ARMONK – There isn’t a scoreboard anywhere on the golf course during U.S. Open qualifying, so Max Buckley adheres to a principle the USGA holds in high regard.
Par is good.
“There are eight spots here and you just want to get one of them,” the 24-year-old amateur from Rye said Wednesday before teeing off at the Whippoorwill Club. “Usually, a score around even par gets in so you look to play solid golf and see how you stack up at the end of the day. You have to know that birdies are nice, but double bogeys can kill you. Anything under par gives me a shot and that’s my game plan going in.”
And when he followed through with a 2-under 69, Buckley had a spot in the June 2 sectional at Old Oaks and Century.
Tim Hegarty (Briarcliff), Craig Thomas (White Plains), Kent St. Charles (Mount Vernon) and Brian Williams (New York) matched that number. A playoff was needed to determine who got the final three spots. Colin Dolph (Huntington), Mike Gilmore (Bethel, Conn.), Hyun Cheol Lee (Bayside), James Nicholas (Scarsdale) and Kevin Ausserlechner (West Harrison) finished at 1-under.
It was a long day for Nicholas, who has already won four International Junior Golf Tour events this spring. The junior at Scarsdale High School was in before lunch and spent the next several hours scoreboard watching.
“Every 10 minutes I’m checking my phone,” said Nicholas, who was immediately eliminated in the playoff, but could make the sectional as the second alternate. “I played well except for a double on my 10th hole of the day. That one hurt. I did make five birdies. I was nervous, but if you’re not a little nervous for this, you shouldn’t be there.”
Ausserlechner and Dolph claimed two of the spots in the playoff. Gilmore and Lee were still going at it when darkness halted play and came back to Whippoorwill on Thursday to finish up. Gilmore prevailed.
Getting off to a good start helped Thomas, who has a history of success in local qualifiers.
“I birdied the first hole, which is nice because I always like to go under par before I go over par,” said the head pro at Metropolis, who last made sectionals in 2012 and came in 14th. “It makes you feel like you’re having a decent round because if you take a bogey, it only leaves you back at even par.
“I personally think your pairing is significant. I know Dave Fusco very well. He’s a super guy and we talk. He’s a very good player. And this kid we played with from Seton Hall, David Cha, he hits the ball really well. He just had a couple of bad holes. When you see good shots, it helps you hit good shots.”