July 6, 2011

Morning Recap

Following the first round of play at the 64th MGA/MetLife Public Links Championship at Hominy Hill Golf Course, there’s a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard. Included in this trio is Dennis Lynch of Nassau Players, the two-time defending MGA Mid-Amateur champion. “I hit it close a few times and made some birdies,” said Lynch, the most experienced tournament player among the leading contenders. “I think someone might go low [this afternoon]. I’m just going to go out and try to make as many birdies as I can.”

Eric LefanteJoining Lynch are two players much to the 50-year-old Lynch’s junior: Adam Larkin, 19, of Bethpage and Marc Kunesch, 20, of Rolling Green. All three players shot one-under-par 71’s and are paired in the last groups for this afternoon’s final round.

“I birdied two of the first three holes, so I started off well,” said Kunesch. “My game is starting to come together. Also I really like the course; it’s pretty straightforward and you can play it well after just one practice round, which I had.”

Also in contention is 2008 Met Junior champion Anthony Aloi of MGA e-Club New Jersey, who shot a first-round 72 and birdied the first two holes of his afternoon round to jump ahead of the pack. Aloi can win his second MGA title with a solid afternoon round. Two-time NJSGA Public Links champion (2009 & ’10) Eric LeFante, also playing out of MGA e-Club New Jersey, is no stranger to Hominy Hill as he grew up playing the Monmouth County public track that is regularly considered one of the finest public courses in the Met Area.

First Tee of Metropolitan New York participant and future Penn State Nittany Lion Xander McDonald-Smith shot a first-round 73 and is in a good position to make a move further up the leaderboard this afternoon.

Hominy Hill proved to challenge the field in the morning round as the scoring average was 76.7 and only one eagle was recorded. A strong thunderstorm hit the course just before 2:00pm, causing a delay in play and possibly causing softer greens and more birdie opportunities as the day progresses. The final 18 holes should provide some exciting action as 14 players are within three shots of the lead, making it anyone’s championship to win.

Play Suspended at Public Links

Second-round play at the 64th MGA/MetLife Public Links Championship at Hominy Hill was suspended at 1:56pm due to lightning in the area. Players were given the option of completing play on the hole they had started. Hopefully the storm cell, which is fast-moving and to the southwest, will pass by quickly.

USGA Public Links at Hominy Hill

In addition to hosting four previous MGA/MetLife Public Links Championships, Hominy Hill has also been the site of two USGA national championships. The 1983 U.S. Public Links Championship was held here, and that year former University of Houston golf standout Billy Tuten took the title with a 3 & 1 victory over David Hobby. In 1995, Hominy Hill hosted the U.S. Women's Public Links Championship, won by Jo Jo Robertson. Robertson went on to win the title again in 1997, and was a member of the 1998 U.S. Curtis Cup team.

Hominy Hill's Championship Tradition

The 64th MGA/MetLife Public Links Championship is being held at a familiar place: Hominy Hill Golf Course in Colts Neck, N.J. The jewel of the Monmouth County Parks system, Hominy is no stranger to big-time competition. This is the fifth time the 6.918-yard, par-72 Robert Trent Jones layout is hosting the MGA Public Links, with the previous editions coming in 1986, 1991, 1996, and 1999.

Hominy has a history of producing fine champions. In 1986, Charlie Cowell won the MGA/MetLife Public Links here, and would go on to win the 1994 Met Open. Paul Dickinson took the title in 1996, and then repeated the following year at Bethpage Black (the same two-year course rotation that the MGA will follow this year and next year). In 1999, New Jersey native Lee Richardson won his third MGA/MetLife Public Links title at Hominy.

We'll look forward to seeing which Met Area marquee name hoists the trophy today after 36 holes of competition.

June 6, 2011

Four On the Number

Three professionals and one amateur are leaving Canoe Brook happy after earning spots in the 111th U.S. Open. Geoff Sisk, a 46-year-old Nationwide Tour pro from Marshfield, Mass., qualified for his sixth U.S. Open and earned medalist honors with a total of six-under-par 137. Three players finished one stroke behind him at 138: 19-year-old amateur Cheng-tsung Pan, Alexandre Rocha of Brazil, and Englishman Matt Richardson.

Zack Byrd and Nate McCoy, who finished at 139, played off for the alternate positions, with Byrd earning first alternate after a chip-in on the first playoff hole.

Pan Pulls Ahead Through 27

The youngster Cheng-tsun Pan made the turn in his afternoon round at one-under-par and stands at six-under-par total through 27 holes. Three-time U.S. Open qualifier Geoffrey Sisk made a big move, shooting four-under-par 32 on his front nine on the North Course to leap to five-under-par total.

Sixes are Wild

Ideal scoring conditions are contributing to a lot of red numbers on the scoreboard at U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying. Two players posted scores of five-under 66 on the South Course this morning: 18-year-old amateur Cheng-tsung Pan and four-time European Tour winner Mathias Gronberg. Pan is nearing high school graduation from the IMG Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and will play golf for the University of Washington starting in the fall. Gronberg, 39, is currently in the top 10 on the Nationwide Tour money list and enjoying one of his best seasons on that tour.

Liu a Titleholding Teenager

There is only one player in today's U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying field who has previously hoisted a USGA championship trophy: 15-year-old Jim Liu, who also happens to be the youngest player at Canoe Brook today. Liu, of Smithtown, N.Y., on Long Island, won the U.S. Junior last year in Michigan, and broke the record previously held by Tiger Woods as the youngest champion in that event's history. Liu is aiming to play in his first U.S. Open.

Positive MGA Vibes

There are 11 U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying sites across the country, and players choose the site where they'd like to attempt to qualify. Nine players in the field today at Canoe Brook have successfully qualified for past U.S. Opens in MGA-run qualifiers, and hope that teeing it up in the Met Area once again will yield the same result. The players, and where they previously qualified, are as follows:
--Geoffrey Sisk (2007, Century CC/Old Oaks CC, Purchase, N.Y.; 2004, Canoe Brook; 2003, Century/Old Oaks)
--Chris Nallen (2006 and 2005, Canoe Brook)
--Andrew Svoboda (2006, Canoe Brook)
--Jim McGovern (2002, Century/Old Oaks)
--Yohann Benson (2008, Century/Old Oaks)
--Michael Welch (2009, Century/Old Oaks)
--Jim Herman (2010, Canoe Brook)
--Jon Curran (2010, Canoe Brook)
--Dan McCarthy (2010, Canoe Brook)

Svoboda Aims for Fourth Open

Among the 83 U.S. Open hopefuls at Canoe Brook Country Club this morning is 2003 Met Open and 2004 Met Amateur champion Andrew Svoboda, who now plays full-time on the Nationwide Tour. The 31-year-old St. John's alumnus has played in three career U.S. Opens, including two of the last three (2009 at Bethpage and 2008 at Torrey Pines). He is paired today with Mark McCormick, the head professional at Suburban Golf Club in Union, N.J.