Hillman ready for Open qualifier
Josh Hillman spent Friday getting reacquainted with the courses at Old Oaks and Century country clubs in Purchase, N.Y., in preparation for Monday’s U.S. Open Sectional qualifier.
The Taconic Golf Club and Williams College golf coach even had a tutor on his trip around the Century layout. In a reversal of roles, Ephs golf team member Max Elgart was the coach and Hillman the student.
"Max is a member at Century and he met up with us for the last 18," said Hillman, who qualified for the sectional in a local qualifier at Schuyler Meadows Golf Club in Loudonville, N.Y. "He helped me out with the greens, showing me some putts I might misread and where they usually put the pins for tournaments."
In a qualifier that will have 80 players battling for three or four coveted spots in the Open at Pinehurst Resort, one misread here or there could be the difference.
Friday completed 54 holes of preparation in two days.
"I had a nice tournament at Berkshire Hills on Thursday. I shot a 71 in the [MountainOne Bank] pro-am," he reported. "I had a good round in the morning [in Purchase] and ran out of gas a little in the afternoon."
The sectional experience and the courses won’t be new to Hillman. This will be his fourth try (he missed advancing to the Open by one agonizing shot in his best effort) but his first since 2006. Several of his attempts came over the same two layouts.
Hillman said that they have added some length to the courses, but otherwise there were no big surprises as he played Friday at Old Oaks and then Century. He will play them in the same order Monday, starting on the back nine at Old Oaks.
"The courses are in great shape," he said. "The rough isn’t long, but it is very thick and the ball goes straight to the bottom, which it makes it tough to judge shots coming out of it."
Given this is a U.S. Open qualifier, it’s no surprise there will be a premium staying out of the thick stuff and finding the fairways off the tee.
"Old Oaks is a little shorter, probably about 6,700 yards. Century is around 7,000," Hillman said. "There’s lots of bunkering at Century and the greens have a lot of movement. Everything goes one way or another. Old Oaks is similar but has smaller greens."
Given how few spots are up for grabs, there isn’t a big margin for error. The strategy in a U.S. Open qualifier is too not get too aggressive -- lots of pars, avoiding big numbers and a few timely birdies is the formula for success in most cases.
"I don’t have a score in mind," the 36-year-old said. "Typically, two or three under par will do it. ... But I’m just going to go out there and play my game. You’re probably not going to make a lot of birdies, so you have to try to not make a lot of bogeys."
While there aren’t any PGA Tour regulars in the field, there is one very familiar name competing for a trip to North Carolina -- two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen (1993 and ‘98), who hasn’t made it to the Open since 2008. He is the only former Open champion playing in any of the sectionals.
"There’s a reason why Lee is in the same tournament as me," said Hillman. "Either I’m playing good or he’s playing bad."
Others of note include Champ ions Tour rookie and former PGA Tour regular Scott Dunlap, NCAA Division I individual champion Cameron Wil son of Stanford and Mass achusetts pro Geoffrey Sisk. Sisk has successfully advanced from sectionals six times.
Hillman has been budgeting his time since the local qualifier between family, his duties at Taconic and time on the practice range.
"I really want to thank the membership at Taconic," Hillman said. "They have really been behind me and I appreciate their support."
No doubt there will be plenty of them on the USGA’s website keeping up with Hillman’s progress on Monday.
Speaking of the Moun tainBank Pro-Am at Berkshire Hills, Hillman’s 71 was only good for second place among the pros. Greenock Country Club’s Bob Mucha shot an impressive 5-under 67 to take top honors.
Also having good days were Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club’s David Strawn (72) and Country Club of Pittsfield assistant pro Milton Torres (73).
Mucha’s team also took top honors. Teams captained by Hillman and Berkshire Hills head pro Mike Hillman tied for second place.
The 30th Annual Fraser Memorial golf Tournament was held at Skyline Country Club last weekend and, as usual, it was a success, raising $6,500 for the members’ scholarship fund. More than $175,000 in funds for scholarships have been raised in the tournament’s history.
A total of 29 four-player teams competed in a captain-and-crew format. Capturing top honors were the teams of Jay Barbarotta, Rich Lesniak, Rick Legge, Mike Addy (Blue Moon Division), Matt Cripps, Jason Murray, Steve Coons, Walt Hyde (Miller Lite Division) and Andy Higgins, Bill Haskins, Tom Allesio, Jason Rowett (Coors Lite Division).
The tournament is named for John F. Fraser, a longtime Pittsfield city councilor and Skyline member who died in 1983.
EduKaytiongolf will host several junior golf camps this summer at Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club.
The Junior "K Kamps will be held Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and are designed for players ages 6-15 of all skill levels. For prices, dates or to sign up, go to www.edukaytion golf.com or call (518) 669-1551.
Topping this week’s local schedule is the Country Club of Pittsfield’s Men’s Invi tational. The popular event starts with a medal-play round on Friday that determines the flights. On Saturday and Sun day, it’s match play with double matches both days.
To contact Richard Lord: