The Greater Cincinnati Golf Association had to squeeze every last ounce of daylight out of Monday, but it got most of the work done at Maketewah Country Club for America’s largest U.S. Open local qualifier.
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A grand total of 168 entrants was whittled down to 10 qualifiers and an alternate Monday at Maketewah, with one alternate still to be decided Tuesday morning via the continuation of a playoff that was suspended after 9 p.m.
The playoff, which produced the 10th and final automatic qualifier and first alternate just after sunset Monday, was called due to darkness. Rules officials, patrons and competitors were using cell phone flashlights to locate balls on fairways and greens at that point.
The qualifiers advance to the sectional qualifying round of the 2017 U.S. Open.
Before darkness enveloped the competition, players lapped up sunshine as nine qualifier spots were awarded.
Andy Roberts and Trey Shirley tied for the qualifier victory after posting three-under 68’s on the day.
Andrew Dorn (two-under 69) was alone in third place while Ben Sattler, Daniel Stanley, Davis Baxter, Kevin Hall and Austin Bagshaw (Eastern Kentucky) tied for fourth place (minus-one 70).
Baxter is a University of Cincinnati product.
Hall, deaf since the age of two, is a product of Winton Woods and Ohio State.
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Emerson Newsome’s even par 71 allowed him to squeak in under the cut line.
Then came an eight-man playoff for the players at one-over 72. They contested the final qualifier spot and two alternate spots after late developments triggered their inclusion in the playoff.
With sunset forecast for 8:44 p.m., the first playoff grouping of five players teed off from Maketewah’s first hole with about 13 minutes to spare.
A second group of three players would follow close behind.
Two out of the eight playoff participants – Andy Mayhew and Xavier University produce Matthew Wetterich – birdied the first hole and faced off on Maketewah’s No. 17.
Rules officials fanned out to locate Mayhew’s tee shot on the 17th, which landed in thick rough on an embankment.
But from there, Mayhew punched out and onto the green from about 60 yards out to with about 15 feet of the pin. He holed his putt to clinch the qualifier spot.
Wetterich became the first alternate.
The six players left in the playoff field then teed off on No. 17 to determine the final alternate spot. All but one player completed the hole, and that’s where the action will resume Tuesday.
As bats flew overhead, rules officials and patrons searched for playoff participant David Wetterich’s approach shot on 17, which was believed to have flown left of the hole.
David Wetterich eventually elected to come back Tuesday morning to complete the 17th hole. He will be assessed a penalty stroke for losing his ball and must hole-out on his next shot to survive in the playoff.
Meanwhile, players hit out of turn in order to keep play progressing while the search for the ball carried on in vain. Two players parred No. 17 and advanced to a third playoff hole, which will be conducted Tuesday at the course’s 18th hole.
David Wetterich could make it a threesome on 18 to decide the final alternate spot if he manages to hole out.
The details of Tuesday’s proceedings were hashed out during an impromptu gathering of patrons, players and rules officials on the 17th green. Officials read off results and rendered decisions with flashlights in-hand.
That moment marked the conclusion of a day ripe with storylines and excitement that extended far beyond the qualifying players and playoff participants
One of early threesomes to head out on the course featured former PGA Tour and U.S. Ryder Cup team member Brett Wetterich, Bill Williamson, arguably the top amateur in Greater Cincinnati, and Sam Gosiger, a rising star our of Summit Country Day.
Brett Wetterich, out of Oak Hills High School, was spraying the ball about the course throughout the morning. He saved par 12 times but dug himself a hole early as he bogeyed four of the first seven holes before finishing with a six-over 77.
Former PGA Tour and Ryder Cup winner, and Oak HillsBuy Photo
Former PGA Tour and Ryder Cup winner, and Oak Hills High School alum, Brett Wetterich shoots out of a sand trap at Maketewah Country Club in the Bond Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati on Monday, May 15, 2017. Wetterich finished his round +6 with a score of 77. (Photo: Sam Greene, The Enquirer)
“Terrible. Not good. Just didn’t hit it good, bad day,” Wetterich said, adding there were very few positives to take from his round.
Williamson likely had the longest day of any of the competitors, having started his round at 8 a.m. before returning to work and then back to Maketewah for the playoff.
Williamson looked promising early as he birdied three times on the front nine and made the turn at two-under 33. He then bogeyed three holes on the back nine to card a one-over 72.
Williamson noted post-round he injured his neck Sunday and considered not competing in the qualifier.
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Considering he’d advanced from seven previous local qualifiers at Maketewah, Williamson said he wasn’t under any illusion about what the result of his round could mean.
“I don’t expect that to hold up, no,” he said, adding he hoped for a playoff and would monitor scores throughout the day from work.
“A lot of good players here,” Williamson said. “I kind of know that you’ve got to shoot even par, I think. Who knows? The golf course was in great shape and with the new bunkers, maybe (the cut) is a shot higher.”
A shot higher only bought him a ticket to the playoff, though.
The teenage Gosiger was hardly looked fazed in the presence of his more-experienced playing partners. He fired an 85 that included a birdie on No. 3 and an eagle on the 480-yard, par-five 15th hole.
SIGHTS FROM MAKETEWAH
• Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis patrolled the 18th green as an official scorekeeper for more than three hours Monday afternoon. His presence caught some players off guard while others barely paused when relaying their scores to Lewis, one of the most prominent figures in modern Cincinnati sports. Some patrons wanted to talk football with Lewis and take pictures, but mostly he was left alone to socialize and talk golf. Lewis entertained all comers.
• Joe Burger, the former Ohio State linebacker, captain and member of the 2014 national champion Buckeyes – was on the bag for his brother, former Xavier golfer Chris Burger. Chris Burger was on the brink of qualifying for the sectional qualifier until the 18th hole of his round, which saw him lose a ball out of play. He one-hopped his tee shot on No. 18 off a cart path 50 yards left of the 18th green.
• Winton Woods and Ohio State product Kevin Hall, deaf since age two, birdied three holes on the back nine to finish at one-under 70 and qualify.
After his round, his laughter lit up the newly-installed veranda outside the men’s locker room.
“I’m really happy about the one under,” Hall said via sign language translation by his mother, Jackie. “I hurt my back recently… You never know if a minus-one is going to hold up here.”
• Sensing his presence could be required for the playoff, Williamson returned to Maketewah from work, but brought his daughters with him. He paused his pre-playoff warmup routine to play with them.
Asked if he had trouble focusing at work while watching qualifier results roll in, Willamson said, “there are mouths chirping that don’t care if I golf or not.”