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Going for it: My day at U.S. Open sectional qualifying

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U.S. Open sectional qualifying was held at courses across the country yesterday. If the championship is the U.S. Open, then the sectional could be called the U.S. Wide Open, a blank canvas waiting to be filled with a story.

In many ways, sectionals embody the spirit of the USGA even more than the championship event. There is an air of hope and possibility for amateurs and young professionals, and there is also the grinding journey of accomplished PGA professionals to uncover past glory and success. I took the day to check out qualifying and get feel for those who punch their ticket to compete in the national championship.

In my area, the event was held at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, MD., a course that has held a number of USGA qualifyers. The day was about as good as it gets for the Nation’s Capital in summertime, 72 degrees and sunny with puffs of wind just strong enough to give the players something to think about. It felt more like San Diego than Washington, DC and the heavy rains from the night before made the greens as receptive as they could possibly be after being prepared to approximate U.S. Open levels of speed and treachery.

A couple of players took advantage of the conditions to go low in the first of the two required rounds. Mark Lawrence, an amateur playing out of Richmond. VA, took advantage of the second alternate slot to post a 5-under par 67, the low round of the day. Cody Proveaux, a pro from Richmond, VA with an “everyman” body but a swing to die for, put up a 68 in his opening round. Unfortunately, Lawrence followed up with a 76 and Proveaux with a 77. Woodmont giveth and Woodmont taketh away.

Temporary 8th Tee box with regular back tee in front

The list of 68 entrants had names that ring familiar to Tour fans. Robert Allenby, Vaughn Taylor, Dan Summerhays, and Erik Compton have known success on the PGA Tour at some time. None of them were among the four players who went through from the field of 63. It was a demonstration of the difficulty of the conditions on a course set up to be a test of the best. The course had been stretched and hardened to USGA standards; in one case the temporary 8th tee was moved so far back I was actually on the fringe surrounding the adjacent 9th green. Past glory meant nothing on a day that was all about what happens in ten days time.

It’s always good sport for spectators to spot a player that isn’t known and go “all in” in support of his effort. Standing on the range I saw a lanky young man who for all the world looked like Memorial champion Patrick Cantlay, striping low-flighted drivers under the wind and puring 7-irons that landed within a beach towel’s distance of each other. The golfer was Trevor Werbylo, who had just completed his sophomore year at the University of Arizona. He put himself in competition with a first round 71.

I asked if Open qualifying felt different than other competitions. “Well, you have to stay patient. It’s two rounds of golf, so that’s different from a lot of qualifiers. I put myself in a good position, and I think I need to get to 3- or 4-under to have a chance.” Werbylo played some impressive golf, hitting driver/7-iron for an easy birdie and almost driving the 350 yard 4th. Werbylo fell short, 4 shots shy of a playoff. But he definitely showed that he is a young player with the tools to make his mark in the game someday.

Trevor Werrbylo

Standing on the first tee waiting or the first round begin I saw a familiar figure approaching. It was Steve Wheatcroft, a PGA Tour professional who I had played with last year at the Humana Challenge (formerly the Bob Hope Desert Classic). Wheatcroft had impressed me that day with his play and even more so with his friendly and helpful attitude. Playing in that event I was very aware of being in their “office”, but he went out of his way to read putts and give tips to me during the round.

He was disappointed in his first round 75, but his 320-yard drive to open the second round displayed his ability to right the ship. He at 146, but was undaunted. As soon as the last show was struck, he was packing the car and getting ready for the car trip to the next event with his caddy. Such is the life of the journeyman pro, a far cry from the private jets and entourages of the top names.

Steve Wheatcroft

The winners were Billy Hurley III (141), Connor Arrendell (141), Joe Bramlett (142) and Ryan Sullivan (142). Hurley is a well-known player on the PGA Tour and in the Washington, DC area. He looked comfortable and confident, like an Olympic sprinter who knows that he has enough to make it past the qualifying heats. His game showed the full-set of skills available to a PGA Tour winner, including a lovely up-and down on the Par 5 3rd that had the crowd buzzing.

All four advanced to one of the most prestigious events in golf on one of its iconic courses, Pebble Beach Golf Links. The Latin phrase “carpe diem” means seize the day; four golfers did just that. For the rest, it’s off to the bar for a beer, then back to the range to look for the shot will make the difference for them in 2020.

Billy Hurley III

Below are the results from the other 10 sites (courtesy USGA).

COLUMBUS, OHIO

Brookside Golf & Country Club / Scioto Country Club (121 players for 14 spots)

• Qualifiers: Luke Guthrie, Anirban Lahiri, Sam Saunders, Jhonattan Vegas, Rory Sabbatini, Jason Dufner, Chesson Hadley, Erik Van Rooyen, Luke Donald, Aaron Baddeley, Brandon Wu, Ryan Fox, Collin Morikawa and Kyoung-Hoon Lee

• Notable non-qualifiers: Cameron Champ, Kevin Tway, Danny Lee, Harold Varner III, 2011 U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, 2018 Latin America Amateur champion Joaquin Niemann, three-time USGA champion Ryan Moore, Cole Hammer, Steve Stricker, Bill Haas, Bobby Clampett, 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Akshay Bhatia

SPRINGFIELD, OHIO

Springfield Country Club (73 players for 5 spots)

• Qualifiers: Zac Blair, Chip McDaniel, Brian Stuard, Nick Hardy and Brett Drewitt

• Notable non-qualifiers: Troy Merritt, 2016 U.S. Amateur runner-up Brad Dalke, 2014 U.S. Amateur runner-up Corey Conners, Dylan Meyer

SURREY, ENGLAND

Walton Heath Golf Club (Old and New Courses), (109 players for 14 spots)

• Qualifiers: Dean Burmester, Sam Horsfield, Marcus Fraser, Clement Sordet, Matthieu Pavon, Lee Slattery, Marcus Kinhult, Rhys Enoch, Adri Arnaus, Justin Walters, Daniel Hillier, Thomas Pieters, Merrick Bremner and Renato Paratore

• Notable non-qualifiers: Lee Westwood (missed by three strokes), 2005 U.S. Amateur champion Edoardo Molinari, 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Min Woo Lee and 2010 U.S. Open runner-up Gregory Havret

PURCHASE, N.Y.

Century Country Club/Old Oaks Country Club, (73 players for 14 spots)

• Qualifiers: Cameron Young, Matt Parziale, Andy Pope, Rob Oppenheim

• Non-qualifiers: 2011 U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft, 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion/2019 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball champion Scott Harvey, 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Michael McCoy, PGA Tour winners Johnson Wagner, Jim Herman and J.J. Henry, and Gary Nicklaus, son of 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus

MILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA

RattleSnake Point Golf Club, par 72 (37 players for 4 spots)

• Qualifiers: Tom Hoge, Sepp Straka, Nathan Lashley, Alex Prugh

• Notable non-qualifiers: Two-time PGA Tour winner Harris English (141) shot the low round of the day in the morning (5-under 67), but an afternoon 73 put him into the 3-for-2 playoff. He is the first alternate. Fabian Gomez of Argentina (142) is the second alternate.

BALL GROUND, GA.

Hawks Ridge Golf Club, (67 players for 4 spots)

• Qualifiers: Oliver Schniederjans, Noah Norton, Chandler Eaton, Roberto Castro

• Notable non-qualifiers: Jaime Lopez Rivarola, of Argentina, earned the first alternate; Joey Garber went 4 over on his last four holes and is the second alternate. Robert Karlsson, an 11-time winner on the European Tour; Alex Smalley, who played in the 2017 U.S. Open and has a Duke record 25 top 10 finishes; PGA Tour pros Brendon de Jonge, Jason Bohn, and 2000 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion D.J. Trahan.

STREAMSONG, FLA.

Streamsong Resort (Black Course), (56 players for 3 spots)

• Qualifiers: Callum Tarren, Luis Gagne and Guillermo Pereira

• Notable non-qualifiers: Tyson Alexander (missed by one stroke), Tyler Strafaci (missed by four)
• Alexander, 30, of Gainesville, Fla., is the first alternate

NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF.

Big Canyon Country Club and Newport Beach Country Club (99 players for 5 spots)

• Qualifiers: Chun An Yu, Hayden Shieh, Richard Lee, Stewart Hagestad, Andreas Halvorsen

• Notable non-qualifiers: 2018 U.S. Amateur semifinalist Isaiah Salinda, 2002 U.S. Junior Amateur champion and PGA Tour winner Charlie Beljan, PGA Tour professional Brandon Harkins, 2015 U.S. Amateur semifinalist Sean Crocker, amateur world No. 2 Justin Suh, three-time PGA Tour runner-up Cameron Tringale

WALLA WALLA, WASH.

Wine Valley Golf Club (55 players for 3 spots)

• Qualifiers: Eric Dietrich, Matthew Naumec, Spencer Tibbits

• Notable non-qualifiers: Mackenzie Tour-Canada competitor Alistair Docherty (first alternate); six-time U.S. Open competitor and three-time Web.com Tour winner Michael Putnam (second alternate); 2016 U.S. Open competitor Matt Marshall; 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur quarterfinalist Joe Highsmith; PGA Tour winner Kevin Stadler

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. carl

    Jun 6, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Michael Williams content is by far the best on this site.

  2. Chris

    Jun 5, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    Nice user name, loves to Troll about Rules apparently

  3. rules

    Jun 4, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    “…he went out of his way to read putts and give tips to me during the round.”
    this is against the rules of golf, specifically 10.2a.

    • Geoffrey Holland

      Jun 5, 2019 at 4:00 am

      Clearly he’s talking about a Pro-Am where pros help the amateurs. Get a clue.

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Morning 9: Women’s PGA | Fox: best golf coverage in the biz? | Michelle Wieturns

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

June 19, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Henderson, Thompson sizzling heading into Women’s PGA
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”Brooke Henderson and Lexi Thompson couldn’t get hotter at a better time.”
  • “With three major championships over the next seven weeks, they’ll be looking to make the most of their winning form. They each have a chance this week to reach No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings for the first time.”
  • “Henderson won the Meijer Classic last week, Thompson the ShopRite Classic two weeks ago.”
  • “Ladbrokes makes Henderson the co-favorite to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship with Jeongeun Lee6 at 11/1 odds, with Thompson at 12/1 odds.”
2. Wieturning again
Ron Sirak for LPGA.com…
“But perhaps the most difficult digits to digest are those detailing the impact of the injuries that have disrupted Wie’s career. Without the constant interruptions, her five career wins with one major championship would almost certainly be more. Now, she tries once again to get back into action.”
  • “I’m feeling hopeful,” Wie said Tuesday at Hazeltine National where, on Thursday, she will tee it up for just her ninth tournament round of the year. “It’s still a process. It’s been hard sitting out during the middle of the season. There’s really nothing worse. But I had to take the time to get myself back to where I want to be.”
  • “There is almost no a part of Wie that has not been damaged, beginning with an injury to her left wrist when she fell while jogging in 2007. Since then, she’s had issues with a finger, knee, hip and the other wrist. At times, it almost appears as if her body is held together by multi-colored physiotape.”

Full piece.

3. Arrival of the Wolff
Sean Martin at PGATour.com…”This week’s Travelers Championship is Matthew Wolff’s first tournament as a professional. It may be the most anticipated pro debut in a decade. The consensus collegiate player of the year combines charisma with a swing that is identifiable from a few fairways over.
  • “He wins. He’s unique. His swing is different, so it catches everybody’s eye,” said Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee. “And then there’s the incredible speed.
  • “When you see somebody with speed … it gets your attention.”
4. Fox the best?
An interesting take from Sean Zak at Golf.com…
  • “In its five years as the USGA rights-holder, Fox has added something new every year, which, for a sport whose visuals seem to never change, is refreshing and important. One year it was the mic’d up holes, even shadows on the greens to display slopes. Some of it sticks from year to year, some of it doesn’t, but Fox is trying new things and adding new context.”
  • “This year the novelty was epic, highlighted by delicious drone shots along the coast. Blimp shots are great and were more relevant this week than most, but the drones that floated up over Carmel Bay, gliding along with the players, providing the perfect scale of the property – those were new and beautiful. A good broadcast shows viewers everything they must see to better understand a course, but also makes them a bit jealous of everyone there on the grounds.”
5. JT pain free
A few quotes from Thomas…”I have zero pain. I can do everything normally.”
“I could have played Colonial – easily – but it would have been stupid and [my wrist] could have been lingering the entire year,” he said. “This injury should never be an issue again in my life, as long as I do the proper things and don’t do anything stupid. That’s why I waited as long as I did.”
6. Not a fan
The Herald’s (Scotland) Nick Rodger…
  • “As everyday life hurtles along at a furious rate of knots, the golf season too is hammering on. Three men’s majors have already been played and in just four weeks’ time the curtain will come down on the quartet of grand slam events at the Open Championship. It’s rather like uploading a Youtube video onto your laptop and quickly spooling through to the best bits.”
  • “It’s all happening a bit too quickly for my liking,” gasped Colin Montgomerie as the dust settled on last weekend’s US Open even though there’s still probably dust lingering from the previous majors of the US PGA Championship and the Masters.”
7. Jin Young Ko dreaming of Brooks?
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…“On a day when LPGA stars filed in and out of the press room at the KPMG Women’s PGA, Ko delivered the line of the day. When asked what it is that she likes about Koepka and how he inspires her play, Ko said: “I met him in my dream, and then we had really great time.”
  • “…He always (has) like a poker face and then like stone.”
  • Ko, 23, put her arms out wide and said, “I like big guy.”
8. What Gary was aiming for
Our Gianni Magliocco…“U.S. Open Champion Gary Woodland made an appearance at SiriusXM’s Manhattan studios on Tuesday, where he sat down to discuss a multitude of topics with Adam Schein on his Mad Dog Sports Radio program – Schein on Sports.”
  • “Woodland also discussed beating Tiger Woods’ total of 12-under-par from the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. The 35-year-old first mentioned how he recognized that Woods won that tournament by 15 strokes, before adding how he was aware of beating his 72-hole total, saying…”
  • “I knew it, but I was trying to two-putt. I wasn’t trying to make that putt. Once it got halfway there and it went in I obviously let the emotion out. My caddie came over to tell me congrats and I said, ‘You know that clipped Tiger by one?’ And he said, ‘No I didn’t.’ He was focused on the wrong stuff, he was focused on winning, I was focused on beating that record.”
9. A Phireside chat
How to introduce Phil Mickelson’s first Phireside with Phil video…? Mickelson tells a story of an early morning restart at the Memorial some years back and a, um, crappy situation.
My question: This is a clear violation of the rules of tournament play. Is there a provision for situations that make the hole/toilet unusable after restart and necessitate cutting a new cup?

 

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Equipment

TaylorMade signs Matthew Wolff to a multi-year deal; Wolff WITB

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TaylorMade Golf has officially announced the signing of Matthew Wolff on a multi-year agreement that will see the 20-year-old play the company’s metal woods, irons, wedges, putter and ultimately, TaylorMade’s flagship golf ball, the TP5x.

Wolff had previously unveiled that he would be making his professional debut at this week’s Travelers Championship, and just as top prospect Collin Morikawa did earlier at this month’s Canadian Open, Wolff will do so as a TaylorMade staffer.

The NCAA All-American and 2019 NCAA Division I individual champion made his debut on the PGA Tour at the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year where he finished T50 after opening his week with a round of five-under par.

Matthew Wolff WITB

Driver: TaylorMade M6 (8 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design TP 7TX

Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M6 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke 6.5 TX

Utility Iron: TaylorMade P760 (2)
Shaft: Nippon Modus 130x

Irons: TaylorMade P750 Tour Proto (3-PW)
Shafts: Nippon Modus 130x

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind Raw (52, 56, 62 degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100

Putter: TaylorMade Spider X Copper

 

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5 questions with Justin Kinney of Virtual Golf Caddy

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We chatted with Justin Kinney, founder and CEO of startup Virtual Golf Caddy about his product, which serves both courses and players, by offering drone arial photography of golf courses (with graphics overlayed).

While drone photography and videography of golf courses is an established phenomenon, using the photos and video for better course management and preparation is a relatively new approach.

We wanted to learn more about what VGC is doing, and Kinney was kind enough to answer a handful of questions and include an example of the company’s work.

1. Tell us a bit about your background

I am 38 years old, born and raised in Connecticut. Lifelong golfer. Just finishing up my career as a middle school math teacher to focus on VGC full-time. I also have five years of business experience managing people’s retirement accounts. I played as many sports as I could growing up, and love the thrill of competition.

2. What’s the opportunity you saw?

I agreed to caddie for one of my students two summers ago. When researching the courses he was going to play, there was NO info on the courses. I thought there was a huge opportunity to provide course management strategies for players and give players a view of the entire courses with drones. No one was really doing anything like that, so I spent the past two years working on and building my business plan. Two months ago I secured funding to work on this full-time.

3. What is Virtual Golf Caddy, exactly?

VGC is a golf preparation and mental conditioning program designed to help give golfers a game plan to attack courses with. We provide drone views of each hole as well as course management strategies on how to best play each hole. Shot suggestions are given based on how far and confident players hit their clubs. We include mental conditioning tips and exercises to help players “zone in” more often and consistently. We are considering getting into golf fitness and nutrition as well to help build the whole golfer. Players purchase access to each course’s videos and info for either $15 or $25 per course, depending on how much info they want. They get unlimited access to the videos and can watch them wherever (home, airport, hotel, course).

4. What stage is the business in, and can you show us an example of VCG in action? 

We are still in the start-up phase. We are making agreements with and filming at courses. The website is being redesigned and will be up in June. It appears like things may take off quickly so stay tuned!

For an example, check out the video below.

6. What else should GolfWRX members know?

We are looking for courses to partner with. We will give courses free publicity on our site, a promotional video from the footage to use on their site, and share 15 percent of their courses profits with them. A win-win for everyone involved! If readers know of any courses, please email us.

One other thing to add: the mental prep/conditioning program is being built by renowned sports psychologist Bill Cole, MS, MA. It is legit and comes from over 40 years of research and experience! We’re also pursuing options in fitness and nutrition.

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