Philadelphia Publinks GA’s Michael Brown eyes his drive on No. 4.

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Philly Publinks’ Brown delivers in U.S. Open Local Qual. at Whitford

  EXTON, Pa. — A one-hour frost delay, gusty winds, substantial rough and unseasonably chilly temperatures — not ideal golf conditions by any standard, but they worked for Michael R. Brown Monday. The Cheltenham, Pa. resident faced all of the above throughout his round in a U.S. Open Local Qualifier administered by the Golf Association of Philadelphia at Whitford Country Club (par 72, 6,739 yards). Brown, an amateur out of Philadelphia Publinks GA, certainly held his own, carding an even-par 72 to earn medalist honors and to grab one of five qualifying positions available to the field of 77.

  Also moving one step closer to the 113th U.S. Open, set for June 13-16 at Merion Golf Club, are amateurs Christopher Baloga of Baltimore, Md., Blake Morris of Waterbury, Conn. and David West of Exton, Pa., a Whitford member and seven-time club champion. Professional John Ladow of Rockledge, Fla., who competes in mini-tour events, also qualified.

   “I drove the ball very straight today, which is a little unusual,” Brown, 40, of Cheltenham, Pa., said. “I’m usually not that consistent. I hit the ball in the fairway most of the day. It took a lot of pressure off of the round. I hit the ball in the rough late in the round, and I didn’t realize how high it was. It’s almost unplayable in spots.”

  On a day when the field scoring average climbed above 83, Brown strayed from the trend. He settled in early with a birdie on No. 2 (par 3, 192 yards), drilling a hybrid to eight feet. Brown stuck an 8-iron from 149 yards to a foot on the par 4, 399-yard No. 6. He also birdied the downhill, dogleg right No. 9 (par 5, 540 yards) after his wedge from 89 yards approach stopped 10 feet from the jar. Following a bogey on the par 4, 341-yard 11th hole, Brown powered a 4-wood 265 yards, pitched on and swept in a five-footer for birdie. He was the only player to ink red on either set of nines.

  Though Brown carried a sizeable cushion, he stumbled a bit coming in. He caught the left rough with his drive on the monstrous par 5, 595-yard 16th hole and went on to miss a 10-footer for par. He flew the 17th green (par 3, 200 yards) with a hybrid, chipped on and two-putted. A wayward drive on No. 18 (par 4, 393 yards) put Brown’s golf ball in a mixture of pine needles and shredded grass. He punched out and hit a soft wedge to six feet, but failed to execute the par putt.

   “I wasn’t comfortable the entire round,” he said. “The golf course is short enough that I thought I was going to need to be under par. There was no reason to think I was going to be around par, to be honest. I guess I just got up for the moment.”

  Brown, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s 2010 William Hyndman, III Player of the Year, last advanced to Sectional qualifying in 2001, when he finished “either last or second to last.” He hopes to reverse that fortune entirely June 3 at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md.

   “It would be difficult for me to handle, to be honest,” Brown, who manages a soft pretzel factory, said. “The reality of getting through the next stage of qualifying…it’s hard to imagine staying in it the whole way. I will have to have a lot of divine intervention that day.”

  Course familiarity prompted Baloga, who plays out of Hillendale Country Club in Phoenix, Md., to travel north. Whitford and his home course share the same architect: William Gordon. Scheduling also played a part in Baloga’s plan. He is the head golf coach at Loyola University, and the Greyhounds leave for Florida tomorrow to compete in NCCA Regionals. He now has a story to tell at the airport.

   “I hit it really well,” he said. “I didn’t make any putts until [Nos.] 16 and 17. It was hard to gauge how the course was playing because I was hitting it well but making no putts. You feel like easy pars, but obviously you see the scores are a lot higher.”

  Baloga, 29, registered 15 greens in regulation and only stumbled twice on the day. His upwind 3-iron on the par 3, 192-yard No. 2 crashed into the lip of the front bunker and rolled in. Baloga didn’t seal a sand save.

   “I felt like I had too much club, so I used my two club lengths to tee it up pretty far back,” Baloga said. “Had I just teed up at the tee markers, I would’ve been just fine.”

  Baloga carded a double bogey on No. 11 (par 4, 341 yards) after blocking a 3-wood into the right tree-line. A sideways punch-out and an 80-yard wedge shot that spun off the green resulted in a 6.

Christopher Baloga
   “I knew there was a creek out there, so I thought it was more in play than it was,” Baloga, a Towson University graduate, said. “Had I played the golf course, I would driver there every time with the way the wind was.”

  Back-to-back birdies allowed Baloga to pull up a chair among qualifying company. He hit a wedge 90 yards to 10 feet on the strenuous par 5, 595-yard 16th hole. Baloga’s “best shot of the day” — a 4-iron on No. 17 (par 3, 200 yards) — stopped eight feet from the jar.

   “I had really good looks for birdie on the previous four holes,” he said. “I felt like even-par is what I had to shoot, so I just kept trying to plug away, and luckily I got a few birdies at the end.”

  Baloga extended his local qualifying success streak to five years with his effort Monday. Now, he hopes to finally clear the Sectional hurdle, which will be present June 3 at Old Oaks Country Club and Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y.

  Baloga is a two-time Maryland State Golf Association Player of the Year (2010-11). He is also the 2008 Middle-Atlantic Golf Association Amateur Champion.

  The Golf Association of Philadelphia of Philadelphia will administer its third U.S. Open Local Qualifier this Thursday at Applebrook Golf Club. Mikel Martinson, a professional on the eGolf tour, and Oliver White, an amateur out of Manufacturers Golf & Country Club, shared medalist honors in a qualifier at Waynesborough Country Club last week.

  Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 143 Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.

Qualifiers

Name, city, state

Score

(a) Michael Brown, Cheltenham, Pa.

72

(a) Christopher Baloga, Baltimore, Md.

73

John Ladow, Rockledge, Fla.

74

(a) David West, Exton, Pa.

74

(a) Blake Morris, Waterbury, Conn.

76

 

*Alternates (in order)

(a) Stephen Seiden, Chadds Ford, Pa.

77

Michael Ladden, Exton, Pa.

77

 

Failed to qualify

(a) Rob Coyne, Millersville, Pa.

78

Brian Hollins, Mount Laurel, N.J.

78

(a) Jonathan Heydt, Mertztown, Pa.

78

(a) Bryan Ott, Hellertown, Pa.

78

(a) Jalen Griffin, Ambler, Pa.

78

(a) Joseph Gunerman, Baltimore, Md.

79

(a) Kevin Kramarski, Moorestown, N.J.

79

(a) Brock Kovach, Wyomissing, Pa.

79

(a) Samuel Sherrill, Exton, Pa.

79

John Allen, Media, Pa.

80

Steve Cutler, West Chester, Pa.

80

(a) Sean Semenetz, Philadelphia, Pa.

80

P.J. Politan, Harrisburg, Pa.

80

(a) Jon-Michael Socaris, Chadds Ford, Pa.

80

David Grossman, York, Pa.

81

Shawn Matthews, Lansdale, Pa.

81

(a) Dave Fardon, Center Valley, Pa.

81

(a) Michael Carr, East Norriton, Pa.

81

Ryan Lagergren, Royersford, Pa.

81

Mike Paukovits, Strafford, Pa.

81

(a) David Kimbley, Elverson, Pa.

81

Lowell Miller, Casselberry, Fla.

82

David Taraschi, Haddonfield, N.J.

82

(a) Ryan Kline, Kutztown, Pa.

82

Kevin Conners (a), Downingtown, Pa.

83

Chris Krueger, Rehoboth Beach, Del.

83

(a) Tyler Fewell, Harrisburg, Pa.

83

(a) Alex Church, Timonium, Md.

83

Zachary Lese, Silver Spring, Md.

84

David Lynch, Rising Sun, Md.

84

(a) Marc Oliveri, Jr., Lancaster, Pa.

84

(a) Tug Maude, Atlanta, Ga.

84

Dante Troiani, Downingtown, Pa.

84

(a) Alexander Blickle, Wernersville, Pa.

84

(a) Josh Krumholz, Reading, Pa.

84

Ryan Gray, Dowingtown, Pa.

84

(a) Wes Strang, Bethesda, Md.

84

(a) Ed Carnes, Tinton Falls, N.J.

85

(a) Brad Hildebrandt, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada

85

(a) Keon Ho Song, Centreville, Va.

85

(a) Pete Moran, Chester Springs, Pa.

85

(a) Tucker Koch, Malvern, Pa.

86

Hugh Reilly, Willow Grove, Pa.

86

(a) Steve Oh, Philadelphia, Pa.

86

(a) Zac Robertson, Media, Pa.

86

Philip Ortiz, Millsboro, Del.

86

Michael Mendoza, Downingtown, Pa.

86

(a) Brendan Papariello, Villanova, Pa.

86

Andrew Barbin, North East, Md.

87

(a) Reilly Erhardt, Newtown, Pa.

87

(a) Trever Mertz, Kutztown, Pa.

87

(a) Robert Rowe, Lititz, Pa.

88

(a) Mark Wachter, Wilmington, Del.

88

(a) Stephen McIntyre, Glenmoore, Pa.

89

(a) Brandon Havas, Salisbury, Md.

90

Robert Howie, Wilmington, Del.

90

Steve Molloy, Woodstock, Ontario, Canada

90

(a) Alexander Healy, Middletown, Del.

91

(a) Kyle Russo, Ringoes, N.J.

91

Dong Lee, North Wales, Pa.

91

(a) Jim Kramarski, Moorestown, N.J.

92

Jeff Williams, Rockville, Md.

92

Trevor Bensel, Denver, Pa.

92

(a) Mark Grilli, Philadelphia, Pa.

98

Michael Bennett, Jordan, N.Y.

WD

(a) Gregor Orlando, Erie, Pa.

WD

(a) Robert Dollfus, Phoenixville, Pa.

WD

Jason Miller, Middletown, Pa.

WD

(a) Matthew Lanzetta Vargo, Chadds Ford, Pa.

WD

(a) Blake Reifsnyder, Sinking Spring, Pa.

NS

 

(a)-denotes amateur; *-determined on playoff

NS-no show; WD-withdrawal

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