Olde Homestead‚Äôs Blichar tops U.S. Senior Amateur Qualifier
HADDONFIELD, N.J. ‚ÄĒ Once David Blichar heard his navigation system recite the phrase, ‚ÄúWelcome to New Jersey,‚ÄĚ a comforting memory popped into his mind.
‚ÄúI qualified for the U.S. Amateur at Harker‚Äôs Hollow (Golf Club in Phillipsburg, N.J.). I was thinking, ‚ÄėMaybe there‚Äôs some karma in New Jersey,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Blichar, of Allentown, Pa., said. ‚ÄúIt was kind of funny that I thought of that. Hopefully it works out that way.‚ÄĚ
An invitation to his second national championship suggests it worked out Monday. Blichar carded a 1-under-par 71 to earn medalist honors in a U.S. Senior Amateur Qualifier administered by the Golf Association of Philadelphia at Tavistock Country Club (par 72, 6,781 yards). Edward Armagost of Jupiter, Fla., James Dunne of New York, N.Y. and David West of Oxford, Pa. also advanced.
The U.S. Senior Amateur will take place Aug. 25-30 at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore.
Blichar, who will celebrate his 55th birthday next week, relied on crisp, consistent ball-striking to craft the day‚Äôs lone subpar score. He only missed two fairways ‚ÄĒ a statistic that cultivated 16 greens in regulation.
‚ÄúI drove the ball great. I made a really good up-and-down [for par] on No. 6 and a good bogey on No. 14,‚ÄĚ Blichar said. ‚ÄúI was very steady. It was a solid round.‚ÄĚ
On the aforementioned No. 6 (par 4, 428 yards), Blichar landed his approach some 70 feet below the hole location. He rolled the ensuing birdie putt 15 feet by and made the comebacker. Liken the conversion to glue on a clippings collage.
‚ÄúThat just kept me going. At that point, I was still even par,‚ÄĚ Blichar, an Olde Homestead Golf Club member, said.
He maintained that momentum with a birdie on the next hole (par 4, 372 yards), knocking a sand wedge 102 yards to eight feet. That ‚Äėgood bogey‚Äô also kept Blichar‚Äôs qualifying train on track. He flared a drive right, which forced a pitch-out. Blichar then knocked a 9-iron 120 yards to 20 feet and two putted. Following the day‚Äôs theme, a birdie followed a critical juncture. On the par 5, 542-yard 15th hole, Blichar used a driver-5-wood combination to produce a flip wedge from 75 yards. He then executed a 10-footer.
A pair of two-putts on Tavistock testers ensured a passing grade. Blichar buried a four-footer for par on No. 16 (par 3, 182 yards) after rolling a 45-footer onto the green‚Äôs back shelf. He powered a hybrid 190 yards to 17 feet right of the No. 18 (par 4, 433 yards) flagstick. Blichar‚Äôs birdie attempt slid low but strayed from the danger zone.
Blichar‚Äôs assembled quite the competitive golf season thus far. He won the Philadelphia Publinks GA Better-Ball Championship alongside Jason Wilson. He also captured the Lehigh Valley Golf Association‚Äôs Senior Amateur Medal Play Championship and Inter-Club Championship, respectively. Of note, Blichar is a member of the Lehigh Valley Golf Hall of Fame member.
The upcoming birthday may bring more gifts, too.
‚ÄúNow that I‚Äôm turning 55, I‚Äôm going to start playing in a lot more GAP and [Pennsylvania Golf Association] events,‚ÄĚ Blichar, an insurance underwriter, said. ‚ÄúI was in no man‚Äôs land before. I didn‚Äôt want to play against the kids, so I needed to wait until I was 55. And that‚Äôs the only good thing about turning 55.‚ÄĚ
Armagost, a caddie at Pine Valley Golf Club for the last seven seasons, is feeling good about his age (55) after making good on his first U.S. Senior Amateur qualifying attempt. He carded an even-par 72 Monday. Starting on the back nine, Armagost, who previously participated in two U.S. Amateur Championships (1982-83) and a U.S. Open (1995), birdied No. 9 (par 4, 352 yards) to ever-so-slightly ease his leaderboard viewing down the stretch. He hit a sand wedge 93 yards into kick-in range.
‚ÄúI haven‚Äôt done anything in 12 years. It‚Äôs fun to get the juices going, so to speak,‚ÄĚ Armagost said. ‚ÄúI worked three years on the PGA TOUR for a buddy of mine (Mark Calcavecchia). He said, ‚ÄėYou‚Äôre going to hate golf,‚Äô and I did. Then I was working at Seminole (Golf Club) down in Jupiter and I just stopped playing.‚ÄĚ
Like Armagost, Dunne is also connected to Pine Valley. He is a member who spent the weekend there competing in the club‚Äôs Father & Son Championship alongside son Seamus. A stop at Tavistock fit the schedule. Plus, Dunne‚Äôs good friend and fellow University of Notre Dame alum William McGuinness is a member.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve known each other a long time. I played with his daughter (Mary) for a practice round. I improved on that practice round,‚ÄĚ Dunne, 62, said. ‚ÄúI thought the golf course was beautiful. The greens were perfect. The pins were fair. It‚Äôs been a long [USGA qualifying] campaign. I‚Äôve always wanted to play in one.‚ÄĚ
Dunne‚Äôs golf story is heartfelt. Golf Channel aired a special featuring the Shinnecock Hills member during its U.S. Open coverage last month. More than words in this space and well worth a watch.
West, the 2015 GAP Senior Amateur runner-up, will make his fifth USGA Championship appearance (2001, 2004, 2008 and 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur).
‚ÄúIt feels very good to get back there. It‚Äôs a feather in the cap,‚ÄĚ West, 58, a Philadelphia Publinks GA member, said. ‚ÄúMy game‚Äôs been sporadic this summer. It‚Äôs been spotty. This makes it less spotty. Getting into USGA events is always high on the priority list.‚ÄĚ
Golf Association of Philadelphia