Teeing it up at Merion Golf Club
Jerry Kelly reminded Golf Channel viewers that it’s something of a grind to play 36 holes in one day to earn a spot at next week’s U.S. Open.
But grind he did, and the 46-year-old University of Hartford grad will be teeing it up at Merion Golf Club Ardmore, Pa., next week in this country’s national championship.
“Getting old gets old,” Kelly told Golf Channel’s Scott Walker midway through his grueling day at Memphis’ Colonial CC. “I’m gimping around out there….Walking this long, it gets to you.”
Kelly finished in a share of second place, just a stroke back of medalist Kevin Sutherland, shared his sentiments midway through his appearance in “golf’s longest day.”
More than 800 golfers played at least 36 holes of golf at 11 sites across the country on Monday for the right to earn 57 spots at next week’s Open at Merion. With several playoffs, including a couple that finished on Tuesday morning due to darkness-related suspensions of play, it was truly “golf’s longest day.”
Kelly won’t be the only golfer with New England ties who’ll take on Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and a who’s who of the game as well as potential Cinderallas who are known only to their friends and family members.
Joining Kelly, who will make his 10th start at a U.S. Open will be Geoffrey Sisk (68-69) from Marshfield, Mass., and Dover, N.H.‘s own Jesse Smith (70-67), each of whom tied with New York’s Gavin Hall for medalist honors at Old Oaks CC and Century CC in Purchase, N.Y.
Sisk, 48, will be playing in his seventh U.S. Open, his sixth as a qualifier. He told USGA’s David Shefter that he almost quit his efforts to get to the tourney because the courses were too long. After earning a local exemption in 2011, thanks to his ranking on the 2010 Web.com Tour money list, he went after it again.
“I just love these golf courses,” Sisk told Shefter about the classic layouts of the two tracks in play in Purchase. “I am waiting for them to give me an honorary membership. I’ll take either one of them.”
Sisk played at Philadelphia’s Temple University but he has played Merion, in Ardmore, only once, in the 1989 U.S. Amateur.
“Merion is just going to be fantastic,” said Sisk. “I’ll be ready to go.”
Not making it out of qualifying in Purchase, where 79 golfers vied for four spots, were several players from the six-state region, including Champions Tour favorite Brad Faxon (Barrington, R.I) and Mike Welch (Quincy, Mass.).
James Driscoll (Brookline, Mass.), playing at the PGA Tour pro-heavy Brookside Golf and CC and The Lakes Golf and CC in Columbus, Ohio, was unable to mount a serious threat against one of the strongest fields of the day. He finished at 3-under — eight shots back of medalist and 2010 Deutsche Bank Championship winner Charley Hoffman. Driscoll stayed in Columbus after finishing T13 at last week’s Memorial Tournament at nearby Muirfield Village GC in Dublin.
Worcester, Mass., native Scott Stallings also stalled out in his bid to get to Merion. Coming off two straight fourth-place finishes on tour, Stallings birdied four of his final five holes to get to 4-under and into a three-for-two playoff.
Stallings quest came to an end on the first extra frame, when his tee shot landed in the right rough, he rinsed his second shot, and went on to miss his par putt. As the first alternate, Stallings would be on the road to Merion should someone drop out.
Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. You may follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminer