By Jack Persons
PITTSFORD, N.Y. (June 10, 2014) -- While the golf world focuses on the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, 78 strong amateur players will keep their heads down and vie to become the Monroe Invitational champion.
The Monroe, now in its 74th year, is held annually at Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, N.Y. and begins Wednesday with first-round action.
Designed by Donald Ross, the course mixes tight, tree-lined fairways with tough green complexes to give these top players a true test. The course dealt with an extremely difficult winter, as the ground froze the roots of many of the greens. The grounds crew has been hard at work, however, and though they may bounce a little softer and roll a little slower than normal, the crew is confident they will be in perfect shape come tomorrow’s opening of play.
"The greens are a little soft," said Auburn's Daniel Stringfellow. "You can definitely be a little more aggressive around and into the greens."
A strong contingent of college and mid-amateur players have arrived for the tournament, making up the one of the stronger fields in years.
Gavin Hall of the University of Texas leads the field of contenders and also happens to be the hometown favorite.
Hall grew up in nearby Pittsford and learned the game at Mendon Golf Club. The lefty is best known for qualifying for the 2013 U.S. Open after birdieing his last four holes in sectional qualifying. He most recently helped the Longhorns to a 13th place finish in the NCAA Championship.
Anthony Maccaglia of Oglethorpe University is another strong contender this week. He was recently chosen to be a member of the United States' Palmer Cup squad, and will compete against Team Great Britain and Ireland at the end of the month at Walton Heath Golf Club in England.
Defending champion Nick Palladino the University of Rochester, also nearby, returns again this year. In last year's playing, Palladino shot 4-under 206 and defeated Duke's Motin Yeung in a playoff.
Corey Conners of Kent State is also in the field this week. He finished tied for third at Monroe in 2013, and has been on fire since then, making it to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur and winning the Jones Cup.
Garrett Rank of Canada leads the mid-amateur contenders entering the event. Rank won medalist honors at last year's U.S. Amateur Public Links and was runner-up at the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur.
The tournament begins Wednesday and features 72 holes of stroke play with no cut.
As the week goes on, the greens will continue to heal, players will battle, and nerves will be tested.
And by Saturday, one of these players will join the likes of Chris DiMarco, Dustin Johnson, and Jeff Sluman as Monroe's next worthy champ.
AmateurGolf.com will have coverage following each day through Saturday’s final round.