Southwest Florida golf: Bobby Clampett leads Naples qualifiers after six-way playoff
Bobby Clampett had to wait for his chance to advance toward the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
But it was more than worth it for the 59-year-old seeking to qualify for the first time in 19 years.
Clampett, the founder of Impact Zone Golf with headquarters and an academy in Naples, and four others survived a six-way playoff for five spots Friday morning at Eagle Creek Golf & Country Club.
Clampett has worked as a golf analyst for CBS Sports from 1991-2006, and done so online and streaming at tournaments since then, including the Masters.
So the fact Clampett not only made it out of the qualifier, but did so at the unofficial home of legendary CBS Sports golf analyst and Marco Island resident Ken Venturi, made it even more meaningful. Clampett took a photo of himself with bust of Venturi, who died in 2013, at the course earlier in the week and sent it to lead CBS golf announcer Jim Nantz.
"It was very emotional for me," Clampett said of the whole experience. "I'm not training. I'm not practicing. I haven't competed in five years, so to have found that spark (Thursday) on the back nine to have done that was really emotional. To get through the playoff, I must admit, I had a few tears in my eyes."
Clampett wasn't going to try to qualify, but his wife Marianna and former caddie Mike Chapman pushed him to do so. Chapman kept telling him Clampett was going to try it, and that he was going to caddie for him.
Thursday, the Bonita Springs resident fired a 4-under-par 68 and thought he'd make it as one of five to advance from the local qualifier. But first a three-hour weather delay, and then a sixth 68 meant a playoff. And then more weather late Thursday meant a return Friday morning for the six-way playoff for five spots.
Clampett, Naples' Justin Ahasic, Cape Coral's Connor Arendell, India's Rigel Fernandes and Miami's Landon Michelson all parred the first playoff hole, the 18th, and Port Charlotte's David Hronek bogeyed to end the playoff.
The five qualifiers advanced to sectional qualifiers next month, leaving them 36 holes from the Open. Hronek is first alternate, and Patrick Williams, who had a 69, is the second alternate.
Two area club professionals who qualified for the PGA Championship in the PGA Professional Championship earlier this month were trying to go for their second major. Hideout's Justin Bertsch came up three strokes short with a 71 and Royal Poinciana's Andrew Filbert had a 74.
Clampett made it in 2000 — after getting into the sectional qualifier as a fourth alternate and shooting 9 under — and tied for 37th, also at Pebble Beach. He'll try to recapture that 2000 magic by playing at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, once again. Ahasic will go to Streamsong in central Florida, and Arendell will go to Ball Ground, Georgia. All are on Monday, June 3
In the playoff, Hronek, the head pro at Bobcat Trail in North Port, hit the first approach shot, and put it in the bunker left on the dogleg left with water left of the green.
Michelson, a 27-year-old who played at Rice and on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, was in the right fairway bunker, but hit it to 20 feet. Ahasic's approach landed in the bunker to the right of the green.
"They only had one (medalist) medal (Thursday) and they gave it to me," Ahasic said. "You're thinking giving me the medalist medal was a little jinx."
Clampett was left with 50 feet after his approach from the left rough, Fernandes put it to 30 feet from the middle of the fairway, and Arendell put it to 15 feet.
Ahasic was the first to play, and hit a good bunker shot to 10 feet. Clampett left his long putt about five feet short, then Hronek's bunker shot stopped in the fringe about 12 feet away. Fernandes, a 22-year-old who played at USF, ran his a few feet past the hole, and Michelson put his a few inches long.
Hronek missed his par putt, and Arendell's birdie try stopped just short. Ahasic made his par putt, then Clampett, Fernandes, and Michelson did likewise to end it.
"I was shaking a little bit over the putt, so it's fun to make a putt when you're shaking," said Ahasic, 38, who runs Synergy Golf and also is the Gulf Coast High School girls golf coach.
Ahasic credited working with Gulf Coast boys coach Kimberly Benedict on his short game for the results on the bunker shot and the putt. This will be his first sectional qualifying appearance.
"I've had some epic failures at local, so it's exciting, first time to go do it," he said.
"Everyone was kind of not super-close to the hole for par," said the 29-year-old Arendell, who is playing qualifiers on the Web.com Tour after losing his status last year. "I knew once (Hronek) two-putted and made bogey, I just had to two-putt from 15 feet. That was nice not having to make it, so that made it easier."
Clampett had a lot going through his mind standing over his par putt.
"A lot of flashbacks to even on the Champions Tour, but even back on the tour to win tournaments or big putts to make the cut or get second alone or something," Clampett said. "It's like I told Justin when he said he couldn't believe how nervous he was on that putt for par. If you're not nervous, you're not human."
Now Clampett is 36 holes from "home" as he calls Pebble Beach.
"I've probably played it 500 times," he said. "I've never lost a match on it, from high school and amateur days, and I won two state amateurs. I won professional tournaments there. I finished third in the Open in '82 there behind (Tom) Watson and (Jack) Nicklaus. There's a lot of history there."
And Clampett has a chance to be a part of more of it.
U.S. Open local qualifier
at Eagle Creek Golf & Country Club
x-1. Connor Arendell, Cape Coral, 68; x-1. Bobby Clampett, Naples, 68; x-1. Justin Ahasic, Naples, 68; x-1. Rigel Fernandes, India, 68; x-1. Landon Michelson, Miami, 68
x-won on first hole of sudden death playoff
First — David Hronek, Port Charlotte, 68; Second — Patrick Williams, Canada, 69
70 — Kristian Caparros, Southwest Ranches; Ryan Celano (a), Naples; Michael Welch, Naples; Richard O'Hanlon, England; Ryan Zylstra, Canada; Mike Andre, Fort Myers
71 — Ryan Cole, Mount Airy, Md.; Matt Hutchins, Naples; Stephen Thomas, Canada; Jon McDonald, Estero; Justin Bertsch, Naples
72 — Alex Andrews, Kirtland, Ohio; Tyler Cline, Naples; James Tureskis (a), Naples; Chris Kennedy, Sarasota; Walter Gieselman (a), Naples; Piri Borja, Coral Springs; Charles Merzbacher, Dublin, Ohio
73 — Brandon Meltzer, Boca Raton; Carl Santos-Ocampo (a), Naples; Morgan Dobbins, Fort Myers; Sam Robertshawe, England
74 — Justin McCarraher, Fort Myers; Bogle Larue, Knoxville, Tenn.; Sean Jacklin, Scotland; Remi Chartier (a), Naples; Andrew Filbert, Naples
75 — Jeremy Nevius, Mountainside, N.J.; C.J. Swift, Naples; Patrick Doyle, Naples; Jordan Burke, Babcock Ranch; Austin Schultz (a), Fort Myers; Steven Cuzzort, Cookeville, Tenn.
76 — Jonah Manning (a), Fort Myers; Joshua Brunet, Naples; Ronald Ryan, Naples; Gyles Robin, England
77 — J.C. Anderson, Bonita Springs; Spencer Mellon, Palm Beach Gardens; Jon Balyeat, Naples; Matthew Leiti, Naples; Ricky Casko, Palm Beach Gardens; Kaleb Johnson (a), Naples; Jonathan Lowrey, Fort Myers; Juan Rodriguez, Naples
78 — Rob Thorngate (a), Naples; David Guy, Cape Coral; Chase Bigham (a), Naples
79 — Jamison Dicus (a), Fort Myers; Kyle Raburn (a), Bonita Springs
80 — Michael Heller, Berwick, Pa.; Robert De Paz (a), Miami; Mason Harper (a), Douglas, Ga.
82 — Nathan Miller, Westerville, Ohio
83 — Mark Iwinski (a), Fort Myers; Gary Shea, Naples; Jordan Evans (a), Sarasota; Adam Crisp, North Fort Myers
84 — Travis Snyder, Fort Myers
85 — Michael Balliet, Naples
87 — Oliver Fisher (a), Rye Brook, N.Y.
88 — Emilio Mariconda, England; Sean McGinness, Estero
115 — Randall Peters (a), Naples
WD — Stefano Butti (a), Palm City; Jayson Iten (a), Naples; Jake Sherwin (a), Cape Coral; Andrew Peoples (a), Orlando; Craig Hicks, Canada; Joshua Braverman (a), Naples; Zachary Hammerberg, Adel, Iowa; Jake Daly, Cincinnati
NC — Sam Venuti (a), Bonita Springs; Jose Luis Montano, Bolivia; Cody Olson, Naples; Daniel O'Rourke, Milford, N.J.; Shane Reynolds (a), Fort Myers
NS — Heath Slocum, Alpharetta, Ga.
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