The Golf Association of Philadelphia has produced two U.S. Senior Amateur champions in the last decade or so in Merion Golf Club’s Buddy Marucci in 2008 and LedgeRock Golf Club’s Chip Lutz in 2015.
So when GAP administers a U.S. Senior Amateur qualifier, you know it’s going to be competitive. And the four players who punched their tickets to the U.S. Senior Amateur last Monday at Tavistock Country Club in Haddonfield, N.J. can be assured that they survived one of the toughest qualifiers in the country.
David Blichar, one of the Lehigh Valley’s top senior amateurs, grabbed medalist honors with a 1-under 71 over the 6,781-yard, par-72 Tavistock layout. Blichar, playing out of the Olde Homestead Golf Club, will turn 55 this year, making him eligible for the U.S. Senior Amateur for the first time.
And he’s headed for Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore., where the U.S. Senior Amateur will tee off Aug. 25, after hitting 16 greens in regulation at Tavistock.
Pine Valley Golf Club has to be the only golf course in the country that can say it will send a member and a caddy to the U.S. Senior Amateur, but the consensus No. 1 golf course in America will do just that.
The runnerup to Blichar was Edmond Armagost, who has looped at Pine Valley the last seven seasons and once toted Mark Calcavecchia’s bag on the PGA Tour. Armogast matched par with a 72. The 55-year-old Armogast is listed as being from Jupiter, Fla., where he winters at Seminole Golf Club.
Armogast qualified for back-to-back U.S. Amateurs in 1982 and 1983 and for the 1995 U.S. Open.
James Dunne is the Pine Valley member who was a shot behind Amagost in a tie for third at 1-over 73. The 62-year-old Dunne of New York City is also a member at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club and was the subject of a glowing profile by The Golf Channel as part of its U.S. Open coverage earlier this summer.
The final ticket to Eugene went to GAP veteran David West of Exton, who shared third place with Dunne. The 58-year-old West has qualified for four U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships.
Blichar followed up a par save at the sixth hole with a birdie at the seventh, where he hit a sand wedge to eight feet and dropped the putt. He had to hustle to make a bogey after an errant drive at the 14th, but followed that up with a birdie at the par-5 15th, where a wedge from 75 yards left him with a 10-foot birdie putt which he converted.
Blichar came to Tavistock off a run of solid golf. He teamed with Jason Wilson to win the Philadelphia Publinks Golf Association Better-Ball and claimed the Lehigh Valley Golf Association’s Senior Amateur Medal Play Championship and the Inter-Club Championship.
Byron Whitman of Reading earned first-alternate status with a 2-over 74. Christopher Clauson of LuLu Country Club matched Whitman’s 74 and is the second alternate. Clauson reached last year’s U.S. Senior Amateur at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis out of the local qualifier at LedgeRock.
Heading the list of the other near-misses was Clauson’s fellow LuLu entry, Glenn Smeraglio, who carded a 3-over 75. Smeraglio swept the GAP Senior Amateur and the Pennsylvania Golf Association Senior Amateur last summer.
Brian Rothaus of Five Ponds Golf Club was another shot behind Smerglio in a group at 4-over 76.
Longtime Concord Country Club senior standout Doug Fedoryshyn and Little Mill Country Club veteran Thomas Hyland were part of a large group at 77. Also in that group was Overbrook Golf Club’s Oscar Mestre, a shot ahead of his Overbrook pal Ray Thompson, who had a 78. Thompson has made a couple of nice runs at the U.S. Senior Amateur, including in 2013 when he was knocked out in the quarterfinals in an all-GAP battle with Lutz at Wade Hampton Golf Club in Cashiers, N.C.
Speaking of Lutz, I wasn’t sure if he was going to make what has become his annual trip across the pond to play in the Senior Open Championship and the Seniors Amateur Championship, which he’s won three times. Well, he did, so I’ll have to try to wrap up that trip when he gets started at Eugene later this month.