Four advance to U.S. Open Sectionals
By Mike Dudurich • May 16, 2023
Monday was the annual nerve-wracking exercise that begins the quest for a spot in the U.S. Open.
Local qualifiers are held around the country with survivors of those 18-hole advancing to Open Sectional qualifiers for spots in the championship.
Would these events be referred to as fun? Doubtful. Thrilling? If you qualify, yes. Disappointing? Absolutely.
The Western Pennsylvania local qualifier was held at The Club at Nevillewood, which turned up Monday morning dressed in its finest condition.
Amazing was a word heard several times from players after completing their rounds.
At the end of a day to play, Mike Van Sickle and Brandon Pluchinsky tied as co-medalists with scores of 69 to qualify for Sectionals in a few weeks. Shoot a couple lights-out rounds there and they might be good enough to earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club.
"I guess this is getting to be a habit," Van Sickle laughed after. "I'm just kidding of course but I think this is the fifth or sixth time I've made it to the next step."
Van Sickle was a last-minute addition to the Open field in 2016 when the event was held at Oakmont CC.
Van Sickle and Pluchinsky, of North Lima, Ohio, both made five birdies and were co-low scorers.
Oakmont Country Club professional Devin Gee, Ryan Smith, of Hamburg, PA, and Louis Olsakovsky, of Pittsburgh, all finished with 70s.
Gee made the second of two downhill, twisting putts on 18, one to finish the qualifying round and another in a hole-by-hole playoff to clinch a spot. He finished third.
It will be Gee's third Sectional appearance.
Olsakovsky finished as the first alternate while while Wesley Conover was the second.
"It's awesome," Gee said. "I've been playing well all year. Looking forward to competing in the Sectionals."
Van Sickle and Gee became the fifth and sixth players from Western Pennsylvania to advance to the Sectionals.
Jason Li, Will Wears, John F. Aber and Amani D'Ambrosio qualified earlier this month in qualifiers elsewhere.
About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and 34,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund.