VanSickle medalist, four local players advance: From the desk of Mike Dudurich

Posted May 11, 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

U.S. Open Local qualifiers - Tim Bowers, Mike VanSickle, Darin Kowalski & Corey Long

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.

When it was all said and done, the course at The Club at Nevillewood was the real winner when a local qualifier for the U.S. Open was held there Monday.

Sure, five players advanced to sectional qualifying and two alternates will be waiting for a call to get to the sectionals.

But what a beating the rest of the field took.

Only 30 of the 78 players who turned in cards posted rounds in the 70s. There were none in the 60s. On the other hand, 48 players turned in scores of 80 or higher.

It was cold in Collier Township. Cold enough for the start of play to be delayed for 30 minutes due to frost. It was wet, thanks to recent rainfall. And to top it all off, there was some wind.

Bottom line? It was hard out there. Some flagsticks were in tricky spots and, all in all, it was tough going.

Mike Van Sickle was medalist, shooting 70, the only round under par all day.

"I thought three-under would be pretty good and I decided to be a little less aggressive on the back," Van Sickle, who finished with a 70, said. "I tried to eliminate as much rust as possible coming in."

The other qualifiers were Tim Bowers of McMurray and Corey Long of McDonald who shot 73, Darin Kowalski of Bethel Park who shot 74, and Austin Nowak of Lancaster, N.Y., who posted 75.

John Popeck of Washington was the first alternate, and Matt Gurska of Hermitage was the second. Both shot 75.

Van Sickle will be making his fifth appearance in the sectional qualifier. The closest he ever came to getting into the Open was in 2007 when he missed by a shot at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. The Open was held at Oakmont Country Club that year.

Bowers posted an early 73, and then sat and waited until the rest of the field came in. It was excruciating at times for the 2015 West Penn Public Links champion.

"Other than the bookend double bogeys, I played pretty well," Bowers said.

This will be his first time to advance, and there's a good reason for that.

"This is the first time I've tried to qualify in 15 years," he said. Asked why he came back this year, he responded simply, "It's Oakmont."

His two double bogeys made things difficult, but he negated those with four birdies. He made one other bogey to finish with 73.

In a U.S. Women's Open sectional qualifier at Butler Country Club, LPGA rookie Rachel Rohanna hoped some home cooking might help get her a spot in the Women's Open, especially since she had qualified from Butler in 2013.

That wasn't the case however, as Rohanna posted a pair of 75s for a 150 total. That put her three shots out of the second qualifying spot, but did make her the first alternate.

Western Pennsylvania will be well-represented in the second U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Winged Foot, May 21-25.

In addition to Nathan Smith, who teamed with Todd White to win the inaugural event, the duo of Adam Hofmann and Mitch Mercer got in thanks to a withdrawal.

Other participants include the teams of Chad Warmbein and Tommy Leech, Collin Haag and Jon Ross, and Michael Garcia and Ted Grassi.