By Mike Dougherty
BRIARCLIFF MANOR – There are still a few things Max Buckley would like to accomplish before he leaves the amateur ranks.
Getting back to the U.S. Amateur Championship ranked high on that list, and the 24-year-old from Rye secured a spot in the field Tuesday, completing the second round of qualifying at Trump National-Westchester, and grabbing medalist honors with a 5-under total of 139. Play was suspended Monday when nasty storms rolled in and he only had to four holes to go.
Buckley slept on a comfortable lead.
He came back and played the last four holes in 1-under, getting up and down for par from over the green at the 15th, rolling in an eight-foot birdie on the 16th, making a routine par on the 17th and getting up and down for par from a greenside bunker on the 18th.
Buckley was four shots clear of the field.
“I really wanted this,” said the Westchester Country Club member, who plans to make his professional debut next month at the Met Open. “It will be a great way to end my amateur career, playing in the U.S. Amateur at the Atlanta Athletic Club.”
The championship will be contested Aug. 11-17.
Evan Russell of Grantham, New Hampshire, Greg Reilly of New Canaan, Connecticut, and Ryan Rodriguez of Highland Mills tied for second at 1-under, and played off for the final two qualifying positions. Russell and Reilly made par on the third extra hole and Rodriguez took a bogey, making him the first alternate.
It will be the fourth trip for Buckley. He failed to advance to match play in 2009 at Southern Hills or in 2012 at Cherry Hills. Buckley did have a moment or three in 2011 at Erin Hills, taking down some top players before suffering a difficult loss to Patrick Cantlay in the quarterfinals.
That experience, the good and the bad will help.
“It gave me the confidence of knowing that when I play well, I belong at the top with those guys,” said Buckley, who came up three shots short of making it through sectional qualifying last summer. “And in match play, anything can happen. I think in one match that year I was something like 4- or 5-under and it went 19 holes. Sometimes you’re going to play great and not win. Sometimes you’re not going to play great and win.”
The remainder of a busy schedule will be good preparation.
Buckley is playing in the Baltusrol Invitational later this week with MGA president Jeffrey Holzschuh. Next up are the Porter Cup and Western Amateur.