Open Championship Preview: Great Field Takes On Plainfield
An honor roll of New Jersey’s best golfers will take the stage at the 87th NJSGA Open Championship, sponsored by Lincoln-Mercury and Prudential, at the Plainfield Country Club July 10-12th. A total of 131 professional and amateur golfers will vie for the C.W. Badenhausen Championship Trophy in the 54-hole, stroke play competition at one of our country’s most venerable golf courses.
Originally known as Hillside Tennis Club, Plainfield Country Club opened in 1890 and was initially designed by Tom Bendelow. In 1916, Donald Ross was commissioned to build a new course, and a major restoration project during the 1990s returned the course closer to its Ross roots. An article in the Featured Club section documents this restoration work.
This year marks the first time the Open Championship has been contested at Plainfield since the restoration work began well over a decade ago, but tournament play always has been a welcome guest at Plainfield. Plainfield has hosted two national championships, six State Open Championships, five State Amateur Championships, and numerous other State, regional and national competitions.
Rivaling the high caliber of the host club is an impressive Championship field. Defending Champion Jason Lamp of Deal highlights the field, which consists of 81 professionals and 50 amateurs. Lamp’s victory last year at Hollywood places him among numerous past Champions in this year’s field, including perennial contender Frank Esposito of Brooklake who captured the Badenhausen Trophy in 1999 at Echo Lake. Esposito is fresh off his June 27th victory at the Rockaway River Charity Clambake, an annual New Jersey PGA Section major which he has won three consecutive times.
Based on early 2007 NJPGA Championship success, Mike Strlekar of Montclair is another formidable contender for the Badenhausen Trophy after his decisive six-stroke victory in the NJPGA Charity Classic at Crestmont in May. Three weeks prior to the Charity Classic, Somerset Hills played host to the NJPGA’s Head Pro Championship, which was won by Hollywood’s Kevin Weyeneth. Two-time Champion Chris Dachisen of North Jersey, who is playing in the U.S. Senior Open at Whistling Straits just prior to the State Open, is also likely to be among the contenders on the final day of play.
Ten other past Champions will join Lamp in attempting to recapture the Badenhausen Trophy, including Russell Helwig of Essex Fells, David Glenz of Crystal Springs, Gary Ostrega of Hyatt Hills, Ed Whitman of Knickerbocker, Charlie Cowell of Forest Hill, Chris Dachisen of North Jersey, John DiMarco of Laurel Creek, Baker Maddera of Rock Spring, Greg Farrow of Deerwood, and Brian Komline of High Bridge Hills.
Recent success on the amateur golf scene bodes well for several strong amateur contenders. Current NJSGA Amateur Champion Bill McGuinness of Tavistock is no stranger to success in the Open Championship; the 47 year old was co-runner-up in 1994 at Metedeconk National, losing in a playoff. Michael Deo of Montclair, the current NJSGA Mid-Amateur Champion, will be in the field along with Jay Blumenfeld of Mountain Ridge, Allan Small of Fairmount and Komline.
In addition to these exempt players, a number of players gained entry to the Open Championship by qualifying at one of four sectional qualifying sites. In the first qualifier at Navesink Country Club in Middletown on June 11th, four professionals shared medalist honors: William Hook of Ridgewood, Bill King of Spring Lake, Codie Mudd of Metedeconk National, and Ken Pridgen of Liberty National, each shooting three-under par 69. On the following day at Twin Brooks Country Club in Watchung, three players shared medalist honors: amateurs Max Bichsel of Peddie and Rich Jeremiah of Plainfield, and professional Brian Bevins of Battleground.
One week later, on June 19th at Rockleigh Golf Course in Rockleigh, amateur Scott Chisholm of Rock Spring and professional Keith Grassing of North Jersey claimed co-medalist honors, each carding a two-under par 69. The final qualifying round was held on Thursday, June 21st at Burlington Country Club in Mount Holly, where professional Orist Wells of Pitman paced the field with his even-par effort of 70. A total of 72 players advanced from the four qualifying rounds, joining the 59 players who are exempt.
The 87th Open Championship will be contested over three rounds of stroke play, beginning on Tuesday, July 10th and ending Thursday, July 12th. Following the completion of 36 holes on Wednesday, the field will be cut to the low 50 scorers (plus ties) who will advance to the final day of play on Thursday. Spectators are welcome, so come out and watch the finest players in the State compete!