And Advance to 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship
North Dartmouth, MA —Pinehurst No. 2 has hosted its fair share of USGA Championships dating back to 1962, when an unbeknown 20 year old from Enid, Oklahoma named Labron Harris Jr. won that year’s Amateur Championship, coming back from 5 down in the championship match to defeat his opponent, A. Downing Gray by a final score of 1 up.
In the years since, seven other Championships Proper have taken place on the course, all with their own notable memories of top golfers hosting championship trophies.
From the 1989 U.S. Women’s Amateur to the 1994 U.S. Senior Open, to most recently the 2014 U.S. Open Championship that placed Martin Kaymer over Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler by eight strokes, it is safe to that Pinehurst No. 2 brings out some of the best golfers in the nation.
When the prestigious club hosts its ninth USGA Championship in May 2017, the third annual U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, there is a chance that a local team could be holding up the hardware as both of the two teams named as alternates from Thursday’s 18-hole qualifier at Allendale Country Club hail from the Commonwealth.
The two teams that we know will in fact be booking their flights to the Tar Heel State will be the teams of Jim Gifford (Clifton Park, N.Y.) and Chad Stoffer (Niskayuna, N.Y.), who shot a field best 7-under 65, and the team of Matthew Hopper (Greenville, S.C.) and Richard Oref (Charleston, S.C.), who had one extra stroke and took the second of two qualifying spots with a score of 6-under 66.
“It’s the first USGA event that I have qualified for, so I am excited,” said Stoffer, who plays out of New York State’s Town of Colonie Golf Course in Schenectady, NY.
His playing partner, Gifford, who has three U.S. Open sectionals under his belt, added was just as thrilled to be heading to Pinehurst, a place he played when he was a member of the Siena College golf team.
“The place is unbelievable. It’s the mecca of golf. It’s fantastic,” said Gifford, a member at Schenectady, New York’s Mohawk Golf Club, of the 2017 Amateur Four Ball Championship site.
What was even more impressive for the Gifford/Stoffer team than shooting a field best was the fact that the pair had never played in a competitive event together, doing so after almost missing the deadline to sign up altogether.
“We talked for a while about finding a place to go qualify and the day of the last qualifier deadline, at about 3:30 pm (90 minutes shy of the deadline), we were together and said, “We have to sign up,” said Gifford. “There were no locations near upstate New York so this was the closest one for us. We were both able to make it work.”
The pair first met 15 years ago when the two were both members at a former club. Both of their usual playing partners couldn’t make it so Jim and Chad came to Dartmouth together, and now will be headed to North Carolina together, with their chance at hoisting the Championship.
After a bogey on their first hole, Allendale Country Club’s 10th hole, the duo set in and recorded a total of eight birdies and an eagle to erase the team’s three total bogeys.
“Jimmy had a great day,” said the elder teammate Stoffer. “I was kind of in the role of staying out of the way, for the most part. Jim had seven birdies and an eagle on his own ball. I kicked in three but two of them were double-ups. That was sufficient to cover the three bogeys we had as well.”
On the duo’s first nine, four birdies were recorded, including three straight, and the pair was able to make the turn at 2-under. The birdies came on three par-4’s and one on the par-5 15th hole, which sits at 554 yards.
Stoffer said, “Jim kicked in a birdie on the long par-4, knocked it to about two feet on the second hole (Hole No.11). On the par 3, I knocked in about a 10 footer for birdie. That really got us going.
The pair then tallied four birdies and an eagle on the back nine to finish at 7-under 65.
Gifford said, “We knew we had two par-5’s on the last four holes, neither one of them was crazy long. We were lucky to get an eagle on the last hole.”
“It was a good experience,” said Gifford. “We are looking forward to it. It might be eight months from now, but we are looking forward to it.”
Joining Gifford and Stoffer from the qualifier at Allendale CC qualifier, the 17th of 51 qualifying sites to next year’s Championship in an eventual field that includes 128 teams of two was the South Carolina natives Matthew Hopper and Richard Oref.
That duo combined for two eagles, three birdies and 12 pars, which placed them second on the leaderboard with a 6-under 66 mark.
Two Massachusetts teams each shot 5-under par 67 and decided the first and second alternate spots in a sudden death playoff.
Sean Fitzpatrick (Dedham, Mass.) and Michael Willock (Cohasset, Mass.) were named first alternate while the team of Kevin Daly (Beverly, Mass.)and Mike McLaughlin (Danvers, Mass.) were named second alternates.
The 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship will be held at Pinehurst No. 2 from May 27-31, 2017. It will be the second of 16 Championship Propers for the USGA in the 2017 calendar season.
In the first qualifier of the next year’s main event, held at Wilbraham Massachusetts’ GreatHorse, three teams with Bay State routes advanced to the Pinehurst No.2. The team of Matt Naumec and Billy Walthouse shot a combined 6-under par 66 to top the leaderboard while the teams of Eric Dietrich & Jimmy Hervol and Billy Van Stratum & Michael Walker finished second and third to move on to the Championship Proper as well.
Eligibility for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship is limited to amateurs, with no age restrictions. Entry is limited to individuals with a Handicap Index® not exceeding 5.4.