The 108th playing of the NJSGA Amateur Championship kicks off next Tuesday, June 2 at Fairmount Country Club in Chatham. Tom Gramigna of Tavistock C.C. will defend his title in an outstanding field of 98 competitors. Gramigna’s three-stroke victory at Little Mill C.C. last June was the fourth career NJSGA major championship for the 39-year old resident of Haddonfield.
Located just outside the Great Swamp in southern Morris County, the par-72, 6,850 yard Hal Purdy design was opened in 1962. In the ensuing fifty years, Fairmount has hosted numerous state, regional and national events, including two LPGA events in the 1980s; the New Jersey PGA Section Championship five times; and the NJSGA Open Championship in 2005, Amateur Championship in 1972, and Mid-Amateur Championship in 1990. The club also has welcomed various USGA and Metropolitan Golf Association tournaments over the last half century.
Among the Championship field is one of New Jersey’s perennial top amateurs, Fairmount’s own Allan Small. Small’s championship resume is one of New Jersey’s finest: he won the 2004 NJSGA Amateur Championship at Spring Brook, the 1986 and 2006 NJSGA Mid-Amateur Championship at Colonia and Galloway National respectively, and is the defending NJSGA Senior Amateur Champion after his victory at Crestmont last August. Finally, to cap his stellar 2008 season, Small claimed the Bergen County Amateur at Rockleigh Golf Course. The 57-year old resident of Florham Park has also qualified for 17 USGA Championships, represented New Jersey in the USGA State Team matches three times, and was the 2006 NJSGA Amateur Player of the Year. On his home course, Small is expected to be a top contender.
One of New Jersey’s most accomplished amateur players, Brian Komline, won the first of his two NJSGA Open Championships at Fairmount with a stellar 10-under par performance in 2005. The two-time Open Champion and defending NJSGA Men’s Public Links Champion will not be playing this year in order to accommodate his work schedule.
The honor roll of top players continues with a number of strong contenders, including those who finished in the top-ten of the 2008 NJSGA Player of the Year standings. Mike Stamberger of Spring Lake (2nd place), Jay Blumenfeld of Mountain Ridge (9th place), and Marc Issler of Woodlake (10th place) all figure to challenge for the Amateur. Current NJSGA Mid-Amateur champion Anthony Scelba, fresh off his match play win at Trump National – Colts Neck in early May, also possesses legitimate title hopes.
One of the nation’s longest running golf championships, the NJSGA Amateur is the oldest NJSGA championship and has taken place each year since 1900 with the exception of the WWI years of 1917 and 1918. The first Amateur was conducted at Essex County C.C. and has since been held at many prestigious venues including Baltusrol, Canoe Brook, Plainfield and Ridgewood to name a few. The late Jeff Thomas holds the record with eight titles; two-time champion Bill McGuinness of Tavistock is the only player in this year’s field with multiple victories (1996 and 2007). Other past champions in this year’s field include Gramigna (2008), Small (2004) and Lee Richardson of Passaic County (1999). Four-time runner-up Michael Deo of High Bridge Hills would like nothing more than to capture his first Amateur Championship.
The NJSGA conducted three sectional qualifying rounds to determine the Championship field (in addition to those who were exempt from qualifying). The first qualifier was held at Hopewell Valley G.C. on May 11, where Eric Lasota of Hominy Hill paced the field, shooting a one-under par 71 to claim medalist honors. The second qualifier was conducted at Lake Mohawk G.C. on May 18, where Brian Whitman of Knickerbocker fired a two-over par 72 to lead the field. Suneagles G.C. hosted the third qualifier on May 20, where Brian Leveille of New Jersey National and Kyle Magnusson of Eagle Oaks shared co-medalist honors with 2-under par rounds of 70.
The 108th Championship will commence on Tuesday, June 2 with the first round of 18 holes, followed by the second round of 18 holes on Wednesday, June 3. After the second round, the field will be cut to the low 40 scorers plus ties. These players will advance to Thursday’s thirty-six hole third and final rounds.
Spectators are welcome at Fairmount, but if you cannot attend, the NJSGA is once again pleased to offer live scoring on its web site, www.njsga.org. Simply click on the live scoring icon in the announcements box for up-to-date, round-by-round player scoring.