Waterford Castle amateur Kevin Phelan will have a chance to qualify for the US Open for the second year in a row.
The 20-year old scholarship student at the University of North Florida was one of just four players to advance to the Sectional Qualifiers - the final qualifying stage - when he finished second in a controversial Local Qualifying tournament at Sawgrass Country Club in Jacksonville on Monday.
Amateur Sean Dale of Jacksonville shot a three under 69 to lead the qualifiers by a shot from Phelan but could be disqualified by the USGA if they rule that he used a non-conforming wedge on two shots during his round.
Initially told his wedge was nonconforming he was later told to ship the club to the USGA, where it will be tested to see if the grooves are too deep.
According to Gary Smitts in the Florida Times Union, Dale only bought the new wedge because his original club was illegal for professional competition:
A Titleist Vokey lob wedge that Dale had purchased at an area retail store over the weekend — and which he used for two shots during the round — was ruled non-conforming under the 2010 United States Golf Association ban of square-grooved wedges.
One of Dale’s playing partners pointed it out and tournament officials called the Florida State Golf Association, which disqualified Dale after hearing a description of the wedge over the phone.
Initially, it was believed that unless the wedge had the letters “CC” stamped on the hosel (conditions of competition), it was non-conforming.
However, at the urging of Dale’s coach at the University of North Florida, Scott Schroeder, tournament chairman Tommy Dudley called USGA manager for equipment standards Carter Rich at the organization’s headquarters in Far Hills, N.J., for clarification of the FSGA ruling.
Walker Cup hopeful Phelan faces no such problems and now has a chance to join defending champion Graeme McDowell at Congressional Country Club near Washington DC from June 13-16.
After qualifying through the local and sectional route to reach the US Open at Pebble Beach last year, he’s keen to get back after missing the cut on his major debut.
“Once you get to a US Open, you always want to get back,” Phelan said after his two under 70 in one of 111 Local Qualifying tournaments. “But I tried to keep that out of my mind. You start looking ahead on this course, and it’s going to bite you.”
Claremorris’ Stephen Healy, a golf scholarship student at Jacksonville University, is second alternate for one of 11 Sectional Qualifiers on June 6 after carding a level par 72 at the Sawgrass Country Club event. He could become first alternate if Dale gets bad news from the USGA.
There also was a controversy over the Florida State Golf Association’s pace-of-play policy, which requires groups to not only finish their rounds in a given time, but finish within 15 minutes of the group ahead of them on both nines.
Six players in two groups didn’t make the deadline of four hours, 40 minutes to complete 18 holes and were more than 15 minutes behind the group ahead of them.
They included third placed qualifier Brian Harman, who had his 70 changed to a 71 with the one-stroke penalty.
Kerry’s Sean Quinlivan qualified for the Sectional qualifiers last week when he shot a 70 to finish third in Local Qualifying at Glen Head Country Club in New York.