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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Crawford earns trip to U.S. Open for the second year in a row

   Christopher Crawford will never win the BMW Philadelphia Amateur championship if he keeps this up.
   The Philly Am, you see, is traditionally played the same week as the U.S. Open – notable exceptions coming when the U.S. Open was played at Merion’s East Course in 1981 and 2013. And for the second year in a row, Crawford, the 2015 Patterson Cup winner, will have to pass on the BMW Philadelphia Amateur because he’ll have a starting time in the National Open, which tees off a week from Thursday, June 15, at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis.
   A year ago, Crawford, coming off probably the finest career in the history of the Drexel golf program, got into the U.S. Open when he dropped a 40-foot birdie putt on the final hole of sectional qualifying at Canoe Brook Country Club’s North Course in Summit, N.J.
   There was no need for that kind of drama Monday as Crawford, who finished up his five-year accounting program while helping out as an assistant coach at Drexel, easily grabbed one of the five tickets to Erin Hills with an 8-under 134 total on Canoe Brook’s North and South courses to finish tied for second.
   With Drexel head coach Ben Feld on the bag, as he was last year at Canoe Brook, Crawford, seemingly immune to the pressure of “Golf’s Longest Day,” played 36 holes of solid golf. Feld picked up his first Golf Association of Philadelphia major championship by claiming the Middle Amateur Championship presented by Callaway Golf at Overbrook Golf Club a couple of weeks ago.
   “Obviously, I’m thrilled,” the former Holy Ghost Prep standout told the Golf Association of Philadelphia website during his ride home Monday evening. “I played really solid. I’m happy I didn’t have to have any last-minute heroics again. I’m really happy with the way I played, especially on the last nine holes.
   “It’s tough. You are tired after a long day, but I didn’t really make any mistakes. Ben (Feld) caddied again for me today. We were talking about the shots we hit last year. It was a comfortable day.”
   Crawford opened his bid to return to the U.S. Open with a sparkling 6-under 66 on Canoe Brook’s North course, usually the more difficult of the two courses. He gave himself a lot of birdie chances in the afternoon at the South Course, but settled for a 2-under 68 that was more than good enough for a return trip to the Open.
   Crawford had a pair of 76s a year ago at Oakmont Country Club, one of the toughest tests in the U.S. Open rotation, and missed the cut.
   He will also be making a return trip to Erin Hills, having played there in the 2011 U.S. Amateur after qualifying as a 17-year-old.
   As easy as Crawford made it look Monday, it is really hard to advance out of a U.S. Open sectional qualifier. There were PGA Tour and Web.com players, top college players, club pros and junior phenoms playing all over the country at 10 different sites Monday, all with the same goal. Very few achieved it.
   Kyle Sterbinsky, a former Peddie School standout who is a junior at Wake Forest, had a 1-under 71 at the North Course and a 1-over 71 at the South Course for an even-par 142 total that was nowhere near the cutoff of 7-under 135.
   Former Radnor standout Carey Bina fired a 2-under 68 at the South Course in the morning, but couldn’t keep it going, posting a 4-over 76 at the North Course for a 2-over 144 total.
   Two of the four co-medalists from The Country Club of Scranton local qualifier, John Pillar (76 North, 73 South), the director of golf at The Country Club at Woodloch Springs, and Andrew Turner (74 North, 75 South), an assistant pro at Sunnybrook Golf Club, both landed at 7-over 149. Turner is still checking his bank account to see how that $100,000 top prize he won at last week’s Haverford Philadelphia PGA Classic, the richest Section PGA prize in the country, looks in there.
   Huntingdon Valley Country Club assistant pro Shawn Matthews (73 South, 79 North) ended up at 10-over 152. Kyle Wambold (74 North, 79 South), the former Emmaus standout who recently completed his collegiate career at Binghamton, was another shot behind Matthews at 153.
   The two co-medalists from the GAP-administered local qualifier at Running Deer Golf Club, David Sanders, a Mount Laurel, N.J. native who plays the Florida mini-tours, and Lodie Van Tonder of Pennsville, N.J. also teed it up at Canoe Brook. Sanders had a 73 at the North Course and a 79 at the South Course to finish in the group with Matthews at 152. Van Tonder had a 75 at the North Course, but struggled on the South Course with an 87 for a 162 total.
   The other two co-medalists from The Country Club of Scranton qualifier took their shot at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., where only three spots were available to the 50 players who teed it up there, and they just missed.
   T.J. Howe, the former Penn State standout from Osceola, is actually an alternate after rounds of 71 and 69 left him with a 4-under 140 total, two shots behind the third and final qualifier for Erin Hills.
   He can consult with the fourth co-medalist from The Country Club of Scranton qualifier, former Temple standout Brandon Matthews, who was just a shot behind Howe at 3-under 141 after rounds of 69 and 72 at Woodmont.
   Matthews was an alternate at Merion in 2013 and patiently played practice rounds and worked on his game at the range at the West Course all week, hoping for a call from the USGA that never came.
   Matthews was coming off his first Web.com start over the weekend at the Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh,  N.C. at which he finished in a tie for 60th. Not sure how Matthews earned that Web.com shot, but he has been steadily working his way toward the Web.com Tour by playing on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica. He earned a victory on that circuit in Argentina.
   One of the players who shared 60th place at the Rex Hospital Open was Sam Ryder of Longwood, Fla. Ryder showed up at Woodmont Monday having never seen the course before and promptly shot a course-record 10-under 62 in the opening round. He added a 1-under 71 in the afternoon for an 11-under 133 total that gave him medalist honors by four shots. There’s just so many good players out there.
   Vince Covello, one of four co-medalists at the other GAP-administered local qualifier at The Country Club of York, matched Howe’s 140 total with rounds of 71 and 69. Covello, an Episcopal Academy product, is on the Web.com Tour after years playing the Florida mini-tours. He comes home every year to play in the local U.S. Open qualifier and he’s been the medalist three of the last four years.
   Ryan Rucinski, a Salesianum product from Wilmington, Del. who recently completed his sophomore season at Wilmington University, had a pair of 73s at Woodmont for a 2-over 146 total. Rucinski qualified for the sectional at Running Deer.
   Joe Parrini, a junior at Central York who finished tied for 11th in the PIAA Class AAA Championship last fall, had pair of 75s at Woodmont for a 150 total. Parrini emerged from The Country Club of York qualifier.
   The last qualifier at Running Deer was Lucas Trim, who had just completed an outstanding four years at Villanova and advanced in a playoff. Trim, a Tampa native, headed home for Florida and teed it up at the sectional qualifier at the Jupiter Hills Club in Tequesta, Fla. He had rounds of 76 and 82 for a 158 total.
   Those of us who watched the epic U.S. Mid-Amateur final at Stonewall last summer between Stewart Hagestad and Scott Harvey were happy to see those two make it to Erin Hills.
   Harvey of Greensboro, N.C. was one of the two players who shared second place at Canoe Brook with Crawford. The winner of the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Saucon Valley Country Club’s Old Course, Harvey, who turned 39 last week, fired a brilliant 9-under 63 at Canoe Brook’s North Course and added a 1-over 71 at the South Course for an 8-under 134 total.
   Hagestad, a Newport Beach, Calif. native, was home for the sectional qualifier at Big Canyon Country Club and Newport Beach Country Club, where 103 players battled for six spots.
   Hagestad had a 5-under 67 at Newport Beach and a 4-under 68 at Big Canyon that left him in third place at 9-under 135.
   Hagestad rallied from 4-down with five holes to play to win the U.S. Mid-Am at Stonewall on the 37th hole. He became the first mid-am to make the cut at the Masters in April and, as the only amateur to make the cut, was the low amateur at Augusta.
   I had a chance to chat with Harvey as we walked back to the clubhouse at Stonewall after he pulled out a semifinal win over Dan Sullivan of Pasadena, Calif., in 19 holes. I got the distinct impression that Harvey would really like to get another shot at representing the United States in the Walker Cup, which will be played at Los Angeles Country Club later this year.
   Harvey played on the U.S. side in a 16.5-9.5 loss to Great Britain & Ireland in the 2015 Walker Cup at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club.
   There had been an unwritten policy to include two mid-ams on the U.S. side in recent years, although I’m pretty sure that unwritten policy has been changed to more of a one mid-am, but not necessarily two mid-ams stance. And I think Harvey knew that was coming. I think he felt like he had to win the U.S. Mid-Am at Stonewall to make the 2017 U.S. team.
   Of course, if he becomes the first amateur to win the U.S. Open since Johnny Goodman in 19 and 33, they’d have to put him on the U.S. team, wouldn’t they?

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