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Headline: Lowell Native Chris Gentle Earns Medalist Honors at U.S. Open Local Qualifying Held Thursday at Pinehills Golf Club
From top: Chris Gentle, Jack Whelan & Matt Hutchins
For Immediate Release: May 11, 2017
Plymouth, MA — In the town considered the starting point for the foundation of our country, five golfers looked for the shot to make history of their own at Thursday’s U.S. Open local qualifier held at Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth, seeking to advance to the 36-hole sectional qualifier ahead of the Championship Proper at Wisconsin’s Erin Hills (WI) in mid-June.
In a field of 81 players, it was the likes of Chris Gentle, Josh Nichols, Matt Hutchins, Jack Whelan and Marc-Etienne Bussieres who will next compete at New Jersey’s Canoe Brook Country Club on Monday, June 5, looking for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete for the U.S. Open Championship title in a mere 32 days. Thursday’s local qualifier was the 50th of 114 being held across the United States and Canada between May 2 and May 18.
Thursday’s low-score was carded by Lowell native Chris Gentle on the Nicklaus course at Pinehills, named after the man who had four of his almost two dozen major titles come at the same U.S. Open Championship Proper that these players are hoping to eventually compete at. Nicklaus’ victories came in 1962, 1967, 1972 and 1980, respectively.
Gentle, the recently turned professional player who has won the previous two Lowell City Golf Tournaments while still an amateur, shot a 2-under par 70 on the 7,200+ yard course to earn medalist honors.
“The short game really saved me. My wedges were feeling pretty good. My chipping was great. My putting was really good. I drove the ball pretty well too,” said Gentle, a 2016 graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, New York. “My iron game wasn’t great, and I missed a lot of greens but because my short game saved me, I was able to get up and down a lot of places and squeak out even par on the front nine.”
It was there he birdied the par-5 6th hole but made bogey on the par-four 8th hole. He added four birdies on the back nine to finish the day at 2-under par.
“I knew the wind would be right in certain spots, so I stayed patient with it," said Gentle. "I birdied 11 and had like eight feet for eagle that I just missed. I made a bad bogey on the next hole. I mis-clubbed over the green, which you can’t do and then I stuffed it on the next par-3 (Hole No. 13) to make birdie.”
He finished the day with five birdies, three bogies and 10 pars.
Gentle’s top finish on Thursday was a positive start for someone who recently turned professional.
“It’s been great," said Gentle. "It’s been a lot of fun finally living out the childhood dream. It was a good experience down in Florida, four months down there and I really improved a lot. I really worked hard on the short game and wedges and it came through today and really helped me.”
With the stereotypical New England weather showing its face Thursday, Gentle said the continuously changing conditions out on the course were something that he had prepared for since he moved back to the Bay State from his new place in Florida.
“It was tough. At first, we had that mist kind of running in and out. That kind of scared me early,” said Gentle, who most recently was part of the Massachusetts squad that won their 13th straight Tri-State matches against Rhode Island and Connecticut last October. “I just tried to keep it in front of me and save some pars and I knew if it got good and we had some good wind conditions, I could make a few birdies. I’ve been playing in this stuff the last three weeks since I’ve been home. I’ve been playing in the rain because I thought the weather was going to be worse than it was today. I think that really helped me prepare for today.”
This was the first time that the 22-year old had advanced to the sectional stage of U.S. Open qualifying. He competed the past two years at New York’s Bethpage Red and barely missed the cut for last year’s local qualifier there.
Joining Gentle from Pinehills at the next stage of competition are amateurs Josh Nichols (Kernersville, N.C.) and Matt Hutchins (Naples, Fla.) and professionals Jack Whelan (Topsfield, Mass.) and Marc-Etienne Bussieres (Sherbrook, Canada). All shot even par 72 and advanced from the ensuing playoff that took place on Holes 1 & 2 of the Nicklaus course. Hutchins is the reigning Massachusetts Open low amateur, while Bussieres won the 2016 PGA of Canada Championship.
The 2016 Christopher Cutler Rich MGA Junior Amateur Player of the Year James Imai was the fifth player to card an even par Thursday and fell to the first alternate spot after the playoff.
Charles Blanchard, a longtime amateur from Warwick, Rhode Island who turned professional at the age of 50, earned second-alternate status. Blanchard bested Maine’s Shawn Warren in the playoff after finished regulation with a score of 1-over par 73.
The MGA will be hosting its second of two local U.S. Open qualifiers at Bernardston’s Crumpin Fox Club on May 16.