Sunday May 6, 2012

Berkshire County will be well-represented a week from Monday in a Massachusetts Open qualifier at Berkshire Hills Country Club.

Six professionals and seven amateurs with county ties will be in the 58-year player field trying to earn one of approximately 12 spots available for this year's Open at Walpole Country Club. The 54-hole main event runs June 3-5.

Even before they tee it up at Berkshire Hills, the county is guaranteed three players in the 150-player field. Stockbridge Country Club head professional Steve Mazzariello earned a spot by winning last fall's Berkshire County pro championship, Berkshire Hills head pro Josh Hillman is in for hosting the qualifier and amateur Andy Congdon qualified by winning MGA senior player of the year honors.

The host club's members will have four amateurs to root for. Members Steve Sykes, Hayden Jarck and Shane Ortega are entered along with former club champion Bob Linn, who now plays out of the Orchards in South Hadley. Wahconah Country Club members Paul Briggs and Aaron Klimchuk will be in the field as will Taconic Golf Club's William Hadden.

Two county head professionals, Wyantenuck Country Club's Tom Sullivan and Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club's David Strawn, are entered. Three-time Mass achusetts Amateur champion Jim Salinetti, the head professional at Winchester Country Club in suburban Boston, will make the trip west and former St. Joseph's High star Chris Marinaro, who is an assistant pro in New Jersey, will return to his old stomping grounds.

Country Club of Pittsfield member and playing professional Donnie Troy and Wahconah assistant pro Milton Torres round out the county players in the field.

Of this group, Torres and Marinaro were the only ones to advance to the Open last year in the qualifer.

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The Massachusetts Golf Association hosted a media day for the Open on Thursday at Walpole CC that included a question-and-answer session with professionals Geoff Sisk and Kirk Hanefield, two players who certainly have to be considered contenders in the $75,000 event. Brian Higgins and Chris Congdon, the two low amateurs in last year's Open, also took part in the session.

Sisk will be playing in the tournament for the first time in four years and can make history if he wins He is tied with Alex Ross for the most wins in the tournament's illustrous history with six (1995, ‘97. 2002, ‘04, ‘06, ‘07). Sisk played on the PGA Tour in 1999 and has spent seven years on the Nationwide Tour. He lost his status on the Nationwide after having a subpar 2011, so this year he's had to try to get into events via Monday qualifying.

"Last year was tough," Sisk said. "I didn't make any putts, my attitude became poor and my patience wore thin."

But you can bet he'll be excited to play at Walpole.

"Winning the Massachusetts Open has meant a lot to me," the 47-year-old said. "To win one title was tremendous because I had failed a number of times before that. To win seven? It would mean a lot, but I am just going to try to be competitive and be the best that I can."

Hanefeld is coming off a six-year run on the Champions Tour where he made 58 of 61 cuts. He lost his card last year and came up short in qualifying school in the fall. As a result, he is returning to the ranks of club professionals at Renaissance Golf Club.

"It is good to be back in New England," Hanefeld said. "With out question, the MGA has always run one of the best state opens. I don't know how many of these I have played in, maybe 20 or so, but this is one tournament in my New Eng land golf career that is certainly missing. I would like to break through this year, but we'll see what happens."

Congdon, meanwhile, hit a shot on media day he might have preferred in June -- he aced Walpole's sixth hole with a 5-iron from 177 yards.

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The Allied Tour season begins on Saturday with the Four-Ball Championship at the Country Club of Pittsfield.

The brother team of Andy and Richie Congdon won last year's event at Berkshire Hills.

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The golf guide that appeared on Sunday, April 15, had an error regarding prices at North Adams Country Club. The greens fees are $25 for 18 holes and $16 for 9. The cart prices are $19 for 18 holes and $10 for nine. Also, there are no separate daily junior rates, although there are bargain prices for junior memberships.

To contact Richard Lord:
rlord@berkshireeagle.com
or (413-496-6236