KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. – Everything finally came together for Gary Daniels of Saucon Valley CC Monday. The Center Valley, Pa. resident carded a 2-under-par 69 to top Monday’s USGA Senior Amateur Qualifier at Kennett Square G&CC (par 71, 6,288 yards). Daniels, the 2009 Golf Association of Philadelphia Senior Player of the Year, led a class of five who advanced to the Championship proper, set for Oct. 2-7 at Lake Nona G&CC in Orlando, Fla.
“It’s been a rough year,” Daniels, who qualified for match play in last year’s USGA Senior Amateur at Beverly CC, said. “I had my shoulder worked on in the winter and had a late comeback. As of late, I’ve had some back problems, but today, it didn’t seem to bother me too much, so I struck the ball really well and putted really well.”
An opening birdie seemed to dictate Daniels’ day. He hit a 9-iron 150 yards to eight feet on No. 1 (par 4, 380 yards). On No. 8 (par 4, 417 yards), with a sweeping wind, Daniels drilled his 9-iron 130 yards to four feet. His 9-iron continued to aid Daniels as he hit it 145 yards to 25 feet on No. 10 (par 4, 408 yards). He drained a left-to-right breaker for birdie.
“I just wanted to get it somewhere around pin high,” Daniels said of the putt. “I canned that one. It was beautiful.”
Daniels, 61, then encountered a somewhat tedious period. On No. 13 (par 3, 177 yards), he nuked his 7-iron into the water hazard behind the green and went on to card a bogey. Daniels knocked his 9-iron 145 yards into the left greenside bunker on No. 15 (par 4, 377 yards) and failed to get up-and-down for par.
“I couldn’t judge the wind and just didn’t put a good swing on the 9-iron,” Daniels said.
To earn medalist honors outright, Daniels powered his hybrid 200 yards uphill to the left of the No. 18 (par 5, 458 yards) green. His ball ran through the bunker, which thankfully for Daniels, halted its momentum as it screeched toward the out-of-bounds stakes. Cue an unprecedented birdie.
“I was in the cabbage next to the bunker,” he said. “I hacked it straight up in the air and it stopped three feet from the hole.”
Daniels, who advanced to the Round of 16 in this year’s Amateur Championship at Saucon Valley, will now compete in his third USGA Senior Amateur Championship.
“This is awesome,” he said. “It’s a treasure to go and to just represent the Philadelphia section. It’s a great thing to compete with the best guys in the world.”
Robin McCool, also of Saucon Valley CC, and Raymond Thompson of Overbrook GC carded respective 1-under-par 70s to place second. For McCool, the flatstick fueled his success.
“I felt comfortable over the putts,” he said. “These are the best greens I’ve putted on this year, and also the fastest.”
Fast putting surfaces didn’t slow down the Bethlehem, Pa. resident’s play. He birdied two of his first five holes to initiate his outward tour.
“I got off to a really good start, and that always helps,” McCool, 59, said.
On No. 2 (par 4, 353 yards), McCool hit his wedge 108 yards to 10-feet above the hole location. He stopped a smooth 20-degree utility wood at four feet on No. 5 (par 3, 202 yards). But McCool came back down to earth after experiencing back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 8 (par 4, 417 yards) and 9 (par 5, 475 yards). The first was a result of a three-putt, and the latter a result of dunking his wedge 60 yards into the right greenside bunker.
The hiccups didn’t dent McCool’s qualifying hopes. He responded in grand fashion on the sharp dogleg right, par 4 15th hole (par 4, 377 yards) by striking his 8-iron 158 yards and rolling in a 65-footer from the right-side of the sizable green.
“There was a little bit of break to it, but it was mainly a speed situation,” McCool said of the birdie putt. “I wasn’t trying to make that putt.”
McCool reached the No. 16 (par 5, 453 yards) green in two strokes, though his 4-iron shot trickled back down the slope and into the rough. With a reasonable lie, McCool stuck a wedge to six inches. He three-putted from the bottom of the No. 17 (par 4, 432 yards) green to log a bogey. On the uphill No. 18 (par 5, 458 yards), McCool launched his utility wood 209 yards, chipped up to 30-feet and two-putted to maintain his under par score. His performance Monday marked another chapter in McCool’s tremendous season. He captured the Brewer Cup in July at Sandy Run CC.
“I felt this year that I was finally able to strike the golf ball like I’m familiar with,” McCool, whose two years removed from back surgery, said. “I did work on my putting over the winter, and it’s a lot better. And of course, that makes all of the difference in the world.”
McCool will participate in his 15th USGA championship. That number holds a special place in his golf heart. McCool earned his 15th Buck Cup at Saucon Valley this year.
“I’m very pleased. I wanted to get off that 14 number,” he said.
A sensational four-hole stretch propelled Thompson. The Drexel Hill, Pa. resident carded three birdies and an eagle to finish his qualifying bid in style.
“I just hit it close and made the putts. That’s what it boiled down to,” he said. “I knew what the (cut) number was. I knew I had to get it close to even or 1 under to have a shot. I was playing the same way I had all day. I was trying to be patient.”
Standing at 4 over with four to play, Thompson knew he needed to uncover a bit of magic. On No. 15, he whacked his wedge 120 yards and converted a four-footer for birdie to begin a red figure onslaught. Thompson hammered his 5-iron 178 yards to eight feet on No. 16 and completed a two-putt for birdie. His 6-iron settled six feet from the No. 17 flagstick. And on No. 18, Thompson, feeding off a newfound rush of confidence, pulverized his hybrid 210 yards to five feet and cleaned up the eagle effort.
Thompson’s fantastic finish overshadowed a shaky start. Bogeys on Nos. 4 (par 4, 371 yards) and 6 (par 4, 393 yards) sandwiched a double bogey on No. 5 (par 3, 202 yards). His 8-iron on No. 4 sailed 141 yards, but settled eight yards short of the putting surface. Thompson pulled his 4-iron left on No. 5, then skulled a sand wedge over the green. His chip stopped eight feet short, but Thompson, the 2009 Warner Cup (Gross) Champion, watched his bogey putt swirl around the jar.
“I didn’t make anything on the front, but I hit a lot of good putts,” Thompson said. “They just kept lipping out or going over the edge. It was just bizarre.”
Thompson nuked his 7-iron over the No. 6 green and failed to get up-and-down.
“I actually hit it dead perfect. It just flew over the green,” he said. ”It was one of the better irons I’ve hit all day.”
The 2010 golf campaign has been relatively quiet for Thompson, who in 2007 became the first player to sweep the GAP senior circuit en route to Player of the Year honors.
“It’s been a tough year for me,” Thompson, who finished second in the Senior Silver Cross Award standings, said. “I haven’t putted well. The putter’s just let me down all year.”
The 58-year-old now returns to the USGA stage after a 32-year absence. He last played in the 1977 and 1978 U.S. Open.
“I’m excited. It’s nice to get there when you still have a (golf) game left,” Thompson said.
Art Brosius of DuPont CC and Charles “Buck” Jones of Blue Bell CC prevailed in a six-for-two playoff frenzy to also qualify Monday.
|Gary Daniels||Center Valley, Pa.||69|
|Raymond Thompson||Drexel Hill, Pa.||70|
|Robin McCool||Bethlehem, Pa.||70|
|#Charles Jones||Collegeville, Pa.||72|
|#Art Brosius||Wilmington, Del.||72|
|Alternates (in order)|
|#Michael Quinn||East Fallowfield, Pa.||72|
|#Thomas Evans||Bronxville, N.Y.||72|
|Failed to qualify|
|#Donald Meyer||Potomac, Md.||72|
|#Michael Rose||Huntingdon Valley, Pa.||72|
|Gary Daniels||Berwyn, Pa.||73|
|Thomas DiCinti||Voorhees, N.J.||73|
|Thomas Mallouk||Doylestown, Pa.||73|
|Mark Surtees||Middletown, Del.||74|
|Ed Chylinski||Gulph Mills, Pa.||74|
|Don Donatoni||Malvern, Pa.||75|
|Jay Howson||Malvern, Pa.||75|
|Michael Domenick||Phoenixville, Pa.||75|
|Richard Smith||Villanova, Pa.||75|
|Michael Fox||Chadsbord, Pa.||75|
|Stan Zabytko||Port St Lucie, Fla.||76|
|John Deluise||Raleigh, N.C.||76|
|Bob Young||Dunwoody, Ga.||76|
|Douglas Goepfert||Hershey, Pa.||76|
|Frank Polizzi||Plymouth Meeting, Pa.||76|
|Jay Green||Alpine, N.J.||76|
|Robert Billings||Media, Pa.||77|
|David Brookreson||Huntingdon Valley, Pa.||77|
|Roc Irey||Furlong, Pa.||77|
|Joe Viechnicki||Bethlehem, Pa.||77|
|Thomas Borsello||Wilmington, Del.||77|
|Thomas Bartolacci||Washington Crossing, Pa.||77|
|Francis McFadden||Newtown Square, Pa.||78|
|Andrew Tompos||Lititz, Pa.||78|
|Andy Hardy||Mechanicsburg, Pa.||78|
|Mike Atkins||Mountville, Pa.||78|
|Michael Moser||Kennett Square, Pa.||79|
|Bill Lawler||West Wyoming, Pa.||79|
|James Prendergast||Limerick, Pa.||79|
|Joseph Scott||Kennett Square, Pa.||79|
|Norman Swenson||Boynton Beach, Fla.||79|
|Gerry Barnett||Manasquan, N.J.||79|
|Matthew Bellis||Ambler, Pa.||80|
|Jerry Horton||Lawrenceville, N.J.||80|
|Chris Lange||Bryn Mawr, Pa.||80|
|Bob Majczan||Furlong, Pa.||80|
|Mark Quigley||Ambler, Pa.||80|
|Jeffrey Ranck||Lewisburg, Pa.||80|
|Richard Awalt||Havre De Grace, Md.||81|
|Albert Sabini||Edison, N.J.||81|
|Ray Underwood||Marbledale, Ct.||81|
|Jim Haynie||North Wales, Pa.||82|
|Thomas Schaible||Malvern, Pa.||82|
|Robert McIntyre||Scotch Plains, N.J.||82|
|Mike Miklinevich||Margate, N.J.||82|
|Charles McDowell||Wilmington, Del.||82|
|Larry Novinger||Millersburg, Pa.||83|
|Greg Gaul||Wayne, Pa.||83|
|Dennis Campbell||Orwigsburg, Pa.||83|
|John O’Malley||Mantolking, N.J.||84|
|James Coleman||St Davids, Pa.||84|
|Paul Keating||Haverford, Pa.||86|
|Ansley Jessup||Willingboro, N.J.||88|
|Charles McClaskey||Elkton, Md.||90|
|Peter Leslie||Greenville, Del.||90|
|Brian Sexton||Little Egg Harbor, N.J.||90|
|Hugh Kenworthy||Newtown Square, Pa.||WD|
|Tom Greenwood||Cranbury, N.J.||WD|
|Vincent Quinn||Lancaster, Pa.||WD|
|Robert Dietrich||Colts Neck, N.J.||WD|
|Nick Raasch||Fayetteville, N.Y.||WD|
|Gene Maginnis||Plymouth Meeting, Pa.||WD|
|Michael Dutill||Maple Glen, Pa.||WD|
|Joseph Marucci||Titusville, N.J.||WD|
|Bennett Meyer||Huntingdon Valley, Pa.||WD|
|Jeffrey Hilton||Yardley, Pa.||WD|
|Laurence Hirsh||Villanova, Pa.||WD|
|Jim Hoffer||Lemoyne, Pa.||WD|
|Jarrett Kling||Haverford, Pa.||WD|
|# – determined in playoff; WD – withdrawal|