U.S. Senior Open Qualifying: Steel Club - The Golf Association of Philadelphia

Brown, Jr., Caron and Gaffney headed to Newport

HELLERTOWN, Pa. – Michael R. Brown, Jr.’s journey in golf has been one that would make even the most dedicated people feel like they needed to work harder.

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Golf, a lonely game by nature, holds the keys to many dreams that don’t get realized. Dirt moved, sand splashed and cups clanked by a little white ball with the hopes of relevance. Dreamers often work in silence but frequently never end up where their dream takes them.

Monday at Steel Club (par 71, 6,923 yards), Brown’s aspiration was finally realized. He advanced in a 5-for-3 playoff with par on the first playoff hole, earning his spot to June’s U.S. Senior Open.

Brown, Jr.

Professionals Jason Caron and Brian Gaffney also advanced with pars. The real winner of the day was Steel Club. No player carded a round of par or better. A round of 72 was needed to get in a playoff. The scoring average was 79.3.

The 44th U.S. Senior Open will take place June 27-30 at Newport Country Club in Newport, R.I.

“Getting through this qualifier is a huge monkey off my back because it’s been my goal forever to play professionally and I just didn’t make it,” Brown, 51, of Maple Shade Township, N.J., said. “Just for a week to be out there with those guys will make it feel like all I have put into the game has been worth it.”

Brown gave the professional ranks a go from 1998-2005 but to no avail. Since 2005, he’s put together an array of amateur victories on a local, state and regional landscape including the GAP Grand Slam. But he’s always been pining for more.

“I have been on quite a long run of playing competitively and giving it my all in golf,” Brown, an amateur out of LuLu Country Club, said. “You feel like you aren’t working for much but at the same time, I am trying to stay ready for a big moment. Today was that big moment for me. I was very uncomfortable in the playoff. But I think the hours of hitting balls paid off in that moment. Somehow the club hit the ball.”

A 9-iron from 143 yards on the first playoff hole, No. 15 (par 4, 460 yards), to 15 feet was all that was needed. Nerves of steel helped him reach his lifelong destination, a professional major.

The thought of his journey brought Brown to tears. All he could think about is the support he’s received and the sacrifices he’s made to keep his dream alive.

“I’ve been competing for 30 years,” Brown, a three-time William Hyndman, III Player of the Year, said. “Most of my family doesn’t know where I’m playing and what I am playing in. They just know that golf is all I do. In a lot of ways golf is who I am to them, which is cool. I have no problems with that, but it’ll be nice for them to see what was motivating me.”

Newport hosted the first U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur in 1895. They’ll be plenty of firsts for Brown and his family. None of it was given. Anyone who knows Brown will tell you he’s earned everything he’s gotten.


“My family being there is what I am most looking forward to,” Brown said. “How many times as a parent can you say hang in there to your child when you can see that its been a struggle. It’ll just be nice for them to know what I have been working for. They have noticed to some degree but it’ll make more sense once we are there.

“Golf is far too important for me. It shouldn’t be that important but it happens to be for me.”

Caron’s stretch of sharp play has been nationally recognized. He claimed Low PGA of America Golf Professional honors in the 84th KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship with a T4 finish eight days ago.

Caron played on the PGA TOUR for two years (2000 and 2003) with his best finish coming in the 2003 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with a T-15 finish. He played in the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. and finished T-30. He’s been the head golf professional at Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, N.Y. for 10 years.

He curled in a 3-footer to advance.


“Qualifying for this is amazing,” Caron, 51, of Greenlawn, N.Y., said. “As a senior it is still pretty awesome to still be able to compete at a high level. I grew up in Cape Cod, Mass. and I have never played Newport, so it will be nice to see everyone back home in a few weeks.”

Gaffney’s par was the hardest of the trio who advanced. An impossible putt from the fringe on the treacherous Donald Ross sloped surrounds left him 10 feet. He said he didn’t even think about missing the putt. It had no chance to miss.

Gaffney played in the 2012 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif. He has been the Head Golf Professional at Essex Fells Country Club in Essex Fells, N.J. for the past seven years.

“I feel so much joy,” Gaffney, 53, of Denville, N.J., said. “I honestly didn’t think I had any chance to making it at all. But to be able to hang in there and make a great two-putt from an impossible spot to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open is awesome. I have been running ragged lately between work and trying to move into a new house. I told my wife I would qualify for this because I haven’t been working on my game at all. Golf is funny in that way.”

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 345 Member Clubs and 110,000 individual members are spread across Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.

Name, city, stateScore
*(a) Michael R. Brown, Jr., Maple Shade Township, N.J.72
*Jason Caron, Greenlawn, N.Y.72
*Brian Gaffney, Essex Fells, N.J.72
Alternates (in order)
*Gregory Bisconti, South Salem, N.Y.72
*(a) Patrick Herwig, Baltimore, Md.72
Failed to qualify
Chul Ho Sim, Engelwood Cliffs, N.J.73
Mark McCormick, Middletown, N.J.73
Matthew Ujfalusi, Ardmore, Pa.73
James Schouller, North Hampton, N.H.74
Michael Molino, Dallas, Pa.74
Ryan Gracey, Hockessin, Del.74
(a) John Barry, University Park, Fla.74
(a) Ronan Culligan, Republic of Ireland74
(a) Michael Mercier, Juno Beach, Fla.75
(a) David West, Exton, Pa.75
(a) Neil Gordon, Warrington, Pa.75
(a) Jeff Daniels, Harrisburg, Pa.75
(a) Thomas Brennan, Covington, La.75
Len Siter, Mountainside, N.J.75
Thomas Kalinowski, Scottsdale, Az.75
(a) Brian Fisher, Norristown, Pa.76
(a) Bryan Shepherd, Selbyville, Del.76
Scott Paris, Westfield, N.J.76
(a) Colin Sanderson, Newtown, Pa.76
(a) Bill Jeremiah, Glen Mills, Pa.76
Brian Varsey, Essex Fells, N.J.76
(a) Todd Vonderheid, Lewisburg, Pa.76
Michel Dagenais, Canada76
Paul Lejeune, Succasunna, N.J.76
Jonathan Brisbane, Rutland, Vt.76
(a) George Marucci, Villanova, Pa.76
Andy Brock, Bernardsville, N.J.77
(a) Gregg Angelillo, Basking Ridge, N.J.77
Jim McGovern, Oradell, N.J.77
(a) Bob Beck, Philadelphia, Pa.77
Dave McNabb, Newark, Del.77
John Elliott, Bristol, Conn.77
(a) Ryan Gelrod, Flourtown, Pa.77
(a) Edward Walsh, Bedminster, N.J.77
John Deforest, Kingston, N.Y.77
(a) Joseph Coulson, Pottsville, Pa.77
(a) Richard Sovero, Catonsville, Md.78
(a) Christopher O’Keefe, Rockville Centre, N.Y.78
(a) Brian Hedstrom, Newington, Conn.78
(a) Jim Dufficy, Tinton Falls, N.J.78
Paul Viola, Allentown, Pa.78
(a) Patrick Dougherty, North Wales, Pa.78
Hugo Mazzalupi, Wayne, Pa.78
(a) Peter Kozubal, Bridgewater, N.J.78
(a) Roderick McRae III, Watchung, N.J.79
(a) Sean Leonard, Haddonfield, N.J.79
JaeSang Chris Lee, Canada79
(a) Drew Forrester, Parkville, Md.79
Jim Karr, West Palm Beach, Fla.79
(a) Jason Wilson, Emmaus, Pa.79
(a) Ben Jenkins, N.Y., N.Y.79
(a) Shawn Lavin, Drexel Hill, Pa.79
(a) Jeff Long, Moorestown, N.J.79
(a) James Welch, Albany, N.Y.79
(a) Mark Czerniakowski, Montgomeryvillle, Pa.79
(a) Harris Podvey, West Caldwell, N.J.80
(a) Keith Stone, Chelmsford, Mass.80
(a) Clark Holle, South Orange, N.J.80
(a) Michael Cochrane, Scarsdale, N.Y.80
Chris Miyahara, Marlboro, N.J.80
Jeffrey Wambold, Macungie, Pa.80
Gerard Courville, Stratford, Conn.81
(a) David Dawiczyk, Avon, Conn.81
(a) Douglas Nardella, Moscow, Pa.81
(a) William Bello, Middletown, N.J.81
(a) Scott Byrd, Springfield, N.J.81
(a) Michael Guli, Bedminster, N.J.81
(a) Ed Brown, Rehoboth Beach, Del.81
(a) David Hayes, Loudonville, N.Y.81
(a) Andre Bolukbas, Garfield, N.J.81
(a) Lance Oberparleiter, Blackwood, N.J.81
Curley Bishop, Westminster, Md.81
(a) Dana Cooper, Selbyville, Del.82
(a) Mark McCormick, Hanover, Mass.82
(a) Oscar Mestre, Berwyn, Pa.82
Jeff Kiddie, West Chester, Pa.82
(a) David Olexson, Emmaus, Pa.83
Daniel Tzivanis, Greenwich, Conn.83
John Kelly, Canada83
(a) Nicholas Masterpole, Syracuse, N.Y.83
Jose Ramos, Puerto Rico83
Chris Barber, Canada83
(a) James Boburka, Bethlehem, Pa.85
Sam Dominguez, Mexico85
(a) Michael Fagan, Conshohocken, Pa.86
(a) Robert Spellman, Riegelsville, Pa.86
Richard Humphrey, Frostproof, Fla.87
(a) Mark Coassolo, Macungie, Pa.88
Kenny Hall, Waterford, Conn.88
(a) Jeffrey Bromwell, Schuylkill Haven, Pa.88
Glen Walden, Chappaqua, N.Y.88
(a) Nick Angelo, Elkridge, Md.89
(a) Scott Fernstrom, Chappaqua, N.Y.89
George Heslin, Vernon, Vt.90
(a) Gary Houghton, Hamilton, N.J.90
Mike Schu, Mount Carmel, Pa.92
Frank Szymkowicz, Warwick, R.I.92
(a) Darren Riddle, Harrisburg, Pa.DNF
(a) Randy Daniels, Sturbridge, Mass.DNF
(a) Steven Daum, Bloomingdale, N.J.DNF
(a) Brian Komline, Bridgewater, N.J.DNF
Ryan Ouellette, Pflugerville, TexasDNF
Michael Walker, District of ColumbiaDNF
(a) Ken Dardis, Stamford, Conn.NS
DNF – did not finish
NS – no show
*Determined in a playoff

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