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WILLIAMSTOWN, Massachusetts – It was a good day to be an Eph.
On Monday evening at Taconic Golf Club, two members of the Williams College golf team secured two of the three available qualifying spots for the 2018 U.S. Amateur Championship.
As a result of their performance over 36 holes in Williamstown, the two Ephs – Will Kannegieser (Minot, ME) and Sam Goldenring (Florham Park, NJ) – along with Matthew Paradis (Hooksett, NH) have earned a spot at the Championship Proper which will be held on August 13-19 in California at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course.
Kannegieser secured medalist honors with a score of 5-under par 137, while Goldenring finished second at 3-under par 139. Paradis captured the third and final qualifying spot with a score of 1-over par 143 which was one shot better than the first alternate.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all because they are both such strong players,” said Josh Hillman, head golf professional at Taconic Golf Club who also serves as head coach of the Williams College men’s golf team. “I am just ecstatic that they reached their goals.”
Hillman, who has served as golf coach for six seasons, has worked with Kannegieser and Goldenring for the past two seasons. During their sophomore campaigns, the duo earned All-NESCAC honors and Goldenring finished third at the NESCAC Championship.
“It’s a D3 mentality where they put so much effort into academics and not into golf during the school year when they are in class,” said Hillman. “In the summer when they are able to play more golf, you will see that they are capable of scores like 65 and 69 in tournament settings.”
Both Kannegieser and Goldenring have spent the past month honing their game, but they also took advantage of their home-course knowledge. After all, Taconic Golf Club is located on land owned by Williams College and serves as the home course for the men’s and women’s golf teams.
“With Taconic for me it’s just being comfortable playing it and knowing what I can hit off the tee and where to hit it,” said Kannegieser, who posted a 6-under par 65 during the afternoon round. “I got lucky because I had putts that I knew what they did and I saw the lines. I had putts that I had seen before, and I was confident that I knew what they were going to do.”
Following a morning round of 1-over par 72 which included three birdies and four bogeys – two of which came during his final four holes of the round – Kannegieser found his rhythm quickly following a short lunch break. He played his first nine holes – the back nine at Taconic Golf Club – at 3-under par which included a 30-foot birdie putt on the 441-yard, par 4 15th hole and then a 20-foot uphill putt on the 545-yard, par 5 18th hole.
“When the putts started to fall in the second round, I kept asking myself why not me and it ended up working out,” said Kannegieser, who resides in Minot, Maine but is spending his summer working and playing in Williamstown.
While the putts continued to fall as the round wore on, Kannegieser also took advantage of his strong iron play. After making the turn at 3-under par 33, the 21 year old carded eagle on the 480-yard, par 5 1st hole.
“I had already played 27 holes, and I hit 2 iron off the tee every time I had played that hole,” said Kannegieser, who is also an avid alpine ski racer. “I hit 2 iron and then 4 iron to five feet. It was pretty straightforward, and it was awesome.”
He would go on to make three more birdies – along with two bogeys – to post that day-low score of 6-under par 65 and secure the top spot by three strokes.
“I basically tried to keep even and level the whole day,” said Kannegieser, who will be making his first-ever USGA Championship Proper appearance next month. “I had no expectations coming into today, and I think that played to my advantage. I played like I had nothing to lose.”
An added bonus for Kannegieser is the fact that he will be joined at Pebble Beach by his teammate Goldenring, who was an assistant captain for the Eph’s golf team this past season.
“It is unbelievable really,” said Kannegieser. “I would have picked Sam. I knew that he had a good chance especially seeing him play around here, and I know what he is capable of. I would have picked him to be one of the three for sure.”
Goldenring posted an even par 71 in the morning and then secured his qualifying spot with a 3-under par 68 later in the day. He and Kannegieser were the only competitors in the starting field of 72 to finish under par through 36 holes.
“Sam is a tremendous ball striker and can hit every fairway and green and when his putter is hot he can shoot scores like he did today,” said Hillman. “He works harder than anyone I know. He is all in and gives 110% all of the time.”
Joining the two Ephs in California will be Matthew Paradis, a rising senior who plays for the Southern New Hampshire University golf team. After carding a triple bogey on his 33rd hole of the day, Paradis was able to make par on his final two holes to earn the last qualifying spot by one stroke. Nate Choukas (Hanover, NH) finished as first alternate, while Owen Quinn (Holden, MA) prevailed in a six-for-one sudden-death playoff for the second alternate spot.
Today’s sectional qualifier was one of 79 held at sites across the country from July 2 through July 25. The final field of 312 will include those qualifiers along with the 62 exempt competitors which includes Brockton’s Matt Parziale, the reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion.
For Hillman, the results of today’s qualifiers is something that he will never forget. After all, he could not remember a time when two Ephs have advanced to the U.S. Amateur Championship… ever!
“Our membership embraces our college players – male and female – and the players embrace the membership,” said Hillman. “When they go through the gates they know that they are home.”
And this home is where golf dreams came true for two of Hillman’s own.