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As the first major events of 2021 approach for the best golfers in the world, there are several touring professional golfers with roots in Massachusetts who are competing on the highest level.
There are rising stars, comeback stories, and veteran golfers who are continuing to raise the bar for themselves. Among them are Ambassadors of Mass Golf, Rockland native Megan Khang (LPGA Tour) and South Hadley native Richy Werenski (PGA Tour). Khang, 23, and Werenski, 29, have had past amateur success in Massachusetts and are building successful careers on their respective tours. Werenski earned his first PGA TOUR win to earn full exemption through the 2022 season, while Khang finished fifth at the U.S. Women’s Open back in December.
Meanwhile, other professionals such as Rob Oppenheim, Brittany Altomare, and Fran Quinn, Jr., are among those who have also represented the Bay State well with their play on tour.
After finally breaking through with his first win on the PGA Tour last season, Werenski has the chance to prove himself among the best in the game as he’s exempt on tour through the 2022 season. This season, he has two finishes inside the top 25, including the Phoenix Open, where he shot 7-under in the final round with nine birdies to finish T22.
Werenski has dialed it up with the putter at times, especially in last year’s ZOZO Championship where he made 12 birdies en route to a second-round 61, breaking Tiger Woods’ competitive course record at Sherwood Country Club.
Werenski still would need a PGA Tour victory with full FedEx Cup points or a top-50 ranking to qualify for the Masters next month, but if the young pro can string together more top-10 finishes and pull off a victory at the right time, that invitation could come sooner rather than later in his career. In the meantime, his next big test will be THE PLAYERS Championship next week at TPC Sawgrass.
In December 2020, Mass Golf announced that Werenski was being named an Ambassador of Mass Golf, one of the select individuals who foster the ideals of the game on a local and national level.
Age: 29; Hometown: South Hadley
Alma Mater: Georgia Tech
Turned Professional: 2014
Best 2021 Finish: T21, The American Express.
Professional Wins: 2020 Barracuda Championship (PGA TOUR); 2016 BMW Charity Pro-Am (Web.com).
Career Majors Played: 4, (U.S. Open, 2018, 2020; PGA Championship, 2019, 2020).
Mass Golf Accolades: 2005, 2007 Mass Junior Amateur (Pre-Junior Division winner); 2013 Mass Four-Ball Champion.
Oppenheim, a former junior member of Indian Ridge Country Club in Andover, made his appearance on the PGA TOUR 15 years ago. He has since earned four top-10 finishes split across different stints on tour, most recently regaining his card for the 2019-2020 season.
However, his best career finish on tour came this past weekend at the Puerto Rico Open, where he had a chip-in for birdie in the third round, followed by a chip-in for eagle in the final round to finish 14-under 274 total. He also finished 14-under at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open back in October.
Though, it’s been a long winding road to keep his card, look for Oppenheim to give it his all in what could be the twilight of his career.
Age: 41; Hometown: Andover
Alma Mater: Rollins College
Turned Professional: 2002
Best PGA TOUR finish: T7, Puerto Rico Classic.
Professional Wins: 2009 Massachusetts Open; 2015 Air Capital Classic (Web.com Tour).
Career Majors: 4 (Best finish: T37, 2016 U.S. Open).
Mass Golf/Amateur Accolades: 2002 Mass Amateur Champion; 2002 NCAA D-II Player of the Year.
The former No. 1 Amateur golfer in the world has nine top-10 finishes on the PGA TOUR since making his debut in the 2017-2018 season.
This season, Uihlein is ranked third on the PGA Tour in putts per round, with an average of 27.63 over 16 rounds, only trailing Patrick Reed and Anirban Lahiri. The Tour average is 29.06. Still, he has only played in two events since the calendar flipped to 2021 and is still trying to find his groove again.
Uihlein is the son of Wally Uihlein the retired president and CEO of the Acushnet Company, a golf equipment manufacturer which comprises Titleist, FootJoy, and other brands.
Age: 31; Hometown: New Bedford
Alma Mater: Oklahoma State
Turned Professional: 2011
Best 2021 Finish: T39, Puerto Rico Open.
Best PGA TOUR finish: T4, 2015 Sanderson Farms Championship
Professional Wins: 2013 Madeira Islands Open (European Tour); 2017 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship (Web.com Tour).
Career Majors: 11 (Best finish: T44 2017 The Open Championship).
Mass Golf/Amateur Accolades: 2010 U.S. Amateur Champion; 2011 Northeast Amateur Champion; 2011 NCAA Ben Hogan Award.
The youngest of professionals on this list, Khang has performed well since turning pro at age 18. Recently, Khang has often found herself at or near the top of the leaderboard in the early rounds of events, including the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open, last week’s Gainbridge LPGA and this week’s Drive On Championship at Golden Ocala (T6).
Though her fifth-place finish at the U.S. Women’s Open was her best at a major, Khang is still seeking her first LPGA win on tour.
A Solheim Cup qualifier in 2019, Khang is on the bubble for the 2021 team, as she stands at 13th, just three points behind Amy Olson for the 12th and final spot. The Solheim Cup takes place August 31-September 6 at Inverness Club in Toldeo, Ohio.
Khang has one of the most fascinating backstories on tour as her parents were both Hmong, escaped Laos during the Vietnam War, and met after they’d both emigrated to the United States. Khang’s father taught himself to play and passed down the game to his daughter.
In December 2020, Mass Golf announced that Khang was being named an Ambassador of Mass Golf, one of the select individuals who foster the ideals of the game on a local and national level.
Age: 23; Hometown: Rockland
Turned Professional: 2015
Best 2021 Finish: T48, Gainbridge LPGA.
Best LPGA TOUR finish: T3, 2017 Blue Bay LPGA.
Other LPGA Accolades: Qualified for 2019 U.S. Solheim Cup Team.
Career Majors: 28 (5th, 2020 U.S. Women’s Open).
Mass Golf/Amateur Accolades: 2011 & 2012 Mass Girls’ Junior Amateur Champion; 2015 Mass Golf Women’s Player of the Year.
Altomare has 12 top-10 finishes since joining the LPGA Tour in 2016 but is still searching for that elusive first victory. She came closest four years ago when she finished runner-up to Anna Nordqvist in a playoff at the Evian Championship, one of the five LPGA major championships.
After finishing T42 in her 2021 debut at the Gainbridge LPGA, Altomare is currently in the top 20 after the opening round of the Drive On Championship at Golden Ocala.
Still, Altomare has made plenty of highlights over the years, including winning a brand-new Buick for sinking an ace during the 2019 Buick LPGA Shanghai.
A Solheim Cup qualifier in 2019, Altomare is currently 8th in points for the 2021 Solheim Cup taking place August 31-September 6 at Inverness Club in Toldeo, Ohio.
Age: 30; Hometown: Shrewsbury
Alma Mater: Virginia
Turned Professional: 2013
Best 2021 Finish: T42, Gainbridge LPGA
Best LPGA TOUR finish: Runner-Up, 2017 Evian Championship.
Other Pro Accolades: Winner, 2016 Guardian Retirement Championship (Symetra Tour); Qualified For 2019 U.S. Solheim Cup Team.
Career Majors: 21 (Best Finish: Runner Up, 2017 Evian Championship).
Mass Golf/Amateur Accolades: 2002-04, Mass Girls’ Junior Amateur (Junior/Junior Division Winner); 2005 Mass Women’s Stroke Play (Baker Trophy) Champion; 2013 ACC Player of the Year.
Add Fran Quinn to the list of comeback stories in the game of golf. Quinn, a former Mass Amateur and Mass Open champion, made his first start in a tour event in 18 months at last week’s Cologuard Classic in Arizona.
Quinn has overcome a severe shoulder injury he suffered in July 2019 after tripping over a pothole while crossing a busy street in New York City. He suffered a 25 percent fracture in the glenoid bone of his right shoulder socket, which required arthroscopic surgery and for him to sit out the rest of the 2019 season and the 2020 portion of this current season. (The Champions Tour has combined the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to COVID-19).
Still, after months of slowly piecing his game back together, he played in the Cologuard Classic. His best round was a 2-over-par 75 in the second round, but he finished 13-over for the tournament.
Still, Quinn has his eyes on the future. The next tour event will be the Chubb Classic from April 16-18 at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida.
Age: 55; Hometown: Worcester/Holden
Alma Mater: Northwestern
Turned Professional: 1990
Professional Wins: Nationwide Tour: 1999 Nike Dakota Dunes Open, 2000 Buy.com Florida Classic, 2009 Albertson’s Boise Open, 2010 Panama Claro Championship; Asian Tour: 1999 Mittweida Thailand Open; 1999 Omega PGA Championship.
Best 2021 Finish: T76, Cologuard Classic.
Career Majors: 5 (Best finish: T43, 1993 U.S. Open).
Mass Golf Accolades: 1986 Mass Amateur Champion, 1990 Mass Open Champion.
Harmeling broke through on the Korn Ferry Tour in October by winning the Savanah Golf Classic in a playoff, after shooting -21 in regulation.
Between January 2020 and now, the Boston native has played in 19 events on the Korn Ferry Tour, which is one step below the PGA TOUR. Harmeling qualified for the Korn Ferry Tour at the end of 2019 thanks to a high finish on the PGA Latin America Tour.
In 2013, he made headlines by donating his check from his win at the Massachusetts Open 2013 to the One Boston Fund following the Boston Marathon bombings. This generous act was featured in the Winter 2013 edition of MassGolfer Magazine.
Harmeling is currently ranked 36th on tour and will need to crack the top 25 for a chance to earn a PGA TOUR card. Up next on the Korn Ferry Tour is the Chitimacha Louisiana Open on March 18-21.
Age: 32; Hometown: Boston
Alma Mater: Princeton
Turned Professional: 2012
Professional Wins: 2020 Savanah Golf Classic; 2017 Jamaica Classic.
Best 2021 Finish: LECOM Suncoast Classic, +5 (Cut)
Mass Golf Accolades: 2005 Mass Golf Junior Player of the Year; 2013 Mass Open Champion.