Kensington, Connecticut (May 10, 2021) – Chris Pieper missed a lot of birdie putts, but still managed to shoot 67 and take medalist honors in U.S. Open Local Qualifying on Monday.
The 18-year old from Woodbury led a field of 66 players vying for four spots in the local qualifier at Shuttle Meadow Country Club in Kensington.
“It felt like I left a lot out there,” said Pieper, who plays out of TPC River Highlands. “I hit the ball well, and had a lot of 10-15 footers that didn’t fall, but overall it feels great to advance to Sectionals.”
Pieper’s clean scorecard on the par 71, 6,516 yard, Willie Park design featured 15 pars, two birdies, and an eagle at the 514-yard par 5 seventh hole. It was the second time in a week that he produced a bogey-free competitive round after a 16-par, two-birdie performance at Wallingford Country Club on May 3 earned him medalist honors in qualifying for the Russell C. Palmer Cup.
Another Connecticut teenager, 17-year-old Ben James of Milford and Great River Golf Club was alone in second at 69, with mid-ams Pat Griffin (Unionville and Chippanee CC) and Cody Paladino (West Hartford and Wampanoag CC) tied at 70. All four players now advance to U.S. Open Final Qualifying with the chance to reach the U.S. Open Championship at Torrey Pines, June 17-20.
Paladino was the 2020 CSGA Player of the Year, and along with Griffin will represent the CSGA in Thursday’s Julius Boros Challenge Cup matches against the professionals of the PGA Connecticut Section.
In addition to the thrill of advancing one step closer to the U.S. Open, Griffin celebrated the shot of the day. On one of Shuttle Meadow’s most difficult holes, the 230-yard, par-3 15th, Griffin fired a perfect 3-iron that bounced onto the putting surface and rolled straight into the cup for a hole-in-one. Griffin, who started on the tenth hole, was 4-under par through his first eleven holes, a comfortable cushion that proved essential in offsetting three late bogeys.
With the four qualifiers determined, a playoff for 1st and 2nd alternate spots commenced among eight players tied at even-par 71. Chase Barbe of Greenwich Country Club, and James Giampaolo, formerly of Shuttle Meadow and currently at Fairview Country Club both birdied the first to eliminate a half dozen of their fellow 71s. The pair traded pars on playoff holes two and three, tied the fourth with bogeys, tied the fifth and sixth with pars, and tied the seventh with bogieys before Barbe put an end to it with a birdie at the eighth playoff hole to claim the 1st alternate position and hand the 2nd to Giampaolo.
In all, 30 professionals and 36 amateurs from a total of nine different states arrived at Shuttle Meadow to find an immaculately conditioned golf course softened by nearly an inch of rain the night before. “It was very different than when I played a practice round here last week,” said Pieper, “but obviously I liked it, and it really is a nice golf course. Just a great place to play a tournament.”
Shuttle Meadow hosted the CSGA Mid-Amateur Championship in 2019 and will host the Connecticut Open in 2023, and the Connecticut Amateur in 2025.