By Mike Dougherty
NEW CITY – There was anguish on display in every direction as highly competitive golfers from up and down the East Coast battled for an opportunity to fulfill a dream.
Getting a spot in the U.S. Open field is a chore.
A total of 96 players signed up for a local qualifier Wednesday at Paramount Country Club, and only five moved on to the sectionals, where the level of competition and intensity climbs exponentially. Even the most talented amateur and professional golfers are longshots to advance.
Last year, only 20 players advanced through local and sectional qualifiers to join the 136 exempt players at Merion Golf Club, so the obvious question is why bother?
“It’s the dream,” said Brad Tilley, a native of Bedford Corners, who shot an even-par 70 to finish second and advance. “You’re playing in your country’s national championship if do well. Why wouldn’t you try? They set the courses up tough and that part could be viewed as torture, but the prize at the end, if you can get there, is the best thing you can be a part of in golf.”
David Pastore, a 22-year-old amateur from Greenwich, Conn., took medalist honors with a 1-under 69. Danny Balin, a mini-tour player who’s on staff at Burning Tree Country Club, and Jackie Barnes, a Stormville amateur who just finished his sophomore year at Flagler College in Florida, shot 71s to tie for third. Steve Scott, the head pro at Paramount, carded a 72, and won a three-for-one playoff to lock up the final spot.
Some of the players had to wait and watch the scoreboard for hours before they were officially in the sectionals.
“I don’t know what happens now,” Barnes said after lunch. “I’m definitely a little excited and nervous at the same time.”
“It’s one round here,” Balin said. “If you’re not playing well, it’s over quickly, but it’s something you always want to do. I mean, it’s a dream to play in the U.S. Open, it’s something you have to do.”
This year, there are 111 sites across the country hosting 18-hole local qualifiers. The Whippoorwill Club in Armonk is up next. There are 10 sites hosting 36-hole sectional qualifiers on June 2, including Old Oaks and Century in Purchase.
Players who subject themselves to this process year after year usually have at least one painful memory.
“I got close one year, when it was at Bethpage in 2009,” Bisconti said. “I got into a playoff with Andrew Svoboda and he holed out on me from the fairway to knock me out.”
“It’s not an easy process, for sure, but the U.S. Open is spectacular,” said Scott, who played and survived the cut at Oakland Hills (Mich.) in 1996. “It’s about as nervous as you’ll ever be on the first tee. It’s hard to get there, but it’s rewarding.”
And worth all of this bother?
“It sure is,” Scott added. “It definitely is.”
U.S. Open local qualifier
At Paramount Country Club, par 70
1. David Pastore, Greenwich, Conn. 33-36-69
2. Bradford Tilley, Jupiter, Fla. 35-35-70
3. Daniel Balin, Rockville, Md. 36-35-71
3. Jackie Barnes, Stormville 37-34 -71
4. Steve Scott, New City 37-35-72
Failed to qualify:
4. David Schuster, New York 33-39-72 (first alternate)
4. Jeb Buchanan, Loudonville 36-36-72 (second alternate)
7. Mike Ballo, Stamford, Conn. 36-37-73
7. Nathan Sutherland, New York 38-35-73
7. Darin Goldstein, New York 37-36-73
7. Nick Desai, West Orange, N.J. 39-34-73
7. Ben Polland, Manhasset 36-37-73
12. Paul Selvaggio, Valhalla 36-38-74
12. Sang Lee, Teaneck, N.J. 36-38-74
12. Pete Catanzaro, Hartsdale 38-36-74
15. Patrick McCarthy, Halesite 41-34-75
15. Phil Wildermuth, Pelham 37-38-75
15. Luke Graboyes, Watchung, N.J. 36-39-75
15. Andrew Bostrom, Larchmont 33-42-75
15. Jonathan Renza, Cortlandt Manor 38-37-75
15. Brent Ito, Ardsley 37-38-75
15. Brent Paladino, Kensington, Conn. 37-38-75
15. Christopher White, Garden City 38-37-75
15. Doug Walters, Blairstown, N.J. 41-34-75