CHERRY HILL, N.J. – David Sanders, a 31-year-old Mt. Laurel, N.J. native, who plays on PGA TOUR Canada and calls Jupiter, Fla., home, made a triumphant return to the area, taking medalist honors in U.S. Open Local Qualifying administered by GAP at The Legacy Club of Woodcrest (par 70, 6,484 yards) Thursday with a 4-under 66.
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Michael R. Brown, Jr., an amateur from Maple Shade, N.J. and LuLu Country Club, and Michael Rushin of Bartonsville, Pa., an assistant professional the last nine years at Bear Trap Dunes Golf Club in Ocean View, Del., secured the final two available qualifying positions. Brown finished at 2-under 68. Rushin carded an even-par 70.
The 122nd U.S. Open Championship will take place June 16-19 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
Sanders heads to Final Qualifying May 23 at Lakewood Country Club and Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, Texas. It will be his 14th attempt at advancing into the National Championship. Last year, Sanders came the closest he’s been to making a U.S. Open, missing a playoff for the final qualifying spot at the Woodmont Country Club (North) site by two strokes. This was the fifth consecutive time he’s made it through the first stage of qualifying.
“I’m getting more and more comfortable [in the U.S. Open Final Qualifying]. I feel like this could be the year,” said Sanders. “I’ve been working with a new coach, David Lee, on my swing, and I’ve picked up 15 to 20 yards off the tee. I’ve also been playing a lot in Florida and feel like my short game is really good right now.”
Brown heads to his fourth Final Qualifying (2001, 2013, 2015). Rushin is making his debut. Both are heading to Woodmont.
“It’s a personal victory to just get to [Final Qualifying],” said the 49-year-old Brown. “I’m a little long in the tooth for this group. I’ll have to be at my absolute best to get through [Final Qualifying], but I’m eager to get there.”
Said Rushin, “This is huge. I am so excited. It’s been a goal of mine the last three to four years to make it. It is nice to see all the work I’ve put in pay off.”
Sanders, who also advanced in 2008 through U.S. Open Local Qualifying at the Woodcrest venue, started slow, going 1 over through three holes. However, he ripped a 4-iron from 217 yards on No. 4 (par 5, 512 yards) to 20 feet and drained the subsequent eagle putt to “get started.” Sort of. A bogey on No. 5 (par 3, 153 yards) slowed him some, before birdies on Nos. 7 (par 3, 207 yards) and 9 (par 4, 358 yards) put Sanders at 2 under making the turn. On No. 7, he chipped in from 25 feet when his tee ball stopped just short of the green. On No. 9, he crushed a driver to 55 yards, lifted a lob wedge to 10 feet and made the putt. Sanders added another red circle to his card on No. 13 (par 3, 178 yards) when he lifted a 7-iron to 10 feet and made a two.
Sanders made a sloppy bogey on No. 15 (par 4, 362 yards) when he missed the green long with his approach, but finished in a flurry with birdies on Nos. 16 (par 4, 408 yards) and 18 (par 5, 560 yards) to lap the field by two strokes. On No. 16 (par 4, 408 yards), he cracked a driver to 60 yards before dropping a lob wedge to 10 feet and making the putt for three. On the getable final hole, No. 18, Sanders knocked a 7-iron from 197 yards to just in front of the green. His subsequent chip stopped two inches short of the cup for a tap-in birdie.
“I try to play smart golf out here, hit the fairways and play to the center of the greens” said Sanders, who grew up at Laurel Creek Country Club, just down the road in Mt. Laurel, N.J.
And for the next step when it comes to advancing to the U.S. Open proper, “I just have to play some solid golf. It’s a matter of going out there, making some putts, hitting some good shots and putting two good rounds together.”
Brown has put many good rounds together the last few years. A three-time GAP Major Champion and two-time William Hyndman, III Player of the Year, Brown hopes to add a U.S. Open appearance to the résumé. To date he’s made 12 USGA Championship Proper showings: five U.S. Mid-Amateur; three U.S. Amateur; two U.S. Amateur Four-Ball and two U.S. Publinks (since discontinued).
Brown made the turn at 4-under to thrust himself to the top of the leaderboard, registering four birdies and no bogeys on his initial nine holes. He bogeyed Nos. 11 (par 4, 487 yards) and 12 (par 4, 450 yards) with a pair of three putts from a distance, but finished with two birdies and two bogeys to make it through.
“There is not a lot of room for error with only three spots,” said Brown. “I tried to stay aggressive off the tee and play a little more conservative with my irons.”
Rushin’s level par was a result of being slow and steady winning the race. He hit only five drivers to ensure finding fairways and subsequently finding greens. His final stat line was 15 of 18 greens in regulation. He had three circles (birdies) and three squares (bogeys) on his card.
“I played one time a couple year ago in the Maccabi Games. I knew what I had to do. It was difficult being patient but I had to stick to the game plan,” said Rushin, 36.
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 330 Member Clubs and 90,000 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, state||Score|
|David Sanders, Mt. Laurel, N.J.||66|
|(a) Michael R. Brown, Jr., Maple Shade, N.J.||68|
|Michael Rushin, Bartonsville, Pa.||70|
|Alternates (in order)|
|*Shea Wolfle, Sewell, N.J.||71|
|*Roland Massimino, Lumberville, Pa.||71|
|Failed to qualify|
|(a) Christopher Ault, Yardley, Pa.||72|
|(a) Jack Irons, Naples, Fla.||73|
|Greg Matthias, Cherry Hill, N.J.||73|
|Raul Pereda, Mexico||73|
|John Cooper, Lansdale, Pa.||74|
|(a) Mark Haghani, Philadelphia, Pa.||74|
|(a) Kevin Kramarski, Moorestown, N.J.||74|
|(a) Jordan Cooper, Philadelphia, Pa.||75|
|John DiMarco, Cherry Hill, N.J.||75|
|Gary Dunne, Republic of Ireland||75|
|(a) Graeme Hollingshead, Basking Ridge, N.J.||75|
|(a) Ben Keyser, Marlton, N.J.||76|
|(a) Jack Ross, Medford Lakes, N.J.||76|
|(a) Lukas Clark, Holland, Pa.||77|
|(a) Jack Hamilton, Canada||77|
|(a) Charlie Kovalcik, Yardley, Pa.||77|
|Kyle Quagliero, Medford Lakes, N.J.||77|
|Alex Willey, Lumberton, N.J.||77|
|(a) Frank Kohute, Newfield, N.J.||78|
|Kevin O’Connor, Newport News, VA||78|
|Pat Bates, Oklahoma City, Okla.||79|
|(a) Tyler Debusschere, Wallingford, Pa.||79|
|(a) Paul Detre, Morristown, N.J.||80|
|(a) Christian Lauchaire, Annandale, N.J.||80|
|(a) Mohit Sanagavarapu, Edison, N.J.||80|
|Chris Krueger, Rehoboth Beach, Del.||81|
|(a) Jack Tarzy, Medford, N.J.||81|
|Andrew Bauer, Delran, N.J.||82|
|(a) Jack Sterbenz, Medford, N.J.||83|
|(a) Todd Baron, Mullica Hill, N.J.||85|
|Ryan Dick, Philadelphia, Pa.||85|
|Davis Lee, Princeton, Pa.||86|
|(a) Arth Sinha, Princeton Junction, N.J.||86|
|Francis Diodato, Haddon Heights, N.J.||87|
|Val Vadino, Magnolia, N.J.||87|
|(a) Dawson Anders, Telford, Pa.||90|
|(a) Paul Giovannoli, Stroudsburg, Pa.||92|
|(a) Steve DiCarlo, Sewell, N.J.||94|
|(a) Joshua Krumholz, Reading, Pa.||WD|
|(a) Ryan McCarty, West Palm Beach, Fla.||WD|
|Michael Williams, New Castle, Del.||DNF|
|Daniel Hammer, Succasunna, N.J.||DNF|
|*-determined in playoff|
|DNF-did not finish; WD-withdrawal|
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