Huntsville Golf Club selected for US Open qualifier

First Posted: 3/2/2014

Huntsville Golf Club in Shavertown has been selected to serve as one of 111 worldwide sites for the first step in qualifying for this year’s U.S. Open Golf Tournament at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.

When the United States Golf Association announced the sites in February, Huntsville was included for the fifth time. The private club, which opened in 1994, also hosted one of the qualifiers in the first of the two-step process in 1999, 2007, 2009 and 2011.

“This year the U.S. Open championship is at Pinehurst,” Huntsville head pro Matt Occhiato said. “They’re both Rees Jones courses, so it’s a great place to start.”

The Huntsville qualifier is scheduled for May 8.

Blue Ridge Country Club in Harrisburg, Valley Brook Country Club in McMurray and Scotch Valley Country Club in McMurray are the other Pennsylvania sites among those in the United States, Japan and England where golfers can begin to try to play their way into one of the year’s four majors. Amateurs with a handicap index of 1.4 or lower and professionals are eligible to enter.

Depending on the number of entries, the top player or two are likely to advance to the final stage of qualifying.

When Huntsville hosted in 2011, two players advanced from what Occhiato said was a field of about 40 players.

Huntsville opens around April 1 for members. Preparations will be made to have the course ready for a high-profile event early in the season.

“Typically, for an event like this, you would let the rough grow in a little longer,” Occhiato said. “You would really not cut it for two weeks, depending on how much rain you’re getting from year to year.

“You want the rough up a little higher and you cut the greens down a little lower.”

In the previous stop, only one player broke par.

Matt Schall, a Williamsport native who was playing on the Hooters Tour out of the Washington, D.C. area after a career at the University of Maryland, shot 3-under-par, 69.

Tyler Brewington, a Benton High School graduate and a Rider University player, was the other player to advance after shooting 73.

They landed spots in the 36-hole, one-day sectional qualifiers, which this year will be held at 10 U.S. sites on June 2.

“The U.S. Open’s local and sectional qualifying process is the most democratic in that every amateur golfer who meets the USGA Handicap Index requirement can compete for a spot in the championship field,” USGA vice president and Championship Committee chairman Daniel B. Burton said in a press release announcing the sites. “Two-tiered U.S. Open qualifying could not be conducted without the tremendous partnership and expertise provided by state and regional golf associations, and we are grateful for their continued support.”

The Country Club of Scranton in Clarks Summit hosted a 2013 local qualifier. Jeff Ranck from the North Central Pennsylvania Golf Association approached Huntsville late in the year to see if the course could again host the event.

Top professionals land automatic spots in the U.S. Open based on various criteria. The Official World Golf Rankings, and other processes, make more players exempt for the first step of qualifying.

Ken Venturi, in 1964, and Orville Moody, five years later, advanced through both local and sectional qualifying on their way to U.S. Open titles. That feat has not been duplicated since.

Last year’s 156-player field at Merion Golf Club included 20 players who had made it through local and sectional qualifying.

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