Old Oaks Country Club / Century Country Club
(80 golfers for 4 qualifying spots)
Sectional qualifying returns to Old Oaks Country Club and Century Country Club in Westchester County for a second consecutive year. The qualifying venues rotate every three years between Westchester County and New Jersey. Old Oaks, situated on 220 acres and designed by A.W. Tillinghast with help from C.H. Allison and Harry S. Colt, was established in 1925. Century Country Club was designed by Allison and Colt and opened in 1908.
Notables in the field: Lee Janzen (1993 and 1998 U.S. Open champion); Web.com Tour winners Kevin Foley, Jon Curran, Jamie Lovemark (2007 USA Walker Cup Team) and Jim Herman; amateur Nathan Smith (four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion; three-time USA Walker Cup competitor); Michael McCoy (2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion); amateur Cameron Wilson (2014 NCAA Division I individual champion); amateur Brandon Matthews (2013 U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist; alternate for 2013 U.S. Open).
Other storylines: Massachusetts pro Geoffrey Sisk (trying to qualify for eighth U.S. Open, seventh via local/sectional qualifying); amateur Gavin Hall (2013 U.S. Open qualifier); amateur Max Buckley (member of winning 2012 New York side at USGA Men's State Team Championship); former PGA Tour pro Scott Dunlap; 60-year-old professional Bob Ford (oldest in sectional qualifying/head pro at Oakmont C.C. and Seminole G.C.); 58-year-old club professional Bill Britton (Trump National-Colts Neck, 15 years on PGA Tour); pro Cody Paladino (runner-up at 2007 U.S. Amateur Public Links); club professional Steve Scott (runner-up to Tiger Woods at 1996 U.S. Amateur/two-time USA Walker Cup competitor; Canadian amateur Corey Conners (2013 U.S. Amateur semifinalist); past PGA Professional Club Champion Matthew Dobyns; and past U.S. Open qualifiers Alexandre Rocha, Brian Gaffney and Trevor Murphy. Murphy was an elite skier before suffering an injury.
Quinn, Oppenheim Lead Four Who Earn U.S. Open Spots in New York
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
PURCHASE, N.Y. – Golf is a game that rewards persistence, and in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier June 2 at Old Oaks Country Club and Century Country Club, patience paid off for all four players who will move on to Pinehurst No. 2.
The 114th U.S. Open will be contested June 12-15 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C.
Fran Quinn and Rob Oppenheim, two Massachusetts natives who play on the Web.com Tour, shared medalist honors at 3-under-par 138, one stroke ahead of another Bay Stater, Jim Renner, and two better than Matthew Dobyns, of Lake Success, N.Y. For all but Quinn, it will be the first trip to the U.S. Open after several attempts.
Cameron Wilson, of Rowayton, Conn., a Stanford University senior who recently captured the NCAA individual championship, outlasted Jamie Lovemark, a PGA Tour player, in six holes to earn the first-alternate spot. Wilson and Lovemark finished 36 holes at 1-over-par 142, one stroke behind Dobyns. Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen made two late bogeys and finished in a group of six players at 2-over 143.
Oppenheim, 34, who grew up in Andover, Mass., and was the 2002 Division II player of the year at Rollins College, leaped to the top of the 80-player field with a morning round of 64 at the par-70 Old Oaks Country Club, five strokes better than any other competitor. He hung on through an afternoon in which the greens became firmer and the wind swirled, carding a 74 at the par-71 Century Country Club to match Quinn, who was the first to post an under-par 36-hole total with rounds of 69-69.
“In the morning round, I really hung in there,” said Quinn, 49, who grew up in Worcester, Mass., and played at Pleasant Valley Country Club, a former PGA Tour stop. “I let a few get away, but I maintained my patience and finished off the round strong.”
Quinn had his 15-year-old son, Owen, on the bag, and on the 12th hole of Round 2, he displayed the patience he is trying to impart to his son, a high school sophomore. “We came up way short because we misjudged the wind, and then I left the ball in the bunker and made a double bogey. In years past, I would have blown a head gasket and everyone would have had to scatter.”
Instead, Quinn reeled off three straight pars, then birdied two of his last three holes to stake a place in his fourth U.S. Open, a result he said he predicted. “The other day, I told my coach [Shawn Hester], book the flight, we’re going to Pinehurst.”
“I’ve been here [at sectionals] probably 10 times,” said Quinn. “Of all the venues where they hold qualifiers, this one prepares you for a U.S. Open. You have to be careful where you hit your tee shot, where you hit your approaches, the greens are undulating, and the ball can get offline quickly. If you can break 140 here, you’re probably going to get through, and you can’t say that at a lot of other places.”
Quinn has struggled with a balky back that forced him to fly home from an event in Mexico earlier this year.
“My back has been in and out,” he said. “It’s not bad enough to have surgery, but when it goes out, it’s out. My trainer is Dave Abraham, the former trainer for the Blue Jays, and although I don’t look it yet, he has made me stronger. I do 35 to 40 minutes of stretching every day – and I have to do it. If I get to the course and there’s no locker room, I will be rolling on my foam roller in the parking lot.”
Why does he keep after it?
“Have I had the success I wanted, no, I have left a lot out there,” said Quinn, a four-time winner on the Web.com Tour. “I’ve underachieved. It’s been a bittersweet career so far, but I feel like I have a lot of good golf in me, if I can stay healthy.”
Renner had the shot of the day, a hybrid 3-iron on his final hole to 4 feet to set up an eagle on the uphill, 558-yard par 5.
“I was just trying to make birdie,” said Renner, 30, who plays full-time on the PGA Tour. “I had 240 to the hole and I was trying to hit it 225 and let it run up through the gut onto the green. Once we got up there, we saw that it was pretty sweet, as they say.”
Renner approached this qualifier differently than in past attempts.
“I am in a slightly different position than a lot of guys here,” said the Plainville, Mass., native. “I get to play this week in Memphis and in Hartford in two weeks [on Tour]. Of course, you want to play in the U.S. Open, but I looked at this as getting to play two great golf courses, and if I get in great, if I don’t, no big deal. I’ve certainly done the opposite of that and put a lot of pressure on myself.”
Renner had missed “by a shot or two” in previous sectionals, but on this day, he knew that he could keep himself in the mix. “I could tell the greens were getting firm and par was a good score. Bogey is no big deal, it’s the doubles and the big numbers that are going to kill you.”
Renner wasn’t originally scheduled to attempt to qualify in Purchase, despite his affinity for the courses.
“I just missed getting into The Memorial – I was the fourth or fifth alternate,” he said. “I initially was going to try to qualify in Columbus, but when it looked like I wasn’t going to get in, I called my agent and asked if I could switch to here – it was the last day I could switch.”
And now he’s going to Pinehurst for his first Open. “To have it be at one of the classic courses in the world makes it pretty special. Like everyone else, I remember watching Payne Stewart win, and I’m friends with Jason Gore, who was a big story that week.”
Renner is also friends with Oppenheim, who grew up in Andover, just north of Boston, and they played a practice round together at Old Oaks. Oppenheim reeled off six birdies in his morning round there and then avoided looking at any scores.
“I didn’t even know where I stood,” said Oppenheim. “We kind of had an idea. I knew if I played well it would be good enough. But the morning was so easy … the second round was work. The greens firmed up, the wind picked up, and having that cushion allowed me to make some mistakes. To play 36 clean holes is tough.”
Oppenheim slid all the way to two under, and began to wonder where he stood. His caddie assured him to “just make pars coming in,” and he felt more comfortable about his position. He made a couple of nice up and downs, then birdied his final hole to tie Quinn for medalist.
"My first U.S. Open, I don’t think it’s completely sunk in yet,” he said. “I’ll celebrate by driving to Cleveland for a Web.com Tour event over there.”
Like Quinn, Oppenheim has often skipped U.S. Open sectional qualifying because it was the same week as a Web.com Tour event, and the need to keep his position on that tour overrode the Open opportunity.
“This is the first time in a while there’s been an off-week before Open qualifying,” said Oppenheim. “I’ve probably tried seven or eight times, and come within two or three shots before. I think it helped that this year I started with conditional status on the Web.com Tour, so I had to do a bunch of Monday qualifying. It got me into that mentality. You’ve got to play solid and not make mistakes.”
For Dobyns, it has been more about getting healthy after he was diagnosed with sleep apnea.
“I was playing poorly for a while and since I started treatment I have been playing well,” said the Fresh Meadow professional. “I’m much sharper, I have more energy and am able to practice more. I reached a point where I got up in the morning and I felt more tired than when I went to sleep at night. I knew I needed to do something about it. I had surgery and it’s really helped my quality of life a lot.”
Dobyns had a little trouble finishing his round, but got some help from his caddie, Doug Grant.
“It’s hard not to daydream – there was a time today when I thought I was going to shoot four under and four under, but that didn’t happen,” he said. “Doug is a great caddie who knows my game. He’s the caddie master at Fresh Meadow and he caddied for me when I was an assistant at Deepdale, and for my boss, Darrell Kestner. He’s caddied in a bunch of majors.”
Grant’s advice to play conservatively paid off until Dobyns played a shot too aggressively on his final hole, leading to a bogey and, he thought, a likely playoff to get to Pinehurst.
“I figured I must be right there – I was disappointed, because all I needed to do was make two decent swings and lag a putt and get in,” said Dobyns, who won the 2012 National Club Pro Championship by a record eight strokes. “I was fortunate that nobody came from behind to catch me. You just don’t know whether somebody is going to make three birdies in a row and you’re sitting in the car thinking you should have been more aggressive.”
No such worries will haunt Dobyns’ sleep tonight.
Wilson is hard-earned alternate at Purchase
Cameron Wilson, of Rowayton, Conn., the recent NCAA Division I individual champion, will either be at graduation or Pinehurst No. 2 next week.
Wilson is scheduled to walk with his class at Stanford University on June 15, which is also the day the U.S. Open is scheduled to conclude. His status for the national championship is uncertain, but he has a chance after outlasting the 2007 NCAA champion, Jamie Lovemark, who won his title while at the University of Southern California, in a playoff for the first-alternate spot that lasted six holes.
Wilson and Lovemark, a member of the victorious 2007 USA Walker Cup Team, tied at 1-over-par 142 at Old Oaks Country Club and Century Country Club, then played off hole by hole, with Wilson’s birdie on the par-5 18th the third time around deciding the issue after five halved holes, two of them with birdies.
It appeared one hole earlier as though Wilson had sealed the deal, having run in a 35-footer for birdie on the first hole at Old Oaks Country Club, a 423-yard par 4 that each player had parred the first two times. But Lovemark matched Wilson’s birdie from 15 feet, with his caddie tossing his towel in the air as the ball disappeared to continue the drama.
“It was kind of exhausting,” said Wilson, who also won a three-hole playoff over Oliver Schneiderjans of Georgia Tech to win the NCAA title at Prairie Dunes in late May. “It’s the longest playoff that I can remember, and it’s my fourth one in the last calendar year. The others all went three holes.”
Unfazed by Lovemark’s birdie, and his own missed 5-footer on the hole before that that would have ended it, Wilson converted a birdie on No. 18 after Lovemark made bogey from the right rough.
“I’ve been in these positions before – nothing’s new to me,” said Wilson. “You always have to expect that your opponent is going to make it – of course, I would have rather him not make it.”
Wilson would rather not be awaiting a call next week, but he pointed to his morning round as the culprit.
“I was pretty sloppy this morning at Century – that was a very disappointing round,” he said. “And later in the day, Old Oaks was a very stern test. I knew there wasn’t a low round out there this afternoon, so I figured I couldn’t be that far off. I just had a lot of putts that were close, that caught edges and lipped out.”
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.