Only those with a ticket can get into Bethpage to see the U.S. Open, but you can get a good taste for free Monday, June 8, at the Sectional Qualifiers. The drama is just as intense and the golf just as good as top players vie for slots in the big show. In my neighborhood (literally), Old Oaks and Century host the qualifying rounds in Purchase, NY. There are some interesting players in the field whose names will be familiar to Westchester golfers.
2008 NY State Open winner Rob Labritz, Director of Golf at GlenArbor will compete here along with Mike Diffley, head pro at Pelham CC, and Ben Hoffhine, head pro at Wykagyl. Also playing is Gregory Bisconti of St. Andrew's, Anthony Casalino from Willow Ridge, and Keith Dicciani of Metropolis. An amateur of note in the field is 2007 Carter Cup champion Max Buckley of Rye, N.Y.
Andrew Svoboda of Larchmont, NY, finished 71st at last year’s U.S. Open after getting into the field as an alternate. He was a semifinalist at the 2004 U.S. Amateur and also played in the 2006 U.S. Open. Both of those events were at Winged Foot, where his parents are members and where he has won the club championship.
Michael Allen of Scottsdale, AZ, recently won the 2009 Senior PGA Championship in his first start as a 50-and-over player. He has played in five U.S. Opens, tying for 12th in 2001. He is a former assistant pro at Winged Foot.
Andrew Giuliani of New York City, the son of former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani and a former member of the Duke University golf team, earned the final qualifying spot at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Conn.
Brad Faxon is a member of the PGA Tour who has played in 20 U.S. Opens. His best finishes came in 1989 and 1994, when he tied for 33rd. He played on the victorious 1983 USA Walker Cup team.
French-born Jean Van de Velde of Dubai has played in two U.S. Opens, including a 45th-place finish in 2002 at Bethpage. He is best known for his runner-up finish at the 1999 British Open. Other prominent Tour professionals in the field include Mathias Gronberg of Sweden and Scott Dunlap.
Former Met Junior champion Michael Quagliano of White Plains, N.Y., will attempt to qualify on June 8 in Memphis, Tenn.
The field of 77 players will compete over 36 holes of stroke play for one of four spots in the championship. The event is open to the public and spectators are welcome at both clubs. Food service will be available.
Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a romantic thriller about blood diamonds in the Congo