SHAVERTOWN — Huntsville Golf Club proved to be too much of a challenge for local golfers in the 2016 United States Open Local Qualifying event held on Wednesday.
The 52-golfer field featured seven locals trying their luck at reaching the U.S. Open, which is scheduled for the third week of June at Oakmont Country Club outside of Pittsburgh. It was a professional player from Osceola that came home with medalist honors.
Travis Howe, a professional golfer with status on the Web.com Tour and the Canadian Tour, fired a 5-under, 67 to take the top spot. Jonathan Dilanni, of Kernersville, North Carolina, and Jesse Smith, from Barrington, New Hampshire, rounded out the qualifying spots by both shooting a 2-under 70, and advancing to sectional qualifying.
“I wanted to get anything under par,” Howe said. “That’s normally enough of a score to get through. I was able to give myself a cushion on the back nine.”
Howe played at Huntsville in 2014, the last time the event was held locally. He admittedly didn’t play well and didn’t qualify. Wednesday’s win was a little redemption.
No local golfers qualified for the the next stage of the 10,000-entry tournament.
Mariano Medico, a 2014 Holy Redeemer graduate from Shavertown, and Justin Moose, from Hazle Township, each shot a 76 to lead the local golfers. Medico, who plays his college golf at Syracuse University, had one birdie on the day on the 391-yard, par-4 16th. He started the day off with a bogey on the first hole.
“I hit it a lot better than a 76,” he said. “The golf course is incredible and the greens are rolling beautifully. I couldn’t make many birdies today, but I hit it good.”
Medico said the tournament is a great experience for amateurs to try and evaluate their game against professionals.
“Every time you tee it up it’s a learning experience,” he said. “It’s good to play with such good players – a great way to start the year.”
Also competing in the local ranks were Joseph Hurn, Mountain Top; Michael Molino, Dallas; Bill Smith, Hazleton; Austin Smith, Dallas; and Tyler McGarry, Pittston.
McGarry, a 2014 Pittston Area graduate, was coming off Rookie of the Year honors in the Middle Atlantic Conference and a second-place finish. McGarry said he struggled with his putter most of the day, but got off to a fast start on the 518-yard, par-5 first hole.
After watching two players before him hit less-than-desirable tee shots, McGarry was a little anxious on the tee of his first local qualifying event. He proceeded to stripe his drive and reach the green in two. The Misericordia University freshman two-putt opened his round with a birdie.
“I was a little nervous over that first tee shot,” he said. “Something like this boosts your confidence and I think I played a solid round.”
McGarry finished with an 84.
“I played a lot better than my score,” he said. “I had two bad holes and I struggled to putt.”
The event at Huntsville was an opportunity for three golfers to qualify for sectionals. A win at the sectional events will guarantee those players a spot in the U.S. Open. In all, 23 amateurs and 29 professionals teed it up at Huntsville.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick