Maryland State Am: Warnquist is Medalist for Match Play
Columbia Country Club has a new competitive course record<br>(MSGA photo)
Columbia Country Club has a new competitive course record
(MSGA photo)

CHEVY CHASE, MD (June 9, 2017) - The major excitement in on-site qualifying for the 96th Maryland State Amateur Championship was generated at opposite ends of what became the 32-man draw. Ben Warnquist, the 2015 medalist/champion from Manor Country Club, blitzed the fieldwith a course-record 34-31–65 at Columbia Country Club to easily claim themedal, and Austin Barbin, from the Chesapeake Bay GC, survived what started as a14-for-1 playoff to earn the final spot in the bracket.

With all 131 players tackling the 6,615-yard course on Connecticut Avenue fromthe first tee, Warnquist was 1 over par for the first six holes before takingcharge of his game. He birdied the seventh and ninth holes, then more thanoffset one bogey with five birdies on the back, including a 16-17-18 finish.

“I hit it well — that was the key,” he said of his round against a par of35-35–70. “I just tried to keep it in play. It was hard to judge the wind[which blew steadily on a sunny and mild day] so I was concerned with ballflight and keeping the ball below the hole [on the slick greens].”

His 65, five shots clear of his closest pursuer, bettered the previous course record of66, a mark achieved by seven players in the past. It was also one stroke shy of Josh Eure’s qualifying record of 64, set at Chartwell CC in 2012, the year he won the championship.

When Benton Weinberg and Patrick McCormick, the final pairing, posted 72 and 71, respectively, this time, there was defender Tyler Herriott, an automatic at the top of the draw, and 30 other players at 74 and better. With one of the 75’s failing to start, the other 13 played the par-3 16th twice, which took care of eight the first time and one the second. At the par-4 17th, Barbin was the only one of four to make par.

Barbin, 16, a junior at Red Lion Christian School, hit the 16th green the first time and two-putted for his par. The second time, his drive almost went into the pond guarding the green but stopped on the slope and he managed to chip up and hole a 15-foot putt. At 17, which features a severely elevated green, he missed the green, chipped to 25 feet and watched his downhill putt curl into the hole.

His reward, like the 32’s before him, was a 7 a.m. (June 9) start against the defender, Herriott, who plays from Old South CC. A year ago, at the Elkridge Club, he defeated Connor Flach in the final. Flach, from Turf Valley CC, made it this time with a 74.

Ben Shields, from Pine Ridge GC, returned 36-34–70, and said “It might have been my best putting round ever.” Even though he missed a couple of short putts early, and had two 3-putts in the tour, he also made it from 15 feet above the hole on No. 9 and from 20 feet below on No. 10. At 12, his ball hit short and rolled to the back fringe, from where he drained it. And, at 16, from pine straw on the left, he chipped to 20 feet, barely tapped his downhill bid and watched it roll right into the center of cup.

Among the pursuers, Cabe Prieskorn, Eisenhower GC, was -1 for 13 holes before slipping back to finish at 71; Nick Barrett, from Turf Valley Resort, was -1 for the last 14 to finish at 71; Nick Sorkin, Lakewood CC, bogeyed 1-2 and played the last 16 even for 72, while Brett Williams of Baltimore CC, a finalist in 2011, had 17 pars and a double-bogey, also for 72.

The hole of the day, particularly for Weinberg and McCormick, might have been No. 5, a 535-yard par-5. Weinberg, from TPC Potomac at Avenel, had 230 in, hit a 4-iron shot to 30 feet and the uphill breaker fell into the hole for an eagle-3. McCormick, was just in front of him with 214 in, also hit 4-iron to six feet and sheepishly admitted he missed it and settled for a birdie.

There were six former champions in the field and four made it to match play — Nocar, Herriott, Warnquist, and Billy Wingerd. Missing out were Mark Cusic and Mike Mulieri.

Four rounds conducted June 9 and June 10, will reduce the draw to the two finalists for a scheduled 36-hole match June 11.

Reported by John Stewart

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ABOUT THE Maryland State Amateur

This tournament is open to male amateurs who are residents of Maryland or members of member clubs of the MSGA with an up-to-date USGA index at that club. 18 hole qualifying rounds will be held for those who do not meet exemption criteria. 18 holes of stroke play will determine the match play field of 32, with the defending champion automatically qualifying unless he elects to compete for the Medalist prize.

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