Pro Garrido, Amateur Hicks head U.S. Open Qualifier at Hidden Creek
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. â€” Jose Garrido, the golf coach for Columbiaâ€™s national team, and Alexander Hicks, an amateur who plays out of Wildwood Golf & Country Club, carded respective 2-under-par 70s to share medalist honors in a U.S. Open Local Qualifier administered by the Golf Association of Philadelphia at Hidden Creek Golf Club (par 72, 7,009 yards) Monday.
The two led a field of 115 players hoping to grab one of six qualifying positions available. Matthew Bessler, an amateur from Baltimore, Md., and a GAP contingent featuring amateurs James Braunsberg of Blue Bell Country Club, Michael Johnson of Commonwealth National Golf Club and Michael Kania of Overbrook Golf Club also advanced.
The 114th U.S. Open will be held June 12-15 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club and Pinehurst No. 2 in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C.
Windy conditions at Hidden Creek contributed to a field scoring average of 79.7. Garrido was nearly declined to experience the swirly circumstances altogether. One of his players on the Columbia team, Juan Pablo Candela, convinced Garrido to even participate.
â€śHe [Candela] picked this spot,â€ť Garrido said. â€śItâ€™s all his fault. He was coming up here to play. Heâ€™s going to Princeton University tomorrow to see his coach and ex-teammates. I decided to tag along. I had a blast today. Itâ€™s one of the best rounds I played relaxed-wise. My putter was good. If you donâ€™t putt well on this course, youâ€™re going to be in trouble.â€ť
Garrido, 35, of Bogota, fired three birdies on the day. On No. 9 (par 5, 582 yards), he hit a wedge 100 yards to 12 feet. Garrido reached the par 5, 487-yard 10th hole in two strokes and two-putted for birdie. He stopped a 4-iron 15 feet from the No. 14 (par 3, 200 yards) flagstick and cleaned up the putt. After graduating from BYU in 2001, Garrido dabbled in the Nationwide, European, PGA and Web.com tours. He is a PGA Latin America member who plays in Web.com events when he qualifies. Three months ago, Garrido finished 14th in the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship presented by Claro. Though he coaches full-time, Garrido still gets the itch to play competitively.
â€śIâ€™m still around and I still enjoy golf,â€ť he said.
Garrido isnâ€™t sure which Sectional site he will travel to, though he believes Lakeside Country Club in Houston, Texas is the next destination.
The second time proved much better than the first for Hicks. In the same event at the same venue three years ago, he finished near the bottom of the leaderboard with an 86.
â€śSeeing how I viewed the course then compared to when I came here yesterday [for a practice round] and today, itâ€™s just completely different. Iâ€™m hitting it farther,â€ť Hicks 21, an amateur who plays out of Wildwood Golf & Country Club, said. â€śItâ€™s an easier course for me because of that. Besides a couple of par 5s and maybe one or two par 4s, I donâ€™t think I hit any iron longer than a 6-iron.â€ť
Hicks birdied three of his final four holes to share the top spot. He converted a 30-footer on the par 4, 447-yard No. 6 following a sound 7-iron from 168 yards. Hicks, a junior at William & Mary College, slung a sand wedge 30 yards to three feet for a 3 on No 8 (No. 4, 329 yards). To cap the subpar surge, he powered a hybrid 268 yards downwind to the front of the green and two-putted. Hicks also opened his qualifying bid with a birdie. He reached the back of the No. 10 (par 5, 476 yards) green with a 5-iron from 210 yards and eased a chip to five feet.
With his game trending upward, Hicks will now head to Sectional Qualifying June 2 at Century Country Club and Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, N.Y.
â€śItâ€™s been nice to see improvement every year for me,â€ť Hicks, the 2013 GAP Amateur Championship runner-up, said. â€śI played some of best golf last summer and into the fall last season. Iâ€™m looking forward to this year.â€ť
Like Hicks, Johnson found a bit of U.S. Open qualifying redemption Monday. He lost in a playoff a year ago at Applebrook Golf Club.
â€śAs soon as I hit my tee shot in the playoff, I knew I was out of it,â€ť Johnson, 22, of Ambler, Pa., said. â€śI wanted to really come back and show that I could qualify this year.â€ť
Johnson, who will graduate from La Salle University next week, will head to Purchase, N.Y. for Sectional qualifying.
The Golf Association of Philadelphia will administer a U.S. Open Local Qualifier May 13 at Laurel Creek Country Club. 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 150 Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. As Philadelphiaâ€™s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphiaâ€™s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.