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NORTON, Massachusetts – During what was the final day of U.S. Open local qualifying held at Mass Golf Member Clubs, four of the seven qualifiers were Bay State residents. Those seven competitors will automatically advance to the next round of sectional qualifying to be held on June 4.
Earning a share of medalist honors at Stockbridge Golf Club was Pittsfield’s Eric Mabee, who finished tied with New Hampshire’s Chelso Barrett with a score of 1-under par 69. Mabee and Barrett will be joined at sectional qualifying by Sean Gaudette, a professional from South Hadley who is currently awaiting his reinstatement of amateur status.
Nearly 150 miles away at Pawtucket Country Club, Longmeadow’s Billy Walthouse was the only player in the field to finish under par with a score of 1-under par 68 to earn medalist honors. He was one of four qualifiers from that site including Norfolk’s Andrew O’Leary, a senior at Catholic Memorial HS who will be playing golf at Notre Dame this fall. Dover resident Andrew Dipetrillo earned first alternate status.
All seven qualifiers are vying for a coveted spot at the Championship Proper which is set for June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York.
After finishing as local qualifying medalist in Pawtucket on Monday, Billy Walthouse may now be rethinking his plans for next month.
In the back of his mind, Walthouse – who lives in Longmeadow – has been assuming that he would be competing for the Massachusetts Open Championship title at his home course of GreatHorse in Hampden. That Mass Golf Championship will be held on June 11-13.
If all goes well at New Jersey’s Canoe Brook Country Club on June 4, however, Walthouse may be booking his trip instead to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.
“It is a win-win situation for me,” said Walthouse. “GreatHorse is an amazing venue, and [the Massachusetts Open Championship] is going to be an amazing tournament. If I don’t get into Shinnecock, I will get to play at GreatHorse which is a great place. It is near my house, and I have played it so many times and will have some local knowledge. Hopefully down the stretch I could maybe see myself being in one of the last groups of the final day.”
Less than a year after becoming a professional golfer, Walthouse has been working through various Tour qualifying series and honing his game at mini-tour events in South Florida. Just recently, Walthouse earned conditional status on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada circuit.
“It feels good finally getting through, and it’s another stepping stone,” said Walthouse, a former University of Rhode Island star who last season advanced to match play at the 2017 U.S. Four-Ball Championship and to the semifinals of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship before turning pro in August. “Just giving myself a shot and having a chance to play at Shinnecock would be amazing. It’s nice to know that my game has developed where I can make it past this stage without having my best game.”
To Walthouse’s point, he began his round by making three birdies on the Pawtucket layout and was 3-under par 32 at the turn. He allowed the field to draw closer on the back nine by making three bogies – including a round-ending one on the 18th hole – and one birdie.
“It slipped on the back, but I got a nice birdie on 14,” said Walthouse. “I made a bogey on 18, but it was all good because in the end it didn’t matter.”
After collecting his medalist honors in Pawtucket, the only thing that matters now to Walthouse is that he still has a chance to play in the U.S. Open Championship.
And if that doesn’t pan out, he still has GreatHorse on his mind which is a pretty nice “Plan B”.
4️⃣ more #MassGolf players advance to sectional stage of #USOpen qualifying! Longmeadow’s Walthouse earns medalist honors at qualifier hosted by @rigalinks with Andrew O’Leary (Norfolk), while Eric Mabee (Pittsfield) and Sean Gaudette each advance from Stockbridge Golf Club qualifier! Recap ➡️ massgolf.org
While most professional players in a local qualifying field are usually laser focused on their next major title, there was one competitor who was wearing two hats on this day.
Immediately following his round at Stockbridge Golf Club, Eric Mabee drove 12 miles to Pittsfield to his place of work at the County Club of Pittsfield where he is enjoying his fourth season as head golf professional.
“When you arrive at events like this your juices are flowing right away,” said Mabee, who warmed up for his round by hitting balls on the Country Club of Pittsfield driving range. “On the range you are fighting the nerves. I was able to warm up at my home course and then show up 10 minutes before my tee time, which is different than a typical golf tournament.”
Despite working down the road at a fellow Mass Golf Member Club, Mabee first played the Stockbridge Golf Club layout just one week ago. He was a quick study as he finished his round on Monday with three birdies and two bogies. It marks the first time that Mabee has advanced to sectional qualifying.
“It was fresh on my mind having played it just a few days earlier, and I had a similar round today,” said Mabee. “I chipped the ball very well which you have to do on that golf course because the greens are so small. I probably missed half the greens in regulation but never by more than a foot or to off the green. When I did that I was able to get every one of them up and down except on 18.”
That final 18th hole is where Mabee made one of his bogies, but in the end the miscue did not matter has he left Stockbridge with a ticket he has been yearning for since he first began trying to qualify nearly seven years ago.
“I have always been knocking on the door but never quite getting in,” said Mabee, whose best career finish was a second alternate spot in 2012.
With just 36 holes now sitting between him and a chance to play in the U.S. Open Championship, Mabee knows one thing for sure… he will receive support from his home base in Pittsfield.
“It has been wonderful,” said Mabee about his time at the club and the support he receives from the membership. “They support me. It’s not always easy being away from the club, but they want me to work and play and represent the club which is a huge support.”
Mass Golf will continue to provide coverage for local USGA Open qualifiers throughout the season. Visit MassGolf.org and follow @PlayMassGolf on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest information. To join the conversation, use the hashtag #MassGolf.