U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying recap, Namola wins Tri-State Open: From the desk of Mike Dudurich

Posted June 8, 2016 - By Mike Dudurich,
Freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM
Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich

Devin Gee, Oakmont CC professional, competed at Canoe Brook

The WPGA has retained Mike Dudurich to write a blog for its website. The opinions and observations contained within are his own and do not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of the Association.

There’s definitely plenty of pressure for golfers trying to qualify for the U.S. Open, regardless of where it’s held.

But for those trying to qualify for the nation’s biggest championship when it's played at home, that pressure is ramped up even more.

That no doubt played a role in sectional qualifying this week as western Pennsylvania was shut out of representation in the 116th U.S. Open next week at Oakmont Country Club.

McKees Rocks resident Mike Van Sickle came closest to earning a spot but, as he did in 2007 when the Open was held at Oakmont, he missed by a shot. This time he got into a three-man playoff for two spots at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. Van Sickle blew a putt past the cup on the first playoff hole and missed coming back to eliminate himself from the playoff. That finish got him an alternate designation, which means he could still get into the Open.

“They (Woodmont) had their alternate get in last year,” Van Sickle said. “I’m gonna be sitting next to my phone for the week. You can be sure of that. I'm not going to miss any calls.”

Also competing at Woodmont were Arnold Palmer’s grandson Will Wears, who posted 75-79--154 and Washington, Pa. native Steve Wheatcroft, who posted rounds of 71-71 for a 142 total.

Justin Smith, a Moon High School graduate and an assistant coach at Minnesota, tied for 23rd at 3-over (72-75).

2004 West Penn Open champion, Steve Wheatcroft, competed at Woodmont

Canoe Brook in Summit, N.J. hosted the biggest contingent of local hopefuls. Butler Country Club professional Rob McClellan shot 71-72--143, but was in contention for a spot a couple times in the afternoon round, but a pair of double bogeys sunk his chances.

Four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh was trying to qualify for the Open for the 20th time, but was able to do no better than 72-74--146, the same number turned in by Darin Kowalski of Bethel Park.

Another amateur, Corey Long of McDonald finished at 74-74--148.

Oakmont CC golf professional Devin Gee put a strong first round of 71, but struggled to a 78 in the afternoon for a 149 total.

In Springfield, Ohio, Gordon Vietmeier of Robinson posted rounds of 72-76--148 and missed getting a spot by nine shots. Amateur Tim Bowers of McMurray shot 83-83--166.

* * *

It’s been a couple of good weeks for Beaver amateur Stan Namola.

He finished a shot behind David Brown in the West Penn Senior Amateur Championship at South Hills Country Club and then Tuesday he registered a two-shot victory over Treesdale’s Joe Boros in the Tri-State Open at New Castle Country Club.

He made seven birdies and three bogeys in a first-round 68, and three birdies and an eagle and three bogeys in a second-round 70.

Namola joins Nathan Smith (2013) as amateur winners of the event in the last four years.