It has not been an easy decision for Rob McClellan, the head golf professional at Butler Country Club.
After missing by a shot of landing one of the three available spots in a U.S. Open local qualifier at Westmoreland Country Club May 9, McClellan thought his chance of getting to the national championship was over. But, the United States Golf Association called him last week and told him he had a spot in a 36-hole sectional qualifier in Columbus, Ohio Monday as an alternate.
The second chance was something of a dream for McClellan. The U.S. Open is at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., where in 1971, Butler native and Knoch High School graduate Jim Simons nearly became the first amateur since 1933 to win the U.S. Open.
Simons, a junior at Wake Forest at the time, was paired in the final group with Jack Nicklaus and was leading the championship with nine holes to play. But, needing a birdie at the final hole to join Nicklaus and Lee Trevino in a Monday playoff, Simons made double bogey and finished tied for fifth.
Forty-two years later, Simons' memory still lingers at the club where McClellan works. Simons died in December 2005 at age of 55, but his father, Ralph, and several of his old friends are still members at Butler.
"They told me the stories how he almost won the Open," McClellan said.
Now McClellan, a Butler native who went to Butler High School, has been given a chance to bring some of Simons' memory back to Merion.
Sure, he would have to make it through the qualifier at a site where many of the PGA Tour players will be competing after the Memorial. But if he did? The irony, and the story line, would be almost too monumental to believe.
"You don't get many chances to play an Open at Merion," McClellan said.
But it's not that simple.
Since finding out he received a spot in the qualifier, McClellan has been torn between going to Columbus for a shot at Merion or staying home and competing in the two-day Tri-State Open at New Castle Country Club that also begins Monday. The reason: McClellan is the defending champ and feels obligated to return to defend his title in one of the biggest tournaments on the Tri-State PGA section schedule.
"I just feel like I should," McClellan said.
So McClellan has waited as long as he could, and might wait even longer, to make a decision. He has a scheduled tee time in both events and will have to decide sometime today, especially if he wants to get to Columbus in time for the sectional qualifier.
"How many chances are you going to get to play the U.S. Open at Merion?" McClellan said. "But you also have to shoot two career rounds to make it. There are a lot of variables."
The three qualifiers from the Westmoreland site -- Dan Obremski of Irwin, Nevillewood director of instruction Kevin Shields and Mount Pleasant native Dan Konieczny -- will compete at different sites for the U.S. Open sectional qualifier.
Obremski and Konieczny will be at Woodmont CC in Rockville, Md. Shields will compete in Columbus at Brookside and The Lakes.
Amateur Sebastian Hutman of Conneaut Lake, whose stepfather is a member at Oakmont CC, will compete in a sectional qualifier in Purchase, N.Y. Hutman tied for low honors with Canadian PGA Tour player Mark Hoffman at a local qualifier at Grove City CC.
A somewhat bizarre situation occurred last week during a league at Scenic Valley Golf Course in Finleyville, forcing the players to scramble for the rule book.
According to Nick Lippert of Library, who plays in the league, a group was putting on the green of a 285-yard par 4. When one of the players stroked his putt, his ball was struck by a ball from one of the players who just teed off on the same hole.
Amazingly, the ball that belonged to the player on the tee ricocheted off the ball that was putted and went into the hole, seemingly for a hole in one.
"What would the ruling be on this?" Lippert said in an email to the Post-Gazette.
After checking with the West Penn Golf Association, the player who teed off and had his ball carom into the hole is indeed credited with a hole-in-one, according to Rule 19-5b. That rule states, "If a player's ball in motion after a stroke is deflected or stopped by another ball in motion after a stroke, the player must play his ball as it lies." In this case, in the cup.
The player who stroked his putt and had his ball collide with an incoming shot gets to replace his ball and putt again from the original spot, without penalty, according to Rule 19-1b. That rule states that "if a ball in motion after a stroke on the putting green is deflected or stopped" by any moving or outside agency, "the stroke is cancelled. The ball must be replaced and the stroke replayed."
My mail bag
Some of the questions that were tweeted to me last week:
Q: Since Pennsylvania is known more for football, do you think the state is underrated for its beautiful golf courses, i.e., Oakmont and Merion (@zmanJam).
A: To a certain extent, you might be right. Not many states boast two U.S. Open courses with so much history. Maybe not even California (Olympic, Pebble Beach) or New York (Winged Foot, Shinnecock).
Q: What difference does the "bounce" have on wedges? (@BriMorris1)
A: It can have a lot, if you pay attention to the course conditions and the result of your shots. Wedges with a lot of bounce (those with a higher number) are tougher to control on firm courses and tight sand because they are more likely to "bounce" off the surface. Conversely, wedges with less bounce will dig more in soft, wet conditions or in fluffy sand.
Q: Who are your U.S Open picks for this year at Merion? (@chunkinaround2)
A: Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan.
Dissa and data
The 17th annual Steelers Alumni Golf Classic, presented by 84 Lumber, is July 29 at Diamond Run GC. The event, in memory of former center Ray Mansfield, benefits the Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh. A limited number of twosome and foursomes are available. For information, call Cindy Smith 412-368-4400, Ext. 2208. ... Treesdale head professional Joe Boros, an All-American golfer at Clarion from 1982-84, was inducted to the Pennsylvania State Sports Hall of Fame, Western Chapter. Boros, a native of Emlenton, Pa., and graduate of A.C. Valley High School, was the first golfer at Clarion to be inducted into the school's Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. ...The Wheeling Jesuit University's 24th annual Cardinal Athletic Club Scramble is Thursday at the Palmer Course at Speidel Golf Club, Oglebay Resort, Wheeling, W.Va. For information about entering a team, individual golfers or sponsorship opportunities, contact Erin Ball at the WJU Athletic Department, 304-243-2053. ... The Senior Players Championship needs volunteers. To register, go to cspgolf.com.
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter: @gerrydulac. Listen to "The Golf Show with Gerry Dulac" every Thursday, 7-8:30 p.m., on 970 ESPN.