15th Annual Gerry Dulac Parkway West Rotary Charity Classic
Monday, July 29th
Sewickley Heights Golf Club
Benefits Robinson Twp. Parks & Recreation Department and Parkway West Rotary Charities
Includes: 18-hole Scramble, Gift, Continental Breakfast, Dinner, Auction.
Register online at parkwaywestrotary.com
Special Editions of the Golf Show
The Golf Show LIVE at Kiawah Island Resort in South Carolina, Monday March 11th, 8-9pm
Dan Obremski should be comfortable playing in qualifiers. After all, he spends a lot of Mondays trying to qualify for PGA Tour events.
Obremski, 26, a Penn-Trafford High School graduate, hasn't had much luck in those Monday qualifiers on the big tour. But he certainly had plenty of that -- and game -- Wednesday in the local qualifier for the U.S. Open at Westmoreland Country Club in Export.
Obremski made six birdies en route to a 5-under 66 to grab one of the three qualifying spots in a field of 55 players.
"I've been all over trying to get in -- Florida, Texas, Carolina," Obremski said. "I'm right there. This is my lowest round of the year. I'm definitely pumped about it."
Obremski was one of three players to advance to a 36-hole sectional qualifier, the final step on the road to the U.S. Open June 12-15 at Merion Golf Club in suburban Philadelphia. The other qualifying spots went to teaching professional Kevin Shields of the Robert Morris University golf dome and former mini-tour player Dan Konieczny of Mount Pleasant, each of whom shot 68.
Three other players missed by one shot of forcing a playoff -- former PGA Tour player Bob Friend, Butler Country Club pro Rob McClellan and Oakmont caddie Aaron Williams, a member at Willowbrook Country Club. Friend and McClellan earned the two alternate spots in a playoff.
"The Open is the Open," said Obremski, who has been playing mini-tours since graduating from Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, S.C. "I just wanted to get through the local and hopefully get through the sectional. I'll worry about the Open if I get there."
It wasn't much of a struggle for Obremski, who went out in 33 on the front and made three birdies on the back to offset his only bogey at the short par-4 12th. He even layed up with a 4-iron off the tee at the 348-yard finishing hole, knowing he had a two-shot cushion.
That was unlike Shields, whose bogey-free round included a kick-in birdie from 2 inches at the 438-yard 16th that gained him one of the qualifying spots. Shields also needed a 20-foot putt to save par at No. 17 to protect his spot.
It was the same with Konieczny, who hit a wedge to 2 feet for birdie at the final hole to tie Shields and gain the final qualifying spot.
"I played qualifier golf -- no bogeys, no mistakes," Shields said. "It's two shots higher than if you were playing tournament golf. You don't want to need birdies late, so you plod along. Even though you could have come here and blown out a bunch of birdies, you don't."
That mindset proved to be the correct formula for Shields, who will go to Columbus, Ohio, for a 36-hole sectional qualifier.
Konieczny, though, is trying to re-calibrate his mindset and his game after losing his full-time job and moving to Jupiter, Fla. But, with really nowhere to play, he said he has played just 10 rounds in the past year. That's why he was thrilled, not to mention surprised, with his round that included five birdies.
"The last time I played in any type of one-day event was May of 2012," Konieczny said. "It's expensive to play golf and the mini-tours don't pay any money."
That's the problem Obremski faces, too. But to help cover his expenses, he has held a tournament at Hannastown Golf Club in Greensburg the past three years to raise money.
It's all part of chasing his dream.
The lure of the U.S. Open returning after a 32-year absence to Merion Golf Club -- Philadelphia's answer to Oakmont -- is probably the reason.
Or it could be that Merion, with two reachable par-5s and six par-4s under 380 yards, will offer a challenge that is more about precision than power -- bringing more potential winners into play.
Whatever the motivation, the United States Golf Association received a record number of entries -- 9,860 -- for the 2013 U.S. Open that will be staged at one of the most historic clubs in the world.
In the Philadelphia area, the entries were so large -- 255 players -- an extra qualifying site had to be added.
Locally, the number of entries for the two local qualifiers is 124, an increase from a year ago. The first of those two qualifiers is today at Westmoreland Country Club in Export, the beginning of what is a long and arduous path to the U.S. Open.
"It's harder than it's ever been," said amateur Sean Knapp, who has never made it to the U.S. Open despite advancing through 10 local qualifiers. "About 25 years ago, there were two rounds, which was better for the better players. A fluke hole wouldn't knock you out. Now you're one round with a higher caliber of player."
Knapp, a seven-time West Penn Amateur champion who won the Pennsylvania Public Links Championship for the fourth time last week, is part of the field of 55 players -- 32 amateurs, 23 professionals -- at Westmoreland. Three qualifying spots are available.
Among the other participants are former PGA Tour player Bob Friend, Web.com Tour player Jon Mills, local PGA professionals John Aber, Rob McClellan, Kevin Shields, Ryan Sikora and Joe Boros, and mini-tour player Mike Van Sickle.
The second local qualifier will be Tuesday at Grove City Country Club, where 40 amateurs are part of the field of 69 players competing for four qualifying spots.
Among the players are Oakmont Country Club professional Bob Ford, teaching professional Gordon Vietmeier, and mini-tour players C.G. Merkatoris of Robert Morris and Adam Hoffman, a former state amateur champ who played at Vanderbilt.
Also in the field is amateur Rick Stimmel, the last player to advance from a local qualifier in Western Pennsylvania to the U.S. Open. Stimmel did that in 2000 at Pebble Beach.
Of the 124 players in the two qualifiers, 72 (58 percent) are amateurs -- and most of those are college or high school players.
"That's been the case for almost five years where amateurs are outnumbering the professionals in our locals," said Jeff Rivard, executive director of the West Penn Golf Association, which stages the qualifiers. "The number of [club pro] jobs where you have playing opportunities has diminished and father time has caught up with a lot of those guys. That generation hasn't been replaced by an equal number of good players."
Webb Simpson didn't have much success the first time he played the Olympic Club in San Francisco in competition, getting eliminated in the first round of the 2007 U.S. Amateur by Michael Thompson.
Five years later, he won his first major championship -- the U.S. Open -- at Olympic, coming from four shots off the lead in the final round to beat Thompson and Graeme McDowell.
Simpson is hoping for similar karma when he defends his championship June 13-16 at the Merion Golf Club in suburban Philadelphia. The only time he played competitively at Merion, he was eliminated in the second round of the 2005 U.S. Amateur by Anthony Kim.
"I tell people all the time it is my favorite golf course in the world," Simpson said. "What it demands out of the players is so different than most golf courses, and it seems like most golf courses now are evolving to be bombers paradise -- every par 4 is 500 yards and you hit driver on every hole.
"Where Merion is the opposite. I only hit a few drivers. And so, for me, to try to defend such a big title ... it's even more of an honor at a place I love."
Simpson has been back to Merion several times since 2005 to play in corporate outings, and what he loves about the 6,996-yard East course is that it is almost two different courses.
The first 13 holes feature the only two reachable par-5s on the course and six par-4s that don't play any longer than 380 yards. The last five holes are among the most grueling anywhere in the country, including the 463-yard 18th, which USGA executive director Mike Davis calls "the toughest finishing hole in U.S. Open history."
"Potentially through 13 holes, if you drive it well, you can have nine wedge opportunities," Simpson said last week during a media preview at Merion in Ardmore, Pa. "That's kind of what I've calculated, including 13, the par 3.
"And then the last five are going to be some of maybe the hardest that we have ever had in the U.S. Open. So you kind of have the best of both worlds. And that's why I think this U.S. Open is going to be so unique in the sense that I don't think a long player or short player has an advantage. I think a guy with a good wedge game and a good mind will have the advantage because you'll have your birdie opportunities.
"But what I remember about Merion is the second that you think 'I got an easy hole, an iron and a wedge,' is the second that you probably will make a mistake."
Like the Olympic Club, Merion has a number of severely sloping fairways (Nos. 4, 5 and 12) that will cause the USGA to keep the fairway height at a half-inch on those holes compared to a quarter-inch on other holes. Also, Davis said the rough -- Merion's signature -- will be thicker and more penal on the shorter holes than the longer ones.
"I think one of the things we have realized is that the way courses are prepared now, when you get fairways cut too tight, it's just harder for the average golfer to get under the ball, hit pitch shots," Davis said. "And we said ... there's nothing wrong with having fairways that are a little bit longer, it sends the right message. So you're going to see us start to do things like this. We're talking about these things for every-day golf and why not incorporate some for U.S. Opens where we can."
Because of the shorter course and the precision required at Merion, Davis said, he thinks more players "can potentially win the U.S. Open" this year compared to other years.
"I don't think there will ever be a point in this U.S. Open where somebody will have it won because the last five holes are so hard that a guy will be hanging on as he comes down the last holes if he has a lead," Simpson said. "But I think that's what will make it more exciting. There will be birdie opportunities, but knowing, hey, even if I'm three or four-up, I got to step on the 14th tee and I got a long ways home."
Youth girls clinic
The Women's Golf Association of Western Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Women's Golf Association will sponsor a clinic Wednesday at Oakmont Country Club for girls ages 8-18.
Oakmont professional Bob Ford and World Golf Hall of Famer Carol Semple Thompson will conduct the clinic from 5-7 p.m. with other local PGA professionals.
"Allegheny Country Club and John Aber have done this for years, and we were there last year and said if you ever want to take a break we'd love to host it at Oakmont, and they were delighted to do it," Ford said.
"It's a great opportunity for girls to introduce them to the game, whether they are flat beginners, never played before or are nice players."
Registration forms can be found on-line at WGAWP.com and clicking on "Junior Golf" tab.
• I am not sure why the Golf Channel felt as though it had to hire ex-football player Ahmad Rashad to be one of the co-hosts for its new Morning Drive. This especially resonated the other day when he referred to the guys on the PGA Tour as "PGA players." Uh, Ahmad, the PGA is a group comprised of club professionals. They are no more a part of the PGA Tour than the Canadian Football League is a part of the NFL.
• Have you seen Michele Wie's new putting stance? She is bent over so far it looks as though she is trying to read the writing on her ball. Or maybe find her career.
• Let me get this straight, Vijay Singh admits to using deer antler spray, which contains a substance that is banned by the PGA Tour. But, three months later, the World Anti-Doping Agency rules the substance used in deer antler spray should not be on the banned list, and the PGA Tour announces that the case against Singh has been dropped. So what we have is an admitted violation of the rules and no penalty. Boy, that seems to be going around the golf world.
• The USGA could rotate the U.S. Open among five courses -- Oakmont, Merion, Shinnecock, Winged Foot and Olympic -- and I would never complain.
Dissa and data
The Tri-State PGA announced its annual awards for 2013. Top merchandisers: Peter Micklewright, Edgewood CC (private); Tom Beeler, Grandview GC (public); Ron Leporati, Bedford Springs (resort). Junior golf leader: Ron Lucas, Scally's GC; Teacher of the year: Jerry Stone, Scally's GC; Horton Smith Award: Eric Johnson, Oakmont CC; Bill Strausbaugh Award: Dan McMillen, Thiel College; Player development award: John Kerins, Tam O'Shanter GC: Patriot award: Sean Swidzinski, Olde Stonewall GC; golf professional of the year: Joe Boros, Treesdale. .... The 15th Parkway West Rotary Classic is July 29 at Sewickley Heights GC. Entry is $195 and includes dinner, gift and silent and live auction. Register at parkwaywestrotary.com. .... The 35th annual Young Life Golf Classic is May 13 at Willowbrook CC. Entry is $225 per player and includes dinner and gift. Call 412-242-1625 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• What: The 2013 U.S. Open, second of the season's majors, Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pa.
• When: June 13-16.
• TV: WPXI & ESPN.
• The skinny: The Open returns to Merion -- its ninth hole pictured above -- for the fifth time, but first since 1981.