GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (Aug. 28, 2012)- Following a nearly 24-hour weather suspension, more than half of the original 168-player field returned to Garden City Country Club to either complete or begin their first rounds at the 16th MGA Senior Open Championship. When play was finally complete, 2004 Senior Open champion Ed Whitman of Knickerbocker stormed out to the 18-hole lead with a sensational 5-under 65 on the 6,559-yard, par-70 layout. Whitman, 59, went out in 1-under 34 and came home in 4-under 31 to best the talented field of professionals and amateurs aged 50 and older.
“I struggled with my ballstriking but my putting was phenomenal today,” said Whitman. “Putting saved the day. I enjoy being in the lead, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Whitman said he waited out the storms on Long Island rather than making the drive back to New Jersey, and hit practice balls at the Eisenhower Park golf range in nearby East Meadow. Nipping at Whitman’s heels is a plethora of accomplished pros and amateurs, including Jack Druga of Shinnecock Hills, Peter Busch of Galloping Hills, Charles Bolling of Glen Cove, and Mal Galletta Jr., all who finished with impressive 2-under 68s. Galletta, who shot three strokes lower than his age, said he found something in his putting that spurred him to his round today.
“I hit a three hybrid on the [par-three] second hole to four feet to get me going,” he said. “I was figuring about a 72 or 73, but then I started to putt well. I haven’t been in contention since 1999, so it was good to get it going.”
Play on Tuesday was initially scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m., but steady overnight and morning rain made the course unplayable, forcing officials to suspend the round until 12:30 p.m. The grounds crew at Garden City was able to get the course back into immaculate shape before players teed off.
Forty-four players survived the cut of 74, including 18 amateurs and three former MGA Senior Open winners.
Just four strokes off the lead are Sean Garrityof Griff Harris, Kevin Syring of Alpine, and 2009 MGA Senior Amateur champion Al Small of Fairmount, who are tied for sixth after solid 1-under 69s.
“This is such a fun golf course and it was set up perfectly fair,” said Small. “I know tomorrow it will be a bit tougher, so if we can go out and break par tomorrow maybe we’ll have a shot at it.”
Dennis Lynch is five shots backTwo-time MGA Mid-Amateur champion and 2011 Carey Cup team member Dennis Lynch of Nassau Players, who is competing in his first Senior Open, along with defending champion Mike Burke Jr. of Montammy and two-time MGA Senior Amateur champion Ron Vannelli of Metuchen, are five off the lead at even-par 70.
Others in the hunt include 12-time MGA championJerry Courville Jr. ofShorehaven, Peter Meurer of Staten Island Practice Facility, Tom Sutter of Dunwoodie, and amateurs Jamie Shapiro of Engineers and Mike Buccolo of Brookville are tied for 12th after 1-over 71s.
Notable players who failed to make the cut include two-time MGA Senior Open winner Bobby Heins of Old Oaks (75), 2012 Senior Amateur runner-up Tom Trakoval of Port Jefferson (75), 2007 Senior Open winner Bruce Zabriski of Westchester, and two-time Met Open champion Mark Mielke of Mill River.
View results for Metropolitan Golf Association Senior Open Golf Championship