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
It’s been said desperate times call for desperate measures.
Matt Rusinko, the West Penn Golf Association’s Championship Director, knows about the concept and the reality of that saying.
Last week Rusinko had to set up Quicksilver Golf Course in Midway for the U.S. Amateur Sectional Qualifier from which two players would advance to the U.S. Amateur next month.
The course had been hit with 15 inches of rain in the previous 30 days and then took another two and a half inches the night before the qualifying round.
When he got to the course the morning of, he invoked the desperate times thing.
“There were lakes out there that weren’t really lakes,” Rusinko said. “Fifty percent or more of the course was casual water, but it was playable. That’s when I knew I had to be very creative with the setup.”
What that entailed was: Playing nine holes all the way back; using a ladies tee, four white tees and two senior tees; moving the tee on the seventh hole, a par five, into the fairway, reducing the hole from 600 to 400 yards; using the white tee of hole #11 for play on the 18th hole, adding another 35 yards to the hole and playing the 11th as a 125-yard hole, typically a 190 yard hole.
If we had just played the tees I would traditionally use for such a competition, drives on many holes would have been landing in the wettest spots on the course and in washed out bunkers, some areas a player could not have gotten to without their feet going under water. We’d have had lost balls, had a significant number of rulings, as well as a much slower pace of play and a very poor player experience,” Rusinko said. “I just thought it was the best way to operate the competition. I got increasingly creative as I worked my way through the course.”
Hats off to Matt. The qualifier went off in good time and produced Garrett Browning of Coraopolis and Stoney Crouch of Mount Juliet, Tenn as qualifiers for the 115th U.S. Amateur Championship.
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The WPGA Championship Season continued this week with the 95th Junior Championship at Butler Country Club. Sewickley Academy junior-to-be Jason Li won his third WPGA title by posting rounds of 74-75 to win by a shot over Mark Goetz of Greensburg and two over Brady Pevarnik.
He had previously won the West Penn Boys Championship in 2012 and 2014 and just a couple months ago won the PIAA Class AA individual tournament.
His march to the title at Butler CC was interesting. His first round began with pars through the front nine and three more on the back. Then he bogeyed three of the next five for a 39 on the back nine and a 74.
The second round started on the back nine and he bogeyed four straight to shoot 40 and finish with a 75.
“I don’t know why, but I just have a tougher time on that back nine,” he said. “But I was proud of myself because I worked hard to keep looking at the next shot and forget about the shots I had already hit. The thing about golf is you show up at the golf course with whatever you have that day. And you have to make that fit what’s happening that day. You can’t be fixing something during the round.”
With his victory, Li qualifies into the West Penn Amateur the next two seasons.
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Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh called it an ESPN classic.
Call it whatever you’d like, but the four-time USGA Mid-Amateur champion had a monumental battle on his hands in winning the R. Jay Sigel Match Play at Indiana Country Club.
It took him 24 holes but he finally outlasted Greensburg’s Arnie Cutrell to win his fourth Sigel and become the most prolific winner in the history of the event.
“That was some match,” Smith said. “Arnie is such a great guy and a great competitor. It was a great battle.”
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Things have slowed down considerably for professional golfers with connections to Western Pennsylvania, with the notable exception of Waynesburg’s Rachel Rohanna.
She’s in sixth place on the Symetra Tour money-list with over $37,000 and has posted a pair of top-five since winning in April.
Otherwise, things have been tough.
Sam Saunders has missed the cut in six of his last nine starts on the PGA Tour.
Steve Wheatcroft missed cuts in six of his last 10.
Rocco Mediate has posted top-20 finishes in his last four starts on the Champions Tour but hasn’t contended.
Saunders and Wheatcroft will have to kick things into gear if they hope to retain their playing cards for 2016. Saunders is 148th on the money-list, Wheatcroft is 114th.