(June 2, 2021) - On June 7th at nine locations around the country, U.S. Open hopefuls will compete in U.S. Open Final Qualifying. Among those hopefuls will be fifteen players from Connecticut. The group includes Chris Pieper, Ben James, Cody Paladino, Pat Griffin, and Chase Barbe, who all survived Local Qualifying at Shuttle Meadow Country Club on May 10, and Dan Murphy and Tyler Lanza who made it through the Local at The Patterson Club on May 3.
Murphy, who shared medalist honors with 68 at Patterson, has played in two U.S. Amateur Four-Ball events but qualifying for the 121st U.S. Open at Torrey Pines later in the month, “would mean the world to me, the coolest thing ever. I was honestly shocked. I didn’t think that far into it. I’ve played in these before and never made it. I’ve shot good numbers and didn’t make it,” Murphy told Hearst Connecticut Media.
Pieper led the field at Shuttle Meadow CC with a 4-under 67. The 18-year-old from Woodbury will now get his first opportunity to qualify for the U.S. Open. “I knew this was the position I wanted to be in and now it’s just about keeping a level head and executing my game and staying locked in,” Pieper said.
Ben James, a member of the 2019 U.S. Junior Presidents Cup team, finished second at Shuttle Meadow CC and has been working hard to prepare for his first appearance at final qualifying. “I’m preparing by just playing in a lot of events to get me competition ready,” James said. If recent success is any indication then the future Virginia Cavalier's game is in good shape. At the end of May James ran away with the Scott Robertson Memorial and then one week later captured the AJGA TaylorMade Invitational. “Knowing I am one day and 36-holes away from the U.S. Open - my excitement level [for final qualifying] is off the charts,” said James.
Cody Paladino, the 2020 Dick Tettelbach Player of the Year, will be playing in Final Qualifying for the fifth time in his career, and for the first time since 2017. This will be the first time Paladino has played in a U.S. Open Final Qualifier since regaining his amateur status but his goals remain the same, “The goal is to play in a PGA Tour event and in a major before I am done. I just want to have a chance,” Paladino said to Hearst Connecticut Media.
49-year-old Pat Griffin, thanks in part to a hole-in-one during his qualifying round at Shuttle Meadow, will likely be one of the oldest players attempting to qualify at Century Country Club and Old Oaks Country Club. Griffin has played in three U.S. Mid-Amateurs and has competed in Final Qualifying once before so he knows what to expect, “I feel much more confident knowing exactly what I have to do, to be aggressive, shoot at pins. You can’t play safe,” Griffin said in a conversation with Hearst Connecticut Media.
Chase Barbe will be heading to Ohio after he found out on Friday that a spot had opened up. Barbe, from Greenwich, won an 8-hole playoff at Shuttle Meadow to earn the first alternate spot and now will have his chance to play for a tee time at Torrey Pines. Last year Barbe reached match play at the Connecticut Amateur.
Other notable names in Connecticut golf who advanced through out-of-state qualifiers are 2020 Connecticut Open winner Max Theodorakis, David Pastore, Peter Ballo who recently played in the PGA Championship, two-time Connecticut Open champion Mike Gilmore, and 2016 Dick Tettelbach Player of the Year, Zach Zaback. Zaback's former teammate at UCONN, Woodbury native Chris Wiatr finished second at the Hobe Sound Country Club local qualifier and will also be competing for a spot in the U.S. Open on June 7th.
At the Crumpin-Fox local qualifier in Massachusetts, another two-time Connecticut Open winner, Enfield native Jeff Curl was in the final group of the event and had one of the most emotional celebrations following his round. After making the turn at 1-over par, Curl stepped on the gas starting on the 13th hole. He birdied three straight to get him to 2-under par, which allowed him to play for par on the final three holes to finish the job. Curl is no stranger to the U.S. Open as he qualified for the Championship Proper in 2012 and made the cut finishing T56.
Speaking emotionally, Curl said, “One of my closest friends in the whole world who caddies for me in all these events, Club Pro, Jeff Swanson, passed away a couple months ago. I put a post out this morning, I haven’t been up here (New England) since he passed and this is the first time I’ve played in probably 15 years where he hasn’t been around to caddy for me.”
With Curl safely inside the cut line at 2-under, it was a Connecticut high school student who provided the final bit of drama. After shooting even par 72’s, Will Lodge (Darien, CT) and Max Hutter (Weston, MA) were forced to wait out the remaining scores. With Curl’s score being the last of the day, the two teenagers had to quickly prepare for a playoff against each other for the final spot.
Thanks to some local knowledge (Lodge is a member of the Deerfield Academy golf team, which calls Crumpin-Fox home) Lodge knew exactly what he had to do on the first playoff hole: hole #1. He played the hole perfectly, hitting 4-iron to the left-center of the fairway before hitting a beautifully controlled approach shot to 15 feet after seeing his competitor clip a tree and miss the green short. Lodge’s cozy 2-putt was enough to win the hole and claim the last spot. Lodge, 17, said this was the first time he’s ever tried qualifying for the U.S. Open.
Fifteen players from Connecticut advancing to the Final Qualifier for the United States Open is believed to be the most in any single year in the history of the championship.
Special thanks to Mass Golf staff for Crumpin-Fox report.
About the Connecticut State Golf Association
The CSGA functions as an extension of the USGA and provides stewardship for amateur golf in Connecticut. Founded in 1899, it is the country’s oldest state golf association and conducts over 60 Championships, Qualifiers, and One Day Tournaments throughout the year.