, but mostly, it’s been a grind, especially this season, when he failed to make a cut in his first 12 starts, earning just a little less than $3,000.
After shooting 15-under-par during regulation play to tie four others in a playoff late Sunday night, Bigley and Norlander each birdied the first extra hole, played on the par-3 17th hole, and the other three contenders were eliminated. Norlander didn’t want to extend the playoff because it was too dark, so he and Bigley returned early Monday morning to determine the winner.
Both players got a par on the par-4 18th hole when the playoff resumed, but when Norlander got a par on the 17th hole, Bigley’s bogey wasn’t good enough. Still, Bigley earned $41,000 for his finish, which is officially listed as a T2.
“I played solidly on Saturday, and that gave me plenty of confidence for the final round on Sunday,” Bigley said in a telephone interview Monday, just an hour after losing in the playoff. “My plan was to give myself a lot of birdie opportunities and see what happened. On the second playoff hole, I had to make an eight-footer just to save par, but on the next hole, he [Norlander] hit his tee shot to within 15-18 feet. I had a 35-footer, which I rolled up to about 2 1/2 feet. I hit what I believed was a good par putt, but I might have misread it a little, because it lipped out. Then, he two-putted for the win.
“I’ve hit a lot of bad putts in my life, and you usually know it immediately. This wasn’t one of them. I was more stunned than anything else. Henrik played well, but I wasn’t even supposed to be in the field. It wasn’t a bad way to finish an event I wasn’t even supposed to be playing in.”
Bigley, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, now feels a little differently about the rest of this season. He has a long hill to climb in order to keep his card and avoid qualifying school once again, but he’s up for the challenge.
“The money I won just helps my bank account,” Bigley said. “It was dwindling with about $2,700 left. But to tell you the truth, I didn’t play that differently this week than I have all year. I made more 6- to 12-foot birdie and par putts this week, but I didn’t make any crazy bombs or any chip-ins. I just managed my game better and made putts down the stretch. There’s a fine line between finishing 70th and T2.”
Bigley noted that the type of courses used on the Korn Ferry Tour don’t rival the PGA Tour in condition or length.
“Out here, it’s really a putting contest,” he said. “Here, you can hit it as far as you want without penalty. It’s all a matter of how many putts you make. For me, my strength is more in ball-striking.”
Bigley said he needs a few more high finishes to keep his playing card.
“I doubt that I will go back to Q-school, but if I finish in the top 75, I’ll continue playing out here,” Bigley said. “Otherwise, I might consider giving it up. I’ve got four to six weeks to get enough points to stay out here. I just hope to keep it rolling for a few more weeks into July and August.
“When I started on Thursday, I would have taken a T2. It’s nice to be playing under pressure for the first time all year and hitting good shots down the stretch.”
STATE AMATEUR QUALIFIER MONDAY
Eight qualifying spots and ties will be up for grabs at Monday’s local qualifier for the New York State Men’s Amateur Championship, to be played Aug. 6-8 at Crag Burn Golf Club.
Among the notables in the 52-player field are former Troy Invitational champion Lance Hope of Schenectady, former Schenectady Classic winner Aaron Simone, Austin Fox of Normanside Country Club and former SUNY Cobleskill standout Connor McCarthy.
Tee times begin at 8 a.m.
Going on simultaneously will be the local qualifier for the NYS Boys’ & Girls’ Junior Amateur, to be played July 23-24 at Seven Oaks Golf Course.
The Albany-Capital District Chapter of the American Singles Golf Association played the Hartford, Connecticut Chapter in a Ryder Cup Challenge match recently at the Cranwell Resort in Lenox, Mass. The Hartford team prevailed 45-39.
Laura Rentz of Olde Kinderhook and Emma Vandecar of The Edison Club shot a 3-over-par 75 to finish third in the NYS Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Ravenwood Golf Course. In the senior division, the Ballston Spa CC tandem of Heidi Harkins and Sue Kahler tied for third at even-par 72 with Nancy Kroll of Pinehaven CC and Mary Jo Kelly of Wolferts Roost CC.
The Symetra Tour’s CDPHP Open July 26-28 at Capital Hills at Albany Golf Course will have two local sponsors’ exemptions this year, University at Albany women’s golf coach Colleen Cashman-McSween and Siena College graduating senior Sara Riso.
Scott “Sandy” Clemente aced the 126-yard fourth hole with a pitching wedge at Pioneer Hills Golf Course.
At Eagle Crest Golf Club, Lee Elmendorf holed out on the third hole with an 8-iron.
Matthew Nash used a 9-iron for his ace on the 135-yard 17th hole at Normanside CC.
At Mechanicville Golf Club, Clyde Driggers eagled the par-5 eighth hole using a driver, 4-hybrid and wedge.