Zack Taylor of Manasquan River Golf Club shot a 3-under-par 68 to earn medalist honors at the first NJSGA Open Qualifier of the season on Tuesday, June 19 at Laurel Creek Country Club in Mount Laurel.

Nine golfers who shot 73 or better earned a spot in the 98th Open Championship to be played July 24-26 at Montclair Golf Club in West Orange.

Taylor, 21, a native of the Pittsburgh area, is currently serving a three-month PGA Golf Management Internship at Manasquan River. Taylor is a rising senior in the PGM program at Coastal Carolina University.

PHOTO GALLERY LEADERBOARD

“This is the only course in New Jersey that I’ve played other than Manasquan River. There was a lot of fescue here, so you had to keep it in the fairway. I only hit driver four times,” said Taylor, who grew up in Baldwin/Whitehall, Pa. He carries a plus-3 handicap.

“I can hit my driver 315 yards,” he said. “But today, it was about my wedges. That’s a sign that I’m playing my best. I almost holed out for an eagle on No. 10, and on No. 13, I hit a wedge from 90 yards to seven feet for a birdie. ”

Taylor’s round included four birdies and a bogey. He drained a 15-foot putt for a birdie on No. 11.

He is not on the golf team at Coastal Carolina, but was the overall playing points leader among the 250 or so students in the PGM program at the school. He is the club champion at General James Hackler Golf Course at Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C., where he works during the school year.

In his senior year of high school, he had a photo taken with Arnold Palmer at Palmer’s home course of Latrobe Country Club during a Western Pennsylvania Police Athletic League tournament there.

“That was one of the hardest golf courses I’ve ever played,” he said.

A Coastal Carolina PGM graduate, Diamo Streaser , now an assistant professional at Essex County Country Club, tied for second place with high school senior Connor Bekefi of Eagle Ridge. Both shot 1-under-par 70.

“I’m happy to qualify for the State Open. I never qualified for the State Open or State Amateur before,” said Streaser, who is a native of Glen Rock. He was an All-State placekicker and punter at Glen Rock High School who eschewed scholarship offers to follow his passion for golf.

“The previous two years, I worked at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, one year as an intern and then as an assistant, before coming back to New Jersey this year,” said Streaser, who turns 24 in August. “It’s good to be back home.”

His round included an eagle at the par-5 No. 5 when he placed a 2 iron from 200 yards to within 15 feet.

Bekefi is a rising senior at Toms River North High School. His round included five birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey.

“I have one more year of high school and I’m undecided about college, but I visited Coastal Carolina this year and it’s nice,” he said.

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