MEDFORD, N.J. – Jimmy Zheng had a decision to make. It was one he didn’t take lightly.
Growing up in Auckland, New Zealand he finished high school and needed to decide how to proceed for his future. He decided to travel 8,400 miles from home to play college golf in the United States.
“The last three years of being in the United States has been vital for me and my personal growth,” Zheng, 21, a rising senior at Duke University, said. “I have seen such a strong evolution in myself as a person and as a golfer. It was a step I needed to take to mature and play golf at a higher level. It has been a worthwhile experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“It was an easy decision to make because I wasn’t that good of a golfer as a Junior, so I couldn’t turn professional. Playing four years at a Power 5 school was what I wanted to try to get better. It just made sense.”
Guided by the experiences he’s had in a new country, Zheng secured medalist honors in U.S. Open Local Qualifying administered by GAP at Medford Village Country Club (par 72, 7,098 yards) Monday with a round of 68.
The 123rd U.S. Open will take place June 15-18 at The Los Angeles Country Club in Los Angeles, Calif.
Professional David Sanders of Mt. Laurel, N.J. advanced with a round of 69. Rising Temple University fifth-year student Graham Chase advanced with a birdie on the first playoff hole and Shea Wolfle, a professional out of Sewell, N.J., advanced on the third playoff hole.
Zheng wasted no time in tough conditions at Medford Village. Starting on the back nine, he made birdies on three of his first eight holes.
He was disappointed in his play this season for Duke. But an epiphany a couple weeks ago, got him back to who he knows he can be on the course.
“Our team was doing well but I hadn’t been putting up the numbers to make the lineup consistently,” Zheng said. “I have found my stride the last couple of weeks. I have been able to visualize my shots a lot better. When I am able to picture my shot, that’s when I am playing my best.”
A saucy splash from the greenside bunker on No. 3 (par 5, 550 yards) to gimme range for birdie got him back to 3 under after he bogeyed No. 18 (par 4, 447 yards). He would finish his round with a birdie on No. 8 (par 4, 373 yards). A crisp gap wedge from 120 yards to 20 feet helped seal the deal, giving him medalist honors.
He will stay close to campus for Final Qualifying with a trip to Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham, N.C.
“I know my game is good enough to get through,” Zheng said. “If I can focus on tightening my misses, I feel good about my chances.”
Sanders is a local qualifying legend. When he shows up, he has proven his chances to make Final Qualifying are pretty good.
“My parents live close by in Mt. Laurel, N.J.,” Sanders, 32, who resides in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., said. “I always come back to the area for U.S. Open Qualifying. It feels like home. I had a good amount of prior experience here so it is nice to get the job done again.”
Last year, Sanders was the medalist at The Legacy Club of Woodcrest. He played in three Korn Ferry Tour events this season and has conditional status there. He missed the cut in all three but has been firing low numbers including a couple of 63s in Monday qualifiers, giving himself some extra playing opportunities.
Starting on the back nine, Sanders went out in 3 under. The highlight of his closing nine, the front at Medford Village, was a smooth 9-iron from 140 yards to three feet on No. 8.
He will compete in Final Qualifying at Canoe Brook Country Club (North & South Courses) in Summit, N.J. for the sixth time.
“I’ve learned over the years that I can compete with the best players,” Sanders said. “I feel like I am capable of putting together a good score to advance through these qualifying events. It is just putting it all together.”
Chase waited for a few hours before teeing it up in a 3-for-2 playoff after a round of 71.
“We went and had lunch and figured we would head back out soon,” Chase, 23, of Philadelphia, Pa. said. “I must’ve gone to the driving range about six times while I waited. It was stressful.”
The playoff, however, wasn’t. A striped 7-iron from 167 yards to six feet on No. 1 (par 4, 430 yards) punched Chase’s ticket.
“We had no clue what the putt was going to do,” Chase said. “Luckily, I was able to get a read on the other side from my playing competitor. It’s an awesome feeling to advance to the next stage. I am happy I performed well in tough conditions.”
Wolfle, in his fifth year as an assistant professional at Meadow Brook Club in Jericho, N.Y., missed Final Qualifying by a shot in each of his last three attempts. A par on the third playoff hole helped get the monkey off his back.
“The last three years I have missed out by a shot,” Wolfle, 23, said. “After a long day of work, for me to be able to get the job done in a playoff means a lot. Hopefully, this kickstarts my season. I am excited to finally get a chance at the U.S. Open.”
Hugh Reilly, of Willow Grove, Pa. made an ace on No. 6 (par 3, 186 yards). He used a 4-iron.
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 organization’s 340 Member Clubs and 100,000 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|
|(a) Jimmy Zheng, New Zealand||68|
|David Sanders, Mt. Laurel, N.J.||69|
|*Shea Wolfle, Sewell, N.J.||71|
|*(a) Graham Chase, Charlotte, N.C.||71|
|Alternates (in order)|
|*Brad Schneider, Sea Island, Ga.||71|
|*Michael Tobiason, Wilmington, Del.||72|
|Failed to qualify|
|(a) Austin Devereux, Brielle, N.J.||72|
|Louis Kelly, Sewell, N.J.||72|
|(a) Troy Vannucci, Marlton, N.J.||72|
|Dillon Board, Jacksonville, Fla.||74|
|(a) Parker Wingfield, Newport News, Va.||74|
|Richard Stolz, West Deptford, N.J.||74|
|(a) Tyler Brewington, Oceanport, N.J.||75|
|(a) Winston Kelenc-Blank, Rumson, N.J.||75|
|Andres Acevedo, San Antonio, Texas||75|
|Michael Winter, Ocean City. N.J.||75|
|(a) Austin Barbin, Elkton, Md.||75|
|(a) Ajeet Bagga, Blue Bell, Pa.||76|
|Nick Funk, Arlington, Va.||76|
|(a) Benjamin Smith, Blain, Pa.||77|
|Kyle Early, Bridgeport, Pa.||77|
|Michael Meisenzahl, Medford, N.J.||77|
|(a) Mohit Sanagavarapu, Edison, N.J.||77|
|Michael Ferguson, Virginia Beach, Va.||77|
|(a) Christopher Warner, Medford, N.J.||77|
|(a) Kevin Lydon, Doylestown, Pa.||77|
|(a) Liam Hart, Holland, Pa.||77|
|Ryan Pfeifer, Auburn, N.Y.||78|
|Jason Panter, Medford, N.J.||78|
|(a) Louis Giovacchini, Palm Coast, Fla.||78|
|(a) Ryan Cass, Lawnside, N.J.||78|
|(a) Egor Zubov, Israel||78|
|Ryan Dick, Philadelphia, Pa.||78|
|(a) Aaron Sorkin, Westminster, Md.||79|
|(a) Casper Nerpin, Sweden||79|
|(a) Zach Arsenault, Merchantville, N.J.||79|
|Mitchum Jasper, Trinidad and Tobago||80|
|(a) Matthew Gaffney, Sewell, N.J.||81|
|Kelan McDonagh, Republic of Ireland||81|
|(a) Stephen Walsh, Republic of Ireland||82|
|(a) Jacob Klaus, Haddonfield, N.J.||82|
|(a) Kevin Kramarski, Moorestown, N.J.||82|
|(a) Drew Clark, Kennett Square, N.J.||83|
|Kyle Quagliero, Medford Lakes, N.J.||83|
|(a) Vincent Corbi, Philadelphia, Pa.||84|
|(a) Todd Baron, Mullica Hill, N.J.||84|
|Kevin Wagner, Philadelphia, Pa.||84|
|(a) Randall Rechkemmer, Virginia Beach, Va.||84|
|Alex Bottrell, Australia||84|
|(a) Erik Ragusa, Philadelphia, Pa.||84|
|(a) Christopher Dalessandro, Absecon, N.J.||84|
|(a) Maxwell Rubin, Marlton, N.J.||84|
|Hugh Reilly, Willow Grove, Pa.||84|
|(a) Pablo Quintero, Colombia||85|
|(a) Brendan Jonland, Summit, N.J.||85|
|Ron Robinson, Hatfield, Pa.||85|
|Christopher Gray, Middletown, Del.||86|
|Jeffrey Epstein, Omaha, Neb.||86|
|Michael Dunphy, Jr., Philadelphia, Pa.||87|
|(a) Peter Tyree, Los Angeles, Calif.||87|
|Michael Kelly, Alexandria, Va.||88|
|(a) Daniel Holden, Alexandria, Va.||88|
|(a) Mitchell Racosky, Bethlehem, Pa.||88|
|(a) Max Harrington, Philadelphia, Pa.||88|
|(a) Colin Hoy, Harleysville, Pa.||89|
|(a) Evan Hilla, Marlboro, N.J.||89|
|(a) Steven Haggart, Beach Haven, N.J.||90|
|Michael Williams, New Castle, Del.||90|
|(a) Adam Chen, King of Prussia, Pa.||91|
|Andrew Pierson, Camben, N.J.||92|
|(a) Jonathan Brohawn, Cambridge, Md.||93|
|(a) Shawn Gallagher, Jamison, Pa.||94|
|Christian Simms, Hamilton, N.J.||96|
|(a) Mike McVearry, Davidsonville, Md.||104|
|(a) Dan Gentilucci, Philadelphia, Pa.||WD|
|* – determined in a playoff|
|(a) – denotes amateur|
|WD – withdraw|
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