PITTSGROVE TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Eighty players vying for five spots competed in the final of two U.S. Open Local Qualifiers administered by the Golf Association of Philadelphia Monday at Running Deer Golf Club (par 72, 7,028 yards). When all was said and done, two players, donning newly-earned medalist honors, garnered all the buzz.
David Sanders, a Minor League Golf Tour player, fired an even-par 72 to lead the clubhouse early. Players posting scores and spectators seeking out the leaderboard were heavily impressed with that mark, especially considering inconsistent, gusting conditions. Then, with a matching 72 in-hand, Lodie Van Tonder – a native of South Africa – joined that discussion.
Sanders’ and Van Tonder’s medal-earning number would not be bettered. Three additional players punched their tickets to the next stage: Ryan Rucinski (Wilmington, Del.), Dawson Jones (Howell, N.J.) and Lucas Trim (Tampa, Fla.). The cut line stopped at 3-over 75 on the day.
This year’s U.S. Open – the 117th edition – will take place June 12-18 at Erin Hills in Erin, Wisc.
Sanders, who calls Mt. Laurel, N.J. and Laurel Creek Country Club home, was the early standout thanks to a steady front nine. After reaching the long par-5, 521-yard 4th green in two with a wood approach, Sanders lagged a long eagle look to three feet and converted for birdie to move into red figures. Sanders hit every green in regulation through the front, making the turn at even despite a bogey blemish on No. 6 (par 4, 417 yards).
The 2011 New Jersey State Golf Association Amateur Champion’s back nine was a little more adventurous. He began the roller coaster ride with three promising birdies in his first five holes.
Sanders left himself in great position off the tee on No. 10 (par 4, 408 yards), then hit the bullseye mark with a 9-iron on his approach, leading to a tap-in birdie from a foot. Another red number was carded on No. 11 (par 4, 357 yards), after he landed a wedge shot, against the wind, 15 feet below the hole and jarred the birdie look to move to 2 under.
“When I was in the fairway, sitting at 2 under, I was feeling good. I was in good position,” said Sanders.
Following a three-putt bogey on No. 13 (par 3, 225 yards), Sanders laid up on the par-5, 555-yard 14th before chipping to a few inches for another tap-in birdie. Bogey mishaps arrived again on Nos. 15 (par 4, 368 yards) and 16 (par 3, 169 yards), but ultimately weren’t enough to knock him off the lead.
“It could have been a few shots lower out here today, but I’ll take it. It was playing tough out here with these swirling conditions,” said the 26-year-old Sanders. “I really wanted to take it deep today to prove myself a little bit.”
Or in this case, prove himself even further. Sanders, who reached the Round of 16 in the 2011 BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship, notched his first professional Minor League Golf Tour victory in February’s West Palm Beach City Championship at West Palm Beach Golf Course. His eye-opening rounds of 67 and 64 included birdies on 13 of the final 27 holes to secure the title.
“I live in West Palm Beach, Florida now, and that Tour stays around my area. It’s good competition down there,” he said. “I’m playing in European Tour School Qualifying at the end of this month. It’s really exciting stuff for me.”
Van Tonder, a former member at Running Deer who still plays the track almost weekly, knew it was going to be a good day when he knocked his wedge approach to five feet and holed the putt on No. 1 (par 4, 394 yards). Although he gave one back on No. 2 (par 4, 477 yards) with a bogey slip, the fall didn’t last long. The par-3, 481-yard 3rd was a friend to Van Tonder, playing host to a pure 9-iron approach followed by another five footer for birdie.
The highlight of his day – and possibly of the field’s – came in result of a greenside, chip-in eagle on No. 14. Van Tonder found himself 30 feet past the hole on his approach, sitting nicely on the fringe, and promptly put the ball in the bottom of the cup for the round-defining moment. It was just another example of Van Tonder excelling in spots on the course where others consistently struggled.
“I love [Running Deer], I still call it my second home. Coming from South Africa, I love playing in these winds,” said Van Tonder, who relocated to the United States eight years ago.
The now-regular GAP player and current Sakima Country Club member picked up the game at the age of 11 back in South Africa. It was there where he learned the sport on nine-hole courses while idolizing his country’s impressive list of PGA Tour standouts. Most notably Gary Player, whose family’s farm Van Tonder “grew up in the same area” as.
Van Tonder, of Pennsville, N.J., still reps his South African roots and a hint of his homeland’s accent. But now, he calls himself “an extremely proud American.”
“I love this country,” he said. “It’s the best place I’ve ever lived in my life.”
Rucinski, who medaled in a #BMWPhillyAm Qualifier last year at Radley Run Country Club, earned his way to the Sectional Qualifying round after finishing just one back of the leaders.
“I’ve played Running Deer in the [BMW GAP Team Matches]. It was easier to score that day, but today I’ve got to be happy with 73,” said Rucinski, a prominent player for Wilmington University who just completed his sophomore season. “I’ve tried to play in the [U.S. Open Local Qualifiers] before, but those were always high scores. Knowing I had to score low put pressure on me, and that got to me. Today it was more relaxed.”
The final two spots went to a pair of talented collegiate players: University of Rhode Island’s Jones (2-over 74) and Villanova University’s Trim (3-over 75).
The latter earned his spot via a 2-for-1 playoff versus Philadelphia Cricket Club professional Mark Miller. Trim found the green in regulation on the first playoff hole (No. 10) while Miller pushed his fairway approach just right of the green. The Cricketeer’s chip came up short, opening the door for the Wildcat. Trim executed an impressive two-putt par from the top tier of the downhill green to secure the final spot, bettering Miller’s bogey.
Miller earned the first alternative position, while Laurel Creek Country Club’s Joe Russo grabbed the second alternate position in result of winning a 4-for-1 playoff.
Today’s event marked the second of two U.S. Open Local Qualifiers the Golf Association of Philadelphia administered this season. The first was held May 11 at Country Club of York.
Golf Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 153 Full Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.
|Name, city, state||Score|
|David Sanders, Mt. Laurel, N.J.||72|
|(a) Lodie Van Tonder, Pennsville, N.J.||72|
|(a) Ryan Rucinski, Wilmington, Del.||73|
|(a) Dawson Jones, Howell, N.J.||74|
|*(a) Lucas Trim, Tampa, Fla.||75|
|Alternates (in order)|
|Mark Miller, Conshohocken, Pa.||75|
|*(a) Joe Russo, Sewell, N.J.||76|
|Failed to qualify|
|Corey Brigham, Red Bank, N.J.||76|
|(a) Danny Dougherty, Wilmington, Del.||76|
|Steve Keogh, Brooklyn, N.Y.||76|
|Bertus Wessels, Philadelphia, Pa.||77|
|Alexander Hicks, Cape May, N.J.||77|
|(a) Benjamin Smith, Philadelphia, Pa.||77|
|(a) Christopher Ault, Yardley, Pa.||77|
|(a) Christopher Meares, Turnersville, N.J.||77|
|Trevor Bensel, Philadelphia, Pa.||77|
|(a) Joseph McLister, Leesburg, Va.||77|
|(a) Marty McGuckin, Valley Forge, Pa.||77|
|Billy Stewart, Devon, Pa.||77|
|Steve Ashworth, Brookhaven, Pa.||78|
|Peter Badawy, Beirut, Lebanon||78|
|(a) Scott McNeil, Philadelphia, Pa.||78|
|Sean Szerencsits, Coplay, Pa.||78|
|(a) Matthew Gaffney, Sewell, N.J.||78|
|Greg Matthias, Haddonfield, N.J.||78|
|(a) Ronald Robinson, Hatfield, Pa.||78|
|(a) Stephen Barry, Mullica Hill, N.J.||78|
|(a) Frank Kohute, Newfield, N.J.||79|
|(a) Luca Jezzeny, Furlong, Pa.||79|
|(a) Austin Barbin, Elkton, Md.||79|
|(a) John Olsen, New York, N.Y.||79|
|(a) David Hicks, Cape May, N.J.||79|
|(a) Kyle Deisher, Montgomery, Pa.||80|
|(a) Benjamin Pochet, Royersford, Pa.||80|
|(a) Michael Sydnes, Bryn Mawr, Pa.||80|
|(a) Geoffrey Cooper, Erdenheim, Pa.||80|
|(a) Lukas Clark, Holland, Pa.||80|
|(a) Vince Kwon, Marlton, N.J.||80|
|(a) Wes Samons, Bloomfield, N.J.||81|
|(a) Michael Brown, Jr., Maple Shade, N.J.||81|
|Braden Shattuck, Aston, Pa.||81|
|Will Hurley, Morristown, N.J.||82|
|(a) Andy Kerestesy, Vineland, N.J.||82|
|Isaac Mulvihill, Hoboken, N.J.||82|
|(a) Stephen Cerbara, Langhorne, Pa.||82|
|Andrew Pierson, Camden, N.J.||82|
|(a) Erik Reisner, Philadelphia, Pa.||82|
|(a) Joey Russo, Sewell, N.J.||82|
|(a) Matthew Smith, Yorklyn, Del.||82|
|(a) Peter Bradbeer, Rosemont, Pa.||83|
|Francisco Cossio, Brigantine, N.J.||83|
|(a) David West, Downingtown, Pa.||83|
|(a) Mark Benevento, Ocean City, N.J.||83|
|(a) Kevin Kramarski, Cinnaminson, N.J.||83|
|Thomas Schultice, Riverside, N.J.||83|
|Louis Kelly, Jr., Deptford, N.J.||84|
|(a) Salvatore Capelli, Glassboro, N.J.||84|
|(a) Leonard Lee, Wyckoff, N.J.||84|
|Dirk Ayers, Wake Forest, N.C.||84|
|Logan Terry, Plymouth Meeting, Pa.||84|
|(a) Conor McGrath, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.||84|
|(a) David Kim, Dresher, Pa.||84|
|(a) Paul Amess, Philadelphia, Pa.||84|
|(a) Blake Vogdes, Wildwood Crest, N.J.||85|
|Brandon Hallenbeck, Virginia Beach, Va.||85|
|(a) Joseph Hughes, Tabernacle, N.J.||85|
|(a) Samuel Soeth, Newtown Square, Pa.||85|
|(a) Drew Guarino, Burlington, N.J.||85|
|(a) John Samaha, Hatboro, Pa.||85|
|(a) Michael Brosh, Vineland, N.J.||86|
|Kevin Rossi, Doylestown, Pa.||86|
|(a) Jack Irons, Naples, Fla.||86|
|(a) Jonathan Green, Lafayette Hill, Pa.||86|
|(a) Trevor Kraws, Cranbury, N.J.||86|
|(a) Caleb Ryan, Norristown, Pa.||87|
|(a) Kyle Dolby, Berwyn, Pa.||87|
|(a) B.J. Jaworski, Sewell, N.J.||88|
|(a) Zachary Barbin, Elkton, Md.||88|
|(a) Buddy Hansen, IV, Blue Bell, Pa.||89|
|Michael Benson, Stockton, N.J.||104|
|(a) Douglass Ergood, Jr., Mount Laurel, N.J.||WD|
|(a) Michael Stamberger, Brielle, N.J.||WD|
|Thomas Timby, Jr. , Doylestown, Pa.||WD|
|(a) Noam Roizman, Blue Bell, Pa.||WD|
|(a) Andrew Austin, Apex, N.C.||WD|
|Davis Lee, Princeton, N.J.||WD|
|Kevin Ausserlechner, West Harrison, N.Y.||DQ|
|*-determined in playoff|
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