It was a special day for the Watchung Valley Golf Club in Watchung when qualifying for the 117th NJSGA Amateur Championship was conducted on the course on Tuesday, June 12.
“We just completed a four-year restoration project 10 days ago that was a sympathetic restoration of the entire golf course. It’s the first event since the completion of the renovation, so we’re excited to see how the course plays against some of the state’s best amateurs,” said Restoration Chairman David Cronheim.
The course, playing at par-71 and 6,549 yards, proved to be a stern test for the field of 110 golfers. The low 20 scores and ties advanced to the 117th State Amateur Championship – presented by Provident Bank – to be played July 10-12 at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield.
Even the golfers who advanced to the Amateur Championship could not break par in the third and final amateur qualifier of the year. Jeffrey Li of New Jersey National, Nathan Drogin of Mountain Ridge and Sean Vowells of Canoe Brook shared medalist honors at one-over-par 72.
“It’s fun to see how the golfers are playing against the golf course and how they fare against the course where architect George Waters and I designed the shot values,” Cronheim said. “It’s a very strategic golf course. Aggressive tee shots set up good angles that reward people who can play the ball on the ground.
“We’d love to attract the top-flight amateur and professional events here, such as the State Amateur and the State Open,” he said.
The club was originally founded in 1898 in North Plainfield as The Park Club. It moved to its current site in 1927 as the Hydewood Country Club. It was renamed Watchung Valley Country Club in 1928 when the Plainfield Courier newspaper compared it to Baltusrol Golf Club for its beauty and championship layout. It was renamed it Twin Brooks Country Club in 1933.
The club was purchased by the Cronheim family in 1943. In 2017, the club restored the “Watchung Valley” name to reflect the restoration of the course. 2017 also witnessed a complete overhaul of the clubhouse, with a new dining room, tap room (bar), and fireside lounge.
As the work has progressed, the experts have begun to take notice. In addition to being awarded the 2017 NJSGA Junior, the club is proud to have been nominated for Golf Digest’s prestigious “Remodel of the Year” award and as a “Best in State” candidate for New Jersey.
"The bunkers are well placed and well thought out," said Gregg Angelillo, two-time club champion at Baltusrol.
“The renovation work is excellent. The course challenges your shot making ability and your sight lines. The overall condition of the golf course was excellent. The lies were fair, the cuts were even and the green speeds were consistent throughout the golf course. The tree removal was well done and thoughtful. I love the fact that there is more circulation throughout the course,” said Angelillo, who won the 2007 NJSGA Four-Ball Championship with Mike Deo of Black Oak.