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U.S. Open Qualifier: York

Trio tops U.S. Open Local Qualifier at York

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YORK, Pa. — A rising 15-year-old, on the wings of an eye-popping 29, joined a pair of touring professionals atop the leaderboard in a U.S. Open Local Qualifier administered by GAP at Country Club of York (par 70, 6,664 yards) Thursday.

Garrett Engle, a Country Club of Harrisburg youngster, used that flurry to finish at 2-under-par 68. Alex Blickle (pictured above) and Matt Hardman, who both compete in mini-tour events, Monday qualifiers and state opens, also posted respective 68s to advance. Connor Flach, an amateur out of Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City, Md., rounded out the qualifying group with a 1-under-par 69.

The 119th U.S. Open will take place June 10-16 at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif.  

Back to that 29.

“I got off to a bad start. I couldn’t make a putt on the front nine,” Engle, of Harrisburg, Pa., said. “I got it going on the back nine. I really got the putter going. I kept hitting my spots with the irons and kept hitting greens. Putts started falling on the back.”

Did they ever.

On No. 10 (par 4, 331 yards), Engle, a sophomore at Central Dauphin High School, knocked a wedge 66 yards into tap-in territory. He followed that with an unprecedented birdie on the next hole (par 4, 422 yards). Engle cleared an obstructing tree with a 9-iron from 165 yards and canned a challenging 35-footer. The power and the putting continued to steal the show. Engle nearly drove the green on No. 13 (par 4, 308 yards), which left a chip-and-putt combo for 3. He walloped a 9-iron 192 yards to the back edge of the 14th green (par 5, 525 yards) and two-putted for birdie. Purely piped drives on Nos. 16 (par 4, 408 yards) and 18 (par 4, 384 yards) produced more red. On the former, Engle hit a 46-degree wedge 144 yards to the right tier. He then walked in a left-to-right breaking 30-footer.

“That was a big putt there,” he said. “It felt good off the putter. From about 10 feet out, I knew it was good.”

Engle, who competes in AJGA invitationals, completed the 29 task by burying a six-footer dead center on the 18th hole following a 96-yard wedge shot.

“I played here last year and didn’t play well. I got off to a bad start. But I knew it was out there,” he said. “I kept fighting. I got it rolling and started gaining confidence with my putter. I started seeing the lines a lot better. I’ve put up 29s and 30s before. When I get hot, I get hot. I knew it wasn’t over yet if I got it going.”

Engle’s U.S. Open journey isn’t over as a result, either. He’ll head to Sectional qualifying June 3 at Century Country Club & Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, N.Y.

Like Engle, Blickle relied on prior York experience Thursday. He qualified at the venue a year ago.

“I had good memories from here,” Blickle, 26, of Mohnton, Pa., said. “I drove the ball really well. I kept putting myself in good spots. I wouldn’t call it a short course, but I kind of turned it into one because I had a bunch of wedges. One thing my caddie Scott Bennick and I realized is we had similar yardages all day long. That really helped me get into a rhythm.”

Blickle bagged three front-nine birdies to headline the leaderboard early. Although he drew a 6-iron into the left greenside bunker on No. 2 (par 5, 526 yards), Blickle executed a spectacular sand shot to four feet and converted the ensuing birdie try.

“That putt gave me a lot of confidence because it was a quick left-to-right slider. I could still feel the nerves on just the second hole,” Blickle said.

A three-putt bogey on No. 6 (par 3, 174 yards) tested those nerves. Blickle bounced back with back-to-back birdies to close his outward tour. A 73-yard wedge to four feet on No. 8 (par 4, 443 yards), a 119-yard gap wedge to 15 feet on No. 9 (par 4, 479 yards).

“I felt good. I felt like I capitalized on all of my chances,” Blickle, a former LedgeRock Golf Club member who turned professional in August 2015, said.

Blickle will head to Sectional qualifying — a stage he also reached in 2016 — at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. Hardman, who works at Woodmont when he isn’t playing tournament golf, will be there as well for his Sectionals debut.

Consider it a case of Lucky 7. Hardman missed on his previous six attempts. York told a different story.

“I didn’t make any mistakes today. I pretty much hit it in the fairway,” Hardman, 26, of Bethesda, Md., said. “The rough is obviously long and penalizing if you get in it. I picked my spots to be aggressive and made pars when I needed.”

Back-to-birdies at the outset of his inward tour moved Hardman onto the medalist platform. On No. 1 (par 4, 425 yards), he lifted a wedge 115 yards to seven. Hardman reached the par 5, 526-yard No. 2 green in two strokes thanks a ripped hybrid from 245 yards. Hardman lipped the ensuing eagle try. Pars therein provided plenty.

“The past year has been a bit of a struggle, but I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Today was great,” Hardman, who turned professional in 2016, said.

Another Maryland hopeful in Flach is also thrilled with the return of investment York offered.

“I’ve been here the last couple of years I’ve been close,” Flach, 23, of Baltimore, Md., said. “I just love the golf course. It’s always in great shape. It was nice to have some good weather this year compared to the rain the last couple of years. I made a lot of five, six-footers to keep the round going. The greens were really fast, really good so you had to be really careful. I did a decent job of staying below the hole.”

Flach, a financial advisor, played collegiate golf at Loyola University Maryland. He, too, will make his Sectional qualifying debut at Woodmont.

GAP
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 274 Full Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.

Qualifiers (name, city, state, score)
Alex Blickle, Mohnton, Pa.68
(a) Garrett Engle, Harrisburg, Pa.68
Matt Hardman, Gettysburg, Pa.68
(a) Connor Flach, Baltimore, Md.69
Alternates (in order)
*Craig Hornberger, Lancaster, Pa.70
*Brian Bergstol, Bangor, Pa.70
Failed to qualify
*(a) Steven Kluemper, Bethlehem, Pa.70
Trevor Bensel, Villanova, Pa.71
David Hilgers, Hershey, Pa.71
T.J. Howe, Bellefonte, Pa.71
Maclain Huge, Lovettsville, Va.71
Mike Paukovits, Wyncote, Pa.71
(a) Connor Schmidt, Venetia, Pa.71
Ryan Siegler, West Windsor, N.J.71
Dustin Wallis, York, Pa.71
Michael Ferguson, Conshohocken, Pa.72
Christopher Gray, Middletown, Del.72
(a) Peter Knade, Easton, Md.72
Brett Melton, Coatesville, Pa.72
(a) Jake Sollon, Venetia, Pa.72
Cole Willcox, Malvern, Pa.72
Ben Boyle, Boiling Springs, Pa.73
(a) Brandon Knaub, Seven Valleys, Pa.73
(a) Nathan Sutherland, Wyomissing, Pa.73
Michael Tobiason, Wilmington, Del.73
(a) Casey Leebrick, San Luis Obispo, Calif.74
Tom Michaels, Lancaster, Pa.74
Jordan Shuey, Mechanicsburg, Pa.74
Michael Larkin, Towson, Md.75
Parks Price, York, Pa.75
(a) Andrew Rice, Parkton, Md.75
(a) David Stanford, Vienna, Va.75
Michael Wheeler, Reading, Pa.75
(a) Mitch Burns, Fleetwood, Pa.76
Chris Krueger, Lewes, Del.76
Patrick Maguire, Loch Hill, Md.76
(a) Scott Reisenweaver, Midlothian, Va.76
Joshua Grundon, Carlisle, Pa.77
(a) John Hartzell, Bangor, Pa.77
(a) Brady Pevarnik, Latrobe, Pa.77
Keith Prokop, Boonton, N.J.77
(a) Ryan Rucinski, Wilmington, Del.77
Matt Summers, Abingdon, Md.77
(a) Edward Coffren V, Owings, Md.78
(a) Luke Fayocavitz, Clark Summit, Pa.78
(a) Jesse Hazam, Mechanicsburg, Pa.78
(a) David Herbst, Mechanicsburg, Pa.78
Michael Rushin, Ocean View, Del.78
Joshua Bartley, Valencia, Pa.79
(a) Tim Elliott, Glen Arm, Md.79
(a) Ajay Fernandez, Stamford, Conn.79
(a) J.H. Park, Blue Bell, Pa.79
(a) Owen Quinn, Holden, Mass.79
(a) Chad Schulze, Lebanon, Pa.79
Joshua Truman, Morristown, N.J.79
James Braunsberg, Plymouth Meeting, Pa.80
Mason Carmel, Swan Point, Md.80
Steve Dicarlo, Salisbury, Md.80
(a) Matthew Newman, York, Pa.80
Kyle Early, Collegeville, Pa.81
(a) Tim Noel, Mechanicsburg, Pa.81
James Bromwell, Schuylkill Haven, Pa.83
(a) Spencer Weiner, Short Hills, N.J.83
(a) Andrew Forjan, York, Pa.84
(a) Christian Haldeman, Center Valley, Pa.85
(a) David Urbassik, Harrisburg, Pa.85
(a) Christian Flowers, Hummelstown, Pa.86
Chad Howell, Dillsburg, Pa.86
David Ross, Fayetteville, Pa.86
(a) Adam Zei, Harrisburg, Pa.86
(a) Daniel Tennekoon, Bryn Mawr, Pa.87
(a) Jon Haney, Kennett Square, Pa.88
Rick Piger III, Williamsport, Pa.89
JD Dornes, Lancaster, Pa.WD
Robert Farnham, Hershey, Pa.WD
(a) Kevin Haag, Hummelstown, Pa.WD
(a) James Kania, Haverford, Pa.WD
(a) — denotes amateur
* — determined in playoff
WD — withdrawal