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Monday, June 6, 2016

Crawford drops a bomb to punch ticket to U.S. Open at Oakmont

   Chris Crawford was probably looking forward to teeing it up at Merion Golf Club’s historic East Course in the BMW Philadelphia Amateur in a couple of weeks. As the reigning Patterson Cup champion, I’m pretty sure Crawford was exempt into the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s most prestigious championship.
   Turns out Crawford, the best player in the history of the Drexel golf program, won’t be able to make it. He’ll be playing on another classic Pennsylvania course that week after earning a spot in the field for the U.S. Open, which will be staged at Oakmont Country Club in suburban Pittsburgh for the ninth time.
   And he did it in dramatic fashion on “Golf’s Longest Day,” so much so that he earned a note in the USGA website’s coverage of the sectional qualifying events all around the country Monday.
   Nobody ever really knows where they stand in things like this. Crawford, a Holy Ghost Prep product, had fired a brilliant 7-under 65 on Canoe Brook Country Club’s South Course in Summit, N.J. in the morning.
   Crawford struggled a little on Canoe Brook’s North Course in the afternoon and arrived at the tee on the par-5 18th at 2-over for the round and 5-under for the day. He couldn’t possibly have known that he needed birdie to secure a ticket to Oakmont. A par would have sent him into a 5-for-1 playoff for the final berth.
   Crawford’s tee shot was so off line, he decided to play up the parallel 13th fairway for his second shot. He then hit his approach over trees to 40 feet. And … BANG, your basic 40-footer to get into the U.S. Open. The birdie gave him a 1-over 73 on the North for a 6-under 138 total that got the job done.
   There were 98 players at Canoe Brook vying for just six spots in the field for the National Open. The co-medalists were James Herrmann of Palm City, Fla. and Rob Oppenheim of Orlando, Fla., both of whom finished at 7-under 137.
   Three players – Andy Pope of Orlando, Fla., Michael Miller of Brewster, N.Y., and Justin Hicks of Wellington, Fla. – joined Crawford at 138 for the final four Open berths. Crawford is the only amateur among the six qualifiers.
   Crawford had claimed medalist honors in one of the local qualifiers held at Moselem Springs Golf Club in Fleetwood, Berks County when he fired a 4-under 66.
   Most of the players with local connections who teed it up in sectional qualifiers Monday were in the field with Crawford at Canoe Brook.
   And Whitford Country Club assistant pro Andrew Turner just missed joining Crawford in Pittsburgh. Turner, a Warwick High product, was the medalist in the local qualifier at Lebanon Country Club.
   He carded a 2-under 70 at Canoe Brook North and a 3-under 69 at the South Course for a 5-under 139 total that was just a shot short of a qualifying berth. It appeared he was unable to secure one of the alternate spots, although spots in the field for the U.S. Open don’t often go unused.
   Rob McClellan, the head pro at Butler Country Club who advanced out of the local qualifier held at his home course, had a 71 at Canoe Brook North and added an even-par 72 at the South Course for a 1-under 143.
   Kyle Sterbinsky, the former Peddie School standout who is coming off an outstanding freshman season at Wake Forest, finished at 2-over 146 with a 76 at the North and a solid 2-under 70 at the South. He was joined at that figure by Dave Quinn, the head pro at the Links Golf Club in Marlton, N.J. Quinn had a 2-over 74 at the North and matched par with a 72 at the South.
   Michael Little, the assistant pro at Lookaway Golf Club, was another shot back of Sterbinsky and Quinn at 3-over 147 after rounds of 2-over 74 at the North Course and a 1-over 73 at the South. He was joined at that figure by Manheim Central product Brody Goodling, who carded a 5-over 77 at the North and a 2-under 70 at the South.
   P.J. Acierno, coming off his redshirt junior year at La Salle, carded a 1-over 73 at the North and a 6-over 78 at the South for a 7-over 151 total. Brent Studer, the 51-year-old director of golf at Metedeconk National Golf Club in Jackson, N.J., posted a 1-over 73 at the North and a 7-over 79 at the South for an 8-over 152 total.
   Zach Herr, the former Council Rock North standout who is coming off his junior year at Vanderbilt, had a tough time at the North with an 8-over 80 and had a 1-over 73 at the South for a 9-over 153 total. Herr was the medalist in the qualifier at Butler with a 2-under 68. Orefield’s Jason Wilson, who plays out of Green Pond Country Club, posted a 3-over 75 at the North and an  8-over 80 at the South for an 11-over 155 total.
   Two of the top players from Penn State’s NCAA regional qualifier, Cole Miller, a former Northwestern Lehigh standout, and J.D. Dornes, who starred at Manheim Township, had strong showings in the sectional qualifier at Woodmont Country Club’s North Course in Rockville, Md., where 55 players were vying for three tickets to Oakmont.
   Miller, who recently completed his sophomore season with the Nittany Lions, and Dornes, who recently completed his collegiate career in Happy Valley, both had rounds of 71 and 69 for 4-under 140 totals. Miller survived a playoff at Moselem Springs to reach the sectional while Dornes was the runnerup to Herr at Butler.
   They finished two shots out of a 3-for-2 playoff at 6-under at Woodmont. The qualifying medalist was Billy Hurley III, the PGA Tour member and U.S. Naval Academy graduate who had rounds of 67 and 68 for a 9-under 135 total.
   J.D. Hughes of Carlisle, who shared second place with Sterbinsky behind Turner at the Lebanon qualifier, had rounds of 76 and 73 at Woodmont North for a 5-over 149. Steven Delmar, the University of Maryland assistant coach who was the runnerup behind Crawford at Moselem Springs, had rounds of 72 and 78 for a 6-over 150 total.
   And Matthew Pulgini, the sophomore at Appoquinimink High School in Delaware who was the qualifying medalist at Silver Creek Country Club, had rounds of 82 and 80 for an 8-over 152 total. And at 16, gained immeasurable experience by being there.
   And “Golf’s Longest Day” isn’t quite over yet.
   For instance, a weather delay in Powell, Ohio left a situation in which six players will be involved in a playoff for the last five spots Tuesday morning.
   One of the combatants is none other than Jason Allred, who defeated Trevor Immelman in the final of the 1997 U.S. Junior Amateur at Aronimink Golf Club.
   Allred has never been able to quite crack the PGA Tour on a consistent basis, but always seem to be in the hunt for a U.S. Open berth this time of year. Allred had a 68 at the Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club and a 69 at the Wedgewood Golf & Country Club for a 5-under 137 total.
   The six-man group playing off for the last five spots includes former world No. 1 Luke Donald and Scottie Scheffler, who just completed his sophomore season at Texas. Last week Scheffler defeated NCAA individual champion Aaron Wise, 4 and 3, in the Longhorns’ 3-2 loss to Wise and Oregon in the NCAA championship match. By the way, Wise was the medalist at Royal Oaks Country Club in Vancouver, Wash. Monday with a 9-under 135 total.
   And there’s a lot of golf left to be played at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla., where weather, in the form of Tropical Storm Colin, halted play. The qualifier will resume Tuesday morning.

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