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Monday, June 5, 2017

Walker came up short in bid to make ShopRite LPGA Classic field again

   There’s been so much golf in the last week or so, I couldn’t keep up with it all. Here’s a few things I missed …
   Brynn Walker was about to graduate from Radnor at this time last year when she made her debut in an LPGA event, the ShopRite LPGA Classic at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club’s Bay Course. Walker had fired a 1-under 69 in the event’s Monday qualifier to earn one of the two spots into the main draw of the tournament.
   Walker shot an adventurous opening-round 80 and followed it with a 75 to miss the cut with a 155 total.
Walker took a shot at making the field for this year’s LPGA Shoprite Classic in the Memorial Day qualifier. She didn’t quite make it this time, carding a 1-over 72 to finish tied for seventh.  
   The same 69 number Walker shot to get into the tournament field a year ago was required again. Jennifer Hahn, a former Vanderbilt star, and Alejandra Llaneza, a veteran from Mexico, survived a playoff to earn their way into the tournament.
   Hahn got in after two holes of the playoff while Llaneza had to go five holes before finally outlasting LPGA Tour veteran Julieta Granada of Paraguay for the final spot.
   Matching Walker’s 72 in the qualifier was former Mount St. Joseph standout Emily Gimpel, who turned professional after playing collegiately at Maryland. She started her college career at William and Mary before heading to College Park, Md.
   There’s a U.S. Women’s Open qualifier scheduled for Monday at Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., where LedgeRock Golf Club’s Chip Lutz won the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur.
   Not sure if Walker, coming off a solid freshman season at North Carolina, will be back at the shore trying to earn a spot in the field for the Women’s Open, which will be held July 13 to 16 at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. The qualifying field at Hidden Creek will likely include any of the LPGA players in the ShopRite LPGA Classic field who aren’t exempt for the Women’s Open, which will make it a very competitive site.
   I bailed out on the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C. after the Pennsylvania pair of Katie Miller and Aurora Kan were knocked out in the opening round of match play.
   It turned into quite a week for Furman’s Jersey girls, Alice Chen and Taylor Totland, who captured the title with a 4 and 3 victory over recent Georgia graduates Sammi Lee of Athens, Ga. and Mary Ellen Shuman of St. Simons Island, Ga., in Wednesday’s title match.
   Chen of Princeton has another year left at Furman while Totland of Tinton Falls just completed her senior season and plans to turn pro. The Paladins were ranked in the top 10 for much of the year and finished just out of the top eight teams that qualified for match play in the NCAA Championship in Rich Harvest Farms, Ill.
   Totland’s hole-out from a bunker for a birdie at the par-4 11th hole in the final sealed the deal for the pair, who have been friends since junior golf. Chen and Totland had jumped out to a 3-up lead after three holes, but Lee and Shuman had crept within 2-down and looked like they might cut their deficit to one hole with Totland in the bunker and Lee inside 10 feet for birdie.
   Of course, after Totland holed the bunker shot, Lee missed her birdie try and Chen and Totland had restored their three-hole advantage.
   Earlier Wednesday, Chen and Totland, who shared the qualifying medal with two other teams, advanced to the final with a 3 and 2 victory over North Carolina teens Jennifer Chang and Gina Kim. Chang of Cary, N.C. will join the Southern California program in 2018 while Kim of Chapel Hill, N.C. is headed for Duke, also at the end of the summer of 2018.
   Lee and Shuman reached the final with a 2 and 1 victory over future LSU teammates Kathleen Gallagher and Kendall Griffin in the semifinals. Gallagher, who just completed her sophomore season at LSU, and Griffin of Sebring, Fla., who will join Gallagher in Baton Rouge at the end of the summer, knocked out Miller and Kan in the opening round of match play.
   In the second round, Gallagher and Griffin eliminated the Texas teens who came to Myrtle Beach as the defending Four-Ball champions, Hailee Cooper of Montgomery, Texas and Kaitlyn Papp of Austin,  Texas, 2 and 1.
   Chang and Kim ousted the marquee team in the field in the quarterfinals, claiming a 2 and 1 victory over Monica Vaughn and Bailey Tardy, teammates on the 2016 U.S. Curtis Cup team.
   Vaughn of Reedsport, Ore. had arrived in Myrtle Beach fresh off winning the NCAA individual championship and leading Arizona State to the team title to cap her senior season, so that probably eased her disappointment.
   The day Vaughn was winning the NCAA individual title, May 22, Tardy of Peachtree Corners, Ga. was at Butler Country Club in western Pennsylvania claiming medalist honors in a U.S. Women’s Open qualifier with rounds of 71 and 69 for a 2-under 140 total.
   Trust me, Tardy, coming off her sophomore season at Georgia, would have much preferred to have been at Rich Harvest Farms helping the Bulldogs earn a spot in match play in the NCAA Championship. But Georgia failed to advance out of the NCAA regional it hosted in Athens, easily the most talented team that failed to make it to Rich Harvest Farms.
   Tardy’s teammate, Jillian Hollis of Rocky River, Ohio, was also at Butler, but failed to make it to the Women’s Open with a pair of 73s and a 4-over 146 total.
   The only other Women’s Open berth available went to Aurora Kan’s former Purdue teammate Laura Gonzalez Escallon of Belgium. Gonzalez Escallon, who is on the LPGA Tour, had rounds of 70 and 71 for a 1-under 141 total at Butler.
   The third-place finisher in the Women’s Open qualifier at Butler, for the second straight year, was Rachel Rohanna, the former Ohio State standout who won PIAA titles at Waynesburg in 2005 and 2007. Rohanna had rounds of 71 and 74 for a 3-over 145 total. It looks like Rohanna is back on the Symetra Tour after a year on the LPGA Tour.
   When I last checked in on the men’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at the Pinehurst Resort and Country Club in Pinehurst Village, N.C., former Penn State teammates Brendan Borst and Tommy McDonagh had just knocked out qualifying medalists Clark Engle and Will Grimmer, teammates on the Ohio State golf team, 3 and 2, in the opening round of match play.
   Borst, part of the deep stable of talent at Philadelphia Cricket Club, and McDonagh of Norwalk, Conn. fell in the second round in 19 holes to Kyle Hudelson, of Oklahoma City, Okla., and Clark Collier of Dallas in the second round.
   All Hudelson and Collier did was make it all the way to the final before falling to a couple of teen standouts in Frankie Capan and Shuai Ming (Ben) Wong, 2 and 1. Pin placements on the 7,161-yard, par-70 Pinehurst No. 2, a Donald Ross classic, were the same as the ones used in the final round of the most recent U.S. Opens played there.
   Wong, who was born in Hong Kong, but has lived in The Woodlands, Texas for the last three years, dropped a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to clinch the title. Wong has committed to play at SMU beginning at the end of the summer of 2018.
   His fellow 17-year-old, Capan of North Oaks, Minn., has committed to play college golf at Alabama, also in the summer of 2018.
   In the semifinals, Capan and Wong claimed a 4 and 2 victory over Floridians Marc Dull of Winter Haven and Chip Brooke of Bartow. Dull is the caddy at Streamsong who lost in the final of the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
   Hudelson and Collier needed 19 holes to edge Patrick Christovich of New Orleans and Garrett Rank of Canada to reach the final.
   Hudelson and Collier also claimed a 1-up victory in the quarterfinals over Nathan Smith, the four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion from Pittsburgh, and Todd White of Spartanburg, S.C. Smith and White won the inaugural playing of the Four-Ball two years ago at The Olympic Club’s Lake Course in San Francisco.
   I cut out of the KitchenAid PGA Senior Championship after Radnor Valley Country Club head pro George Forster and Applebrook Golf Club head pro Dave McNabb failed to make the cut.
   The second round wasn’t completed until Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend and I was, unfortunately, correct in guessing that Gene Fieger, the former Overbrook Golf Club assistant pro who teaches at The Club Pelican Bay in Naples, Fla., wasn’t going to quite make the cut after following up a sparkling opening-round 69 with an 80 in high winds in the second round.
   Fieger’s 5-over 149 total just missed the cut, which came at 4-over 148.
   Five club pros did make the cut, though, and Jim Estes, co-founder of Salute Military Golf Association, ended up being the low club pro as the finished tied for 46th at 2-over 290. Estes, from Germantown, Md., not far from the site of the KitchenAid Senior PGA, which was played at Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Va., carded a 2-under 70 in the final round.
   Mike Brown, the head pro at Tam O’Shanter Golf Club in Brookville, N.Y., was another shot back in a tie for 53rd at 291 after a final-round 73.
   Rick Schuller, a pro at Stonehenge Golf & Country Club in North Chesterfiled, Va., was in the hunt for low club pro until his drive on the last hole went out of bounds, leading to a triple-bogey finish. His final-round 76 left him tied for 59th at 283. It’s the third year in a row Schuller has made the cut at the KiichenAid Senior PGA.
   Jeff Roth, the head pro at San Juan Country Club in Farmington, N.M., finished tied for 69th at 298 after a final-round 77 and Lee Houtteman, the head pro at Manitou Passage Golf Club in Cedar, Mich., finished 75th at 304 after a final-round 78.
   The next focus for the club pros will come later this month when the PGA Professional Championship will be held June 18 to 21 at the Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore.
   Heading the list of Philadelphia Section PGA pros who will tee it up at Sunriver is reigning Section Player of the Year Michael Little of Lookaway Golf Club.
   Mark Sheftic, the head of instruction at Merion Golf Club, is also in the field and contended for the title the last time the event, once commonly referred to as the National Club Pro, was held at Sunriver in 2013. Applebrook’s McNabb also will be in the field at Sunriver.
   Rounding out the Philadelphia Section PGA contingent are Stu Ingraham, the head of instruction at the M Golf Range in Newtown Square, Philadelphia Cricket Club assistant pros Tony Perla and John Spina, Philadelphia Country Club head pro Scott Reilly, Radley Run Country Club’s Brett Melton, Jordan Gibbs, the Gulph Mills Golf Club assistant pro who won the Philadelphia Section PGA Championship last summer, John Pillar, the director of golf at The Country Club at Woodloch Springs, and Mike Molino of The Country Club of Scranton.
   The top 20 finishers in the PGA Professional Championship earn a spot in the PGA Championship, the final major professional championship on the calendar each year. The PGA will be played Aug. 10 to 13 at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C.
   Ingraham has qualified for the PGA six times in his career while Sheftic has made it to the major stage three times.
   The Pennsylvania Four-Ball Championship was held at Moselem Springs Golf Club in Fleetwood last week and Drexel teammates Connor Schmidt and Michael Cook captured the title with a 9-under 131 total.
   Schmidt, a member of Peters Township’s PIAA Class AAA runnerup team in 2015, is coming off a solid freshman year for the Dragons. Cook, who was a sophomore last year, is a Conestoga product.
They opened with a sizzling 8-under 62 and never looked back in winning the title by four shots. Schmidt plays out of Nemacolin Country Club and Cook plays out of Applebrook.
   Brock Kovach of Berkshire Country Club and Nate Menon of LedgeRock and Jesse Bingaman of Northampton Country Club and Michael Thomas of the Scranton Municipal Men’s Golf Association finished tied for second at 5-under 135.
   Menon is the former Wyomissing standout who is headed for Stanford later this summer. Menon decided not to play in the PIAA postseason as a senior last fall after winning the Berks County title. He played in one of the American Junior Golf Association’s big events.
   Defending champions Zach Herr of Jericho National Golf Club and Jake Reilly of Hershey Country Club finished tied for fourth at 3-under 137.
   Herr recently completed his senior season at Vanderbilt, although he rarely made the lineup for the powerful Commodores. Maybe they could have used him in their 3-2 loss to Oregon in the NCAA Championship semifinals last week at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
   I focused on the AJGA Junior at Penn State over the Memorial Day weekend because there were so many local players involved.
   The biggest event on the AJGA calendar that weekend, though, was the Thunderbird Invitational at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.
   Kyle Vance, the two-time District One Class AAA champion at Methacton, headed west and finished tied for 34th at 6-over 222. Vance, who will play collegiately at Kansas State, finished up strong with a 3-under 69 in the final round over the 7,065-yard, par-72 Grayhawk layout.
   Jacob Bergeron of Slidell, La., captured the boys title, firing a final round of 8-under 64 for a 15-under 201 total. Noah Norton of Chico, Calif. was just a shot back in second at 14-under 202 after a final-round 65.
   Alyaa Abdulghany of Newport Beach, Calif., claimed the girls title with a 6-under 208 total that included a final round of 2-under 70.

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