'Agronomic issues' shorten Open qualifier to 17 holes

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A U.S. Open local qualifier at Bethpage State Park's Red Course was shortened to 17 holes earlier this week because of what the Metropolitan Golf Association termed "agronomic issues."

The course in Farmingdale, N.Y., normally plays as a par-70, but during the May 14 qualifier it was reduced to a 17-hole, par-67 layout because the green on the par-3 fourth hole was deemed unfit for use.

Bethpage Red was announced by the USGA as one of 111 local qualifying sites on Feb. 23. Brian Mahoney, the MGA's managing director of rules and competition, said via e-mail that several courses in the area suffered from "winter kill" this offseason, and that officials first became aware of the issues on the Red Course during an April 9 site visit.

"At that time the night temperatures were still cold enough that it was difficult to predict how quickly the turf was going to recover," Mahoney wrote. "On April 27 we received reports that the green had not made any significant progress. At that time we contacted the USGA to discuss recourse."

Because the issue was isolated to a single green, Mahoney said the MGA and USGA felt that finding an alternative venue for the qualifier was "unnecessary." He added that a 17-hole, stipulated round was both permitted within the rules and "our only realistic option." Participants were notified of the circumstances on April 30, the day after entries closed.

On May 11, three days before the qualifier, officials noted that the green "had recovered." Because most players had not played the hole during a practice round - and because the green might still be in a different condition than the other 17 holes - Mahoney said that reducing the qualifier to 17 holes remained "the most equitable solution."

Kevin Ausserlechner earned medalist honors with a 17-hole score of 5-under 62, while there was a 3-for-1 playoff at 1-under 66. Tyler Jaramillo grabbed the seventh qualifier spot from the 120-man field, while amateurs Johnny Schob and Sean Cavanaugh were first and second alternates, respectively.