Combine a talent-rich field with a golf course that has not been in the championship limelight for a number of years, and it’s anyone’s call as to who will walk away with the C.W. Badenhausen Trophy at this year’s State Open Championship at Alpine Country Club. One thing is certain, however. The champion will possess a superb short game.
Alpine is hosting only its second Open Championship in the 88 year history of the event. Since the last engagement in 1989, won by Steve Sieg, the course has undergone restoration work by golf architect Ron Forse. Most of this work focused on rebuilding and restoring bunkers, but several new tees were constructed to add some teeth to this short Tillinghast classic. But length aside, conquering Alpine will come down to play around the greens, as it always has at Alpine. Alpine’s green complexes are some of the most challenging in the State. Its small, undulating greens, surrounded by heavy and deep bunkering, will place a premium on the golfer’s iron play and short game. Placing approach shots on the correct part of the greens will be paramount in managing Alpine’s fast and hilly greens. And did we say the greens will be fast?
The Open field is deep in professional and amateur contenders. Perennial favorite Frank Esposito, Jr. of Brooklake is a past Open champion, runner-up and multiple NJPGA champion. The only local PGA Professional to earn a berth in this year’s PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, Esposito’s steady play should be suited for Alpine.
Other notables from the professional ranks include Brian Gaffney of Rumson, this year’s NJPGA Charity Classic champion, who contended in last year’s Open Championship at Plainfield, finishing third; Bill Britton of Twin Brook, who played in this year’s Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill and finished T-16; Mark Schaare of Glenwood, who won the Rockaway River Charity Clambake in June; Chris Dachisen of North Jersey; and Greg Baker of Rockaway River.
Past Open champions in the field include Ed Whitman of Knickerbocker, a four-time champion; David Glenz of Crystal Springs, another four-time champion; Russ Helwig of Essex Fells; Baker Maddera of Rock Spring; John DiMarco of Laurel Creek; Greg Farrow of Deerwood; Gary Ostrega of Hyatt Hills; Jason Lamp of Deal, the 2006 champion; Charlie Cowell of Forest Hill; and Esposito, Dachisen, and Sieg.
Could the amateur ranks produce another winner? Defending champion Brian Komline, a two-time winner of the Open Championship, will be looking for his third title. Only one other amateur, Chet Sanok, has won two NJ State Opens. See the June issue of NJSGA Golf for great stories on these two legendary amateur players.
Other amateurs who possess the game to contend include Bill McGuinness of Tavistock, a multiple State Amateur champion and runner-up at the 1994 Open; Tom Gramigna of Tavistock, the reigning State Amateur champion and three-time Mid-Amateur champion; Michael Stamberger of Plainfield, the reigning Mid-Amateur champion; Marc Issler of Pine Barrens, who contended in last year’s Open; and Chris Gold of Little Mill, the 2006 State Amateur champion. All in all, 57 amateurs are competing in this year’s Open.
The host club contingent includes Alpine’s Director of Golf Kevin Syring, club champion Adam Kugler and amateur Jay Green, who qualified at Knickerbocker.
Perhaps a dark horse will emerge from the field of 130 competitors? Alpine, with its emphasis on shot making and not power, just might allow this to happen.