Ike Championship Preview
ELMSFORD, N.Y. (June 17, 2008) – An outstanding field has been finalized for the 53rd Ike Championship presented by Canon USA, which will be held next Monday and Tuesday, June 23 and 24, at Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, New Jersey. This is the first time that the Ike, the MGA Stroke Play Championship, will be held at Mountain Ridge. Designed by Donald Ross, the 7,057-yard, par-71 course is a classic layout that has long been considered one of the top five courses in New Jersey, and was listed as one of the top 20 golf courses in the entire Met Area in a recent ranking done by The Met Golfer. It will challenge this impressive field of players with difficult greens that place an emphasis on accurate approach shots and course management.
When play begins on June 23, it will be without defending champion George Zahringer III. With the absence of five-time champion Zahringer, all eyes will turn to a talented group of collegiate players led by New Jersey’s own Morgan Hoffmann (above), a former Carter Cup champion and one of the top junior players in the nation. Hoffmann, who will be a freshman at Oklahoma State University in the fall, will be joined by Duke University golf team captain Michael Quagliano of GlenArbor (Bedford Hills, N.Y.), a former Met Junior champion who played in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines last week, and Kevin Foley of Neshanic Valley, who led the Penn State University golf team to just its third-ever appearance at the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship in May.
Other young players of note include 2005 Ike champion Andrew Giuliani of Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx, N.Y.), who has two top-three finishes in the Ike over the last two years; 2007 Met Junior champion Mark Costanza of Tuxedo (Tuxedo Park, N.Y.), and 15-year-old Cameron Wilson of Shorehaven (Norwalk, Conn.), who made a splash at last year’s Met Amateur when he reached the quarterfinals before losing in extra holes to Foley.
A number of prominent local amateurs come into the 2008 Ike Championship on a hot streak. Joe Saladino of Huntington (L.I.) won the Havemeyer Invitational in May and followed that up with a fifth-place finish and low amateur honors at the Long Island Open in early June. Former Met Amateur champion Michael Stamberger of Plainfield won the New Jersey Mid-Amateur title earlier this season and will look to return to the MGA winner’s circle at Mountain Ridge.
An impressive group of veteran golfers also enhance the field and, as they showed in 2007, are always a threat to claim victory against the young guns. This group includes some of Met Area’s most accomplished champions, including three former Ike winners: Greg Rohlf of Winged Foot (1998), Roger Hoit of Baltusrol (2006), and Ed Gibstein of Engineers (1994). Rohlf won the Met Amateur at Wykagyl Country Club last year and will look to carry his strong play into the 2008 championship season.
Ron Vannelli of Metuchen, fresh off a one-stroke victory at the MGA Senior Amateur at Wee Burn in May, along with 2007 MGA Mid-Amateur champion Mike Reardon of Tuxedo, would also like to add their names to the Ike trophy. Former MGA Senior Amateur champion and 2006 NJSGA Player of the Year Jay Blumenfeld (left) and Ned Steiner, both multiple winners of the Mountain Ridge club championship, will try to use some home-course knowledge to their advantage.
The Ike was conceived in 1953 by F.M. Flynn, publisher of the New York Daily News. It was nurtured through its early years by Daily News columnist Dana Mozley and his close friend, the late George Sands, who was president of the MGA in 1974-1975 and a strong advocate of Met Area golf. Although the tournament was quite successful for nearly two decades, by the late 1970s the event faced an uncertain future due to sponsorship difficulties. After the tournament was not conducted in 1979, 1980, and 1985, the MGA acquired the rights to the Ike, and made the tournament its annual stroke play championship.
Now under the sponsorship of Canon USA for the sixth year, the Ike is in a position of stability and tremendous success, and remains one of the most coveted titles in the region. Over the years the Ike has produced many memorable moments at nationally revered clubs such as Garden City Golf Club, Winged Foot, Quaker Ridge, Stanwich, Metedeconk National, Bethpage Black and last year’s host, Fenway, all marvelous settings that have enhanced the championship’s history. Mountain Ridge looks to follow these great courses and provide a challenging test for the area’s best amateurs.
The Ike is open to any amateur golfer with a USGA handicap index of 5.0 or less, who holds membership in a golf club in the MGA district. An entry of 714 golfers has been pared down by means of five qualifying rounds to a final field of 104, including 33 exempt players. The 54-hole championship begins with 18 holes on Monday, June 23, after which the low 40 players and ties move on to the 36-hole conclusion on Tuesday, June 24.