- Golfer Benefits
FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts – United States Golf Association Tournament director Jeff Hall referred to the U.S. Open a “championship for dreamers” during U.S. Open Media Day on Monday morning at The Country Club in Brookline.
On the same day, 30 miles south in Foxborough, 84 golfers tried to take the next step to making that dream a reality. And with a replica of the U.S. Open trophy on-site during the afternoon rounds, it truly made for a special feel at Foxborough Country Club.
In his third attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open, Weston native Cooper Griffin (Woodland Golf Club) led the charge by taking medalist honors at 2-under 70, while Walpole’s Sean Fitzpatrick (George Wright Golf Club) shot 1-under 71 to guarantee their spots in final qualifying. Emerging from a 5-for-4 playoff for the four final guaranteed spots were: Boston’s Jake Shuman (Blue Hill Country Club), Pembroke’s Kevin Gately (Harmon GC), and Milton’s Ben Spitz (George Wright), all amateurs, while Dartmouth professional Mark Purrington (Country Club of New Bedford) also qualified.
Peter French (Franklin, MA) took the first alternate spot after coming up short in the playoff, while Liam Friedman (Lackawanna, NY) earned the second alternate spot in a separate playoff.
Final qualifying (36-holes) will take place between May 23 and June 6. Historically, most Massachusetts qualifiers have competed at Century Country Club and Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, New York. That qualifier will take place Monday, June 6. The number of total spots from each qualifier is to be determined.
The past couple years have been an emotional roller coaster for Cooper Griffin. A 2020 Weston High School graduate, Griffin, 20, was a standout golfer in high school but has remained uncommitted to a college program and is waiting for a spot on a college roster.
In the interim, Griffin has been traveling to work on his game, including spending this past March at PGA National in Florida.
“I’ve been at a down point these past couple years, but now I’m starting to get back to my normal self, so it feels really nice,” said Griffin, a member of Woodland Golf Club.
On Monday, Griffin’s hard work was on display as he sank six birdies, going 3-under over the final five holes, including a birdie on the par-5 18th to finish 2-under 70.
“I was 1-over before that and I knew I had to get 2-under-par so I fired at the pin on 14 and then I made a really good putt for birdie which was awesome,” he said.
Griffin said he’s thrilled to have the chance at qualifying for the U.S. Open. “It’s something I’ve been trying to get the last three years and haven’t been able to do it, so it’s pretty special.”
Sean Fitzpatrick can say he’s 1-for-1 in U.S. Open qualifying as Monday was his first attempt at a local qualifier. Growing up in Walpole, he’s well familiar with Foxborough, and with The Country Club hosting the championship, he was committed to giving it a shot.
“I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” said Fitzpatrick, a 37-year-old who works for an electronic security integration firm. “If there was ever a year to give it a shot, I can’t think of a better year and better venue.”
Fitzpatrick played the 2019 Mass Amateur at The Country Club and went toe-to-toe to eventual champion Steven DiLisio, but lost 1-up. But the lifelong Boston-area native is still playing at a high level and as he quipped about his chances in these type of events, “You never know.”
Despite a bogey on the 12th, Fitzpatrick scrambled for birdie on the the 14th to get back to even, and the birdie on the 18th kept him above the line for the playoff.
In the spirit of the U.S. Open, there was some late drama in Monday’s qualifier to make things interesting. With five players — Jake Shuman, Mark Purrington, Kevin Gately, Ben Spitz and Peter French tied at even-par 72, it required a 5-for-4 playoff starting at hole 1 as the skies began to open up.
The drama really spiked on the par-4 16th as Shuman, Purrington, Gately and Spitz all had chances at two-putt pars. Meanwhile French put his third shot into the pond in front of the 16th green, and he was 50-feet shy of the hole playing his 5th shot. Still, he stepped up and rolled it in, meaning all four players needed to successfully two-putt to close out the playoff.
Despite the miraculous shot, all four players were able to close out their putts in two to punch their tickets to the next round.
“That was one of the coolest shots I’ve ever seen in that circumstance,” said Gately, who is making his first trip to final qualifying.
For Ben Spitz, it’s the second straight year making it to final qualifying, and he’s hoping a year of experience under his belt will make a huge difference.
“I’m looking forward to getting to New York,” said Spitz, the low amateur at the Mass Open last year. “It’ll be a little more familiar to me this time. I was a little uncomfortable last year so hopefully I have more of a comfort level.”
Shuman is back to playing amateur golf after a short stint at the professional level. The Duke University grad, who was stroke play medalist at the 2016 Mass Amateur, said he’s excited for his first opportunity to get this close to playing himself into a U.S. Open.
“I’m happy and tired,” Shuman said with a chuckle. “I’m just happy to compete again. It’s been a while of wanting to do this again so I’m glad things the way they did.”
Purrington is heading back to final qualifying after making it to that stage back in 2019. Just like three years ago he ended his day with a birdie, and it was vital. Despite making five bogeys on the front nine (six total), he answered with three straight birdies on holes 9-11 and added another on 13 to bring him back into contention.
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QUALIFIERS (Names; Cities)
Cooper Griffin* (Weston, MA); (-2) 70
Sean Fitzpatrick* (Walpole, MA); (-1) 71
Jake Shuman* (Boston, MA)
Mark Purrington (Dartmouth, MA)
Kevin Gately* (Pembroke, MA)
Ben Spitz* (Milton, MA)
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Peter French (Franklin, MA)
Liam Friedman (Lackawanna, NY)
*denotes amateur player
Lou Rivers had one of the best followings during Monday’s qualifier. Though he shot 5-over missed the cut, Rivers had plenty of support from Foxborough Country Club membership as they showed up to support their former head golf professional from 2008-2021.
“It was nice to come back and see some friendly faces,” Rivers said. “It was definitely emotional, and I had first-tee jitters, but to birdie the first hole was nice.”
To add to his warm reception home, Rivers’ caddie Don Cottage wore a Masters-esque caddie bib sporting the name ‘Rivers’ in green letters on the back.
“Donnie and I go way back,” Rivers said. “We’ve done golf trips together and we’ve had a great relationship for 14-15 years, so when he reached out and said he waned to be my caddy, I was all in on that.”
Rivers is now the head golf professional at Agawam Hunt in Rumford, Rhode Island, where he said he’s excited for the opportunity to build up the club’s golf programming.
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) May 2, 2022
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Five more qualifying spots and two alternate spots will be up for grabs Tuesday, May 17 at Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown. The Golf Club at Oxford Greens (Oxford, Connecticut) and Kirkbrae Country Club (Lincoln, Rhode Island) will also host U.S. Open local qualifying on May 9 and 10, respectively. All local qualifiers will be 18-hole qualifiers.
Taconic Golf Club U.S. Open Local Qualifier | May 17, 2022 | 5 Qualifying Spots, 2 Alternate Spots
FINAL QUALIFYING SCHEDULE
Caledonian Golf Club (Chiba Prefecture)
Lakewood Country Club and Royal Oaks Country Club (Dallas, Texas)
RattleSnake Point Golf Club (CopperHead Course) (Milton, Ontario)
The Olympic Club (Ocean Course) (San Francisco, Calif.)
The Club at Admiral’s Cove (North and West Courses) (Jupiter, Fla.)
Ansley Golf Club (Settindown Creek Course) (Roswell, Ga.)
Woodmont Country Club (North Course) (Rockville, Md.)
Century Country Club and Old Oaks Country Club (Purchase, N.Y.)
Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club & Wedgewood Golf and Country Club (Columbus, Ohio)
Springfield Country Club (Springfield, Ohio)
Pronghorn Resort (Nicklaus Course) (Bend, Ore.)
Mass Golf is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is dedicated to advancing golf in Massachusetts by promoting its competitive spirit and camaraderie.
With a community made up of over 100,000 golf enthusiasts and over 360 member clubs, Mass Golf is the seventh-largest state golf association in the country. Members enjoy the benefits of handicapping, course rating and scoring services along with the opportunity to compete in an array of events for golfers of all ages and abilities.