July 20, 2020 - Only four host professionals have ever won the New Jersey State Golf Association’s Open Championship on their home course since the event began in 1921.

A fifth may be in the making. Bill Hook, off a five-under-par 67 in the first round of the 100th NJSGA Open at the par-72, 6,670-yard Knickerbocker Country Club in Tenafly, took a big step to becoming that fifth pro to do it and the first since four-time champion David Glenz of Morris County in 1984.

“To do it here at my home club, on the 100th anniversary of the Open Championship, it would be the best event I could ever win. It would be something extraordinary,” said the 35-year-old Hook, a native of nearby Hawthorne, N.J., who has served as head PGA professional at Knickerbocker since 2011.

Hook’s 67 has him two shots clear of last year’s runner-up, amateur Mike Muehr of Pine Valley, and three shots better than two-time champion Tyler Hall of Upper Montclair, pro Pat Fillian of Echo Lake, pro Greg Baker of Rockaway River, amateur Trevor Randolph of Arcola and Ethan Ng of Knickerbocker, a 20-year-old rising junior on the Stanford University golf team.

Jeremy Nevius of Shackamaxon, who recently won the New Jersey PGA Assistants Championship, carded an albatross two on the par-5, 497-yard 10th hole. His five iron from 215 yards reached the green and rolled in and enabled him to finish at even-par 72.

Scoring

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After Tuesday’s second round, the field will be cut to the low 40 golfers and ties for Wednesday’s final 18 holes. The event returned to Knickerbocker for the first time since 1921, the year of the inaugural Open Championship, won by Peter O’Hara of Shackamaxon.

Besides Glenz, others to win the Open Championship at their home course were Russ Helwig at Essex Fells in 1982, Johnny Kinder at Plainfield in 1940, and Clarence Clark at Forest Hill in 1933.

Just this past Thursday at the NJSGA Youth Foundation Pro-Am, Hook fired a 67, tying his lowest competitive round at Knickerbocker. The course record is 64 by former Knickerbocker pros Ed Whitman and Otto Greiner.

“I’ve been working with the new teaching pro here, Aaron Asedo, and I’m more dialed in. I’m hitting my clubs longer and straighter. If I’m hitting fairways and greens, I’m not too concerned about what I’m doing on the greens,” Hook said.

“My plan today was to keep it simple. I’ve overanalyzed this golf course in a thousand different ways over the years. The membership has allowed me to focus on golf this week and have fun out there,” Hook added.

For his round, Hook recorded seven birdies and two bogeys. He began his round with two pars before registering birdies on the par-4 third hole and par-3 fourth hole.

“Those two holes got me a lot of momentum. I was hitting it in close all day. A lot of times I hit five iron off the tee, even when I wanted to hit a wood. But my caddie convinced me to just play it safe and keep it in play,” Hook said.

Following a bogey at the par-4 fifth hole, Hook rallied with birdies on the final two holes of the front nine to get to three under par.  His back nine included birdies at the par-5 13th and par-4 14th, before a bogey at the par-3 17th hole, where he three-putted from 35 feet.

He added a final birdie at the 494-yar, par-5 18th hole. He reached the green in two, and then two-putted from 20 feet.

Hook’s career highlights include the NJPGA Charity Clambake title in 2016 and a runner-up finish in the same event in 2017. He said he has twice finished in the top 10 in the NJSGA Open.

“Today, I hit the wrong club at least three times, and that cost me at least two shots. On Tuesday, I feel I can dial it in again. To win this would be the cap on my career,”   

Muehr, 48, played on the PGA Tour from 1994-2003. The native of Bernardsville last played Knickerbocker when he was a scholastic golfer at Bernards High School.

“I love playing here, a classic New Jersey course. I looked at the scorecard and noticed the par fives were relatively short, so they looked gettable. I birdied all but one of them and hit 16 greens,” Muehr said. “This is the first competitive round I’ve played since the fall, and I had a little jitters on the first couple holes, which is a good thing.

“I’m not super long any more. This course fits my game and fits my eye. I easily could have gone six or seven under par today,” Muehr noted. 

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