Country Club of Pittsfield's Mabee medals at US Open qualifier; Taconic Golf Club's Hillman an alternate

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STOCKBRIDGE — Eric Mabee teed off at 8:50 Monday morning. When his round was over, the head professional at the Country Club of Pittsfield had to wait to see if he had done enough to advance in the U.S. Open qualifier at Stockbridge Golf Club.

Good things come to those who wait.

Mabee shot a 1-under-par 69 to share medalist honors and is one of three golfers who moved up to a sectional qualifier for the U.S. Open. The sectional qualifiers are June 4, and those who qualify will find out later where they will play. Eventually, the best of the golfers will go to Long Island for the U.S. Open, which will be played at Shinnecock Hills on June 11-17.

"They have good food, so it was okay waiting around," Mabee said with a smile. "It's okay waiting when it holds out."

Josh Hillman, the head professional at Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown, earned a second alternate position after winning a playoff.

Mabee and Chelso Barrett from Henniker, N.H., shared medalist honors to earn two of the three berths in the sectional qualifier. Sean Gaudette, a former high school player at South Hadley and Hopkins Academy, made the turn in 1-over-par 37, but managed only one birdie on the back nine to finish third. Mabee has qualified for the first time, after being an alternate in 2012.

"It's time to go," Mabee said, when asked about moving on. "It's time to play. That's what we play for. That's why you come to the qualifier to get through. You know you have to win these things to eventually get through."

Patrick Forbes of Toronto shot 1-over-71 and was the first alternate. Hillman was one of six golfers to shoot 72, forcing a playoff for the second alternate spot.

Matt Kiehle, one of Mabee's assistants at the Country Club of Pittsfield, shot a 7-over-par 77.

"I didn't start the front nine very well. I turned at 2-over par, and just had some cobwebs out there," Hillman said before the playoff. "I made some really nice up and downs. I had to be under 30 putts, I haven't counted them yet. I had a really nice putting day.

"One of the things that benefited me is that we play here so often."

Hillman had two bogeys on his front nine, and had quite the up-and-down back nine. He had four pars, two birdies and three bogeys to finish at 72.

Both Mabee and Barrett agreed with one thing — they didn't think a 69 would hold as the low score.

"I was the same way. I didn't think it would hold up either," said Mabee. "That's what you do. You shoot, you play the best score you can and wait."

The Country Club of Pittsfield pro had a good front nine. He had eight pars and a birdie on the par-4 eighth hole, to make the turn in 1-under 35. His round was looking better when he parred the 10th and made birdie on the par-3 11th hole.

Mabee, in his words, started "leaking oil" down the stretch. He bogeyed the par-4, formerly a par-5, 15th hole, then birdied the par-4 17th before just missing a par putt on the 18th, leaving the ball maybe an inch shy of the cup.

"I didn't hit it hard enough to hold the line that I picked. I had enough speed on it if I had played it up a little more," said Mabee. "You hit that putt hard, you have four feet coming back."

Barrett, who played his college golf at Texas A&M, teed off an hour before Mabee did, so there was no real chance to compare scores until after.

The Keene, N.H., native said his front nine was a fairly quiet even-par 36, and Barrett called it pretty boring.

"I hit a lot of greens. My putter was quite cold," he said. "Honestly, I'm surprised that 1-under medalled the event. It was a pretty steady day."

Barrett birdied two of the first three holes on the back nine, but bogeyed the par-4, 13th. He played par the rest of the way for a back-nine score of 33 and a 69 total.

Gaudette, who went to Yale, played for North Adams native Rick Berger at Hopkins Academy. He was a three-time Western Mass. individuals champion and was the state champion in Division III in 2009.

Gaudette turned pro after graduating college, tried to make the PGA Tour for three years, and is now in the process of getting his amateur status back.

The former Yale Bulldog started off with par-bogey-bogey before making up one stroke with a birdie on the par-4 sixth hole. Gaudette made the turn in 1-over 37. On the back nine, he birdied the par-3 11th, and shot nothing but pars the rest of the way. That gave him a 70, which was good enough to advance.

"I have not made it through locals. I've been close a few times," he said. "It's a tough thing to get through. You have to be sharp. There aren't a lot of spots available, so it's definitely pretty exciting."

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Top Finishers

(Top 3 and top 2 alternates advance to sectional qualifier June 4)

1. Eric Mabee, Pittsfield 35-34 69, and Chelso Barrett 36-33 69; 3. Sean Gaudette 37-33 70; 4. Patrick Forbes 36-35 71; 5. (tie) Josh Hillman 38-34 72, David Miccoli 36-36 72, Scott Berliner 35-37 72, Philippe Garipey 38-34 72, Colin Brennan 36-36 72, Joseph Parker 39-33 72 (Hillman wins playoff for second alternate); 11. (tie) Etienne Papineau 39-34 73, Marc-Olivier Amnotte 36-37 73, Louis Amira 36-37 73, and Vincent Blanchette 35-38 73.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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