Plainfield Will Host Premier Field For 97th Met Open
ELMSFORD, N.Y. (August 15, 2012)– There was a good reason why this year’s Met Open Championship sponsored by MetLife attracted a near-record entry of 842 professionals and amateurs, second-highest of all time. In fact, there are 18 good reasons, and they are the outstanding holes at this year’s host site, Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J. The Donald Ross gem, recently restored by 2016 Olympics golf course architect Gil Hanse, will provide an outstanding test when the 140 top Met Area professionals and amateurs tee it up in the 97th Met Open, to be held Tuesday, August 21 through Thursday, August 23.
Headlining the field in one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious regional open championships are 17 past champions, including the last seven. Tyler Hall of Packanack will return to defend his 2011 title, which he won with a clutch final-round 67 at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough, N.Y. Also returning are 2010 champion Bob Rittberger of Garden City Golf Club, Andrew Giuliani (’09) of Trump National, Mark Mielke (’08, '92) of Mill River, Frank Bensel (’07) of Century, John Guyton (’06) of Metropolis, and John Stoltz (’05) of Concord Monster.
Plainfield last hosted the Met Open in 1997, an event won by Mike Burke Jr. of Montammy, who also happens to be the reigning MGA Senior Open champion. Burke is joined in the field by two other men who have had notable MGA success at Plainfield: Bill Britton of Trump National-Colts Neck, who won the 1979 Met Open and 1976 Met Amateur at the club; and 1987 Met Open champion Jim McGovern of White Beeches, whose last major amateur triumph, the 1988 Met Amateur, came at Plainfield.
Rounding out the past champions are two-time winners Bobby Heins (’89, ‘88) of Old Oaks and Bruce Zabiriski (’96, ’93) of Westchester, who will vie for a rare third win. One of those three-time Met Open winners, Darrell Kestner (’95, '83, '82) of Deepdale, is fresh off an appearance at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island and will look to join Alex Smith as the championship’s only other four-time winner.
Also returning from Kiawah Island and the PGA Championship are 2010 Met Open runner-up Dan Balin of Burning Tree (who also tied for third in the 2011 Met Open), 2012 National Club Pro winner Matt Dobyns of Fresh Meadow, 1999 winner Mark Brown of Tam O’Shanter, and Brian Gaffney of Rumson, who also competed at the U.S. Open at Olympic Club. Taking a break from his hectic Web.com Tour schedule, familiar face Morgan Hoffmann of Arcola, the 2005 Carter Cup champion and 2008 Ike runner-up, is expected to play and will try to improve over his T-6 finish from last year.
Family bragging rights are also at stake during the 97th Met Open. Two father/son duos are in the field, including the popular U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying story ofSuburban Golf Club head pro Mark McCormick (who advanced to the U.S. Open) and his 20-year-old son Ryan McCormick, winner of the this year’s Met Amateur, NJSGA Amateur, and NYC Amateur. In addition, Sleepy Hollow head professional David Young and his 15-year-old son Cameron Young will test their games at Plainfield. The latter Young comes in with three Met Area victories this year and is fresh off back-to-back 5-under 66s that backboned the MGA’s four-man junior team to a second consecutive Williamson Cup victory in Delaware. Another family storyline is 2012 Westchester Open winner Mike Ballo Jr. of Woodway, who is joined by younger brother Peter Ballo.
The Met Open was a regular stop on the professional tour prior to World War II, and the list of past winners includes all-time greats such as Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, and Craig Wood. The 54-hole championship is contested at stroke play, with the field cut after the second round to the low 60 and ties and anyone within eight strokes of the leader. The purse of $150,000 — with $27,500 going to the winner — is the largest in the Met Area.
Although only seven amateurs have ever hoisted the Walker Trammell Trophy, there are a number of hot players this year that could certainly make it happen again. In addition to McCormick and Young, reigning MGA Player of the Year and 2011 Met Amateur champion Mike Miller of Knollwood will be at Plainfield, fresh off a second appearance in match play at the U.S. Amateur and in the midst of another standout season. Same goes for 2012 Met Amateur stroke play medalist Brian Komline of Black Oak, the 2010 MGA/MetLife Public Links champion. Pat Wilson of Panther Valley, a teammate of McCormick at St. John’s University, recently competed in the U.S. Amateur and has been a top-10 machine all season long. Last year’s low amateur and 2010 Senior Open winner John Ervasti of Sleepy Hollow is exempt into the championship, while Sam Bernstein of Century, who was the medalist at the North Hills sectional qualifier, is no stranger to low rounds.
This is the first time an MGA championship is returning to Plainfield Country Club since Andrew Giuliani captured the 2005 Ike. In the past, the masterfully designed par-72 layout has hosted four Met Opens, five Met Amateurs, and one French-American Challenge. It was also the host of the 1978 U.S. Amateur, 1987 U.S. Women’s Open and last year’s Barclays, won in three rounds (shortened due to weather) by Dustin Johnson. For the Met Open, the MGA will reverse the nines at Plainfield, and the natural amphitheater surrounding the green of the uphill, par-4 18th hole will serve as a fitting end to the championship.
There is no doubt that Plainfield’s incomparable history and knack for identifying deserving champions will make it a special site for the 97th Met Open. For complete coverage throughout Met Open week, please visit mgagolf.org, follow our Twitter and Facebook feeds, and download the My MGA mobile app for live updates.