Buckley, Rackley share lead at Met Open

DEAL, N.J. (August 23, 2017) – Josh Rackley of Tam O’Shanter and Max Buckley of Westchester Country Club share the lead heading into Thursday’s final round of the 102nd Met Open Championship Presented by Callaway at Hollywood Golf Club, with 36-hole totals of 4-under 137. However, the leaderboard remains packed as 11 competitors stand within four shots of the lead.

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An impressive quartet of players are just one shot back, including first round leader Mark McCormick of Suburban, recent PGA Championship competitor Matt Dobyns of Fresh Meadow, 2016 Met PGA Player of the Year Rob Labritz of GlenArbor, and 2015 Met Amateur champion Peter Kim of Royce Brook.

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Starting his day on 10, Rackley ignited his round by reaching the par-five 10th in two and easily two-putting for birdie. He quickly added another birdie on the par-four 13th and set the tone for the day. “I chipped it up to about six feet and made a downhill left to righter, which kind of got some confidence built with my putter,” said Rackley of his second birdie. Though he added a pair of bogeys before making the turn, Rackley tallied four birdies over his final nine hole en route to the 4-under 67.

Just a year ago, Rackley was on the bag as Tam O’Shanter head professional Mark Brown captured the Met Open title for the third time in his career. Rackley is now looking to channel that experience—and seeing Brown’s success first-hand—to capture the Walker L. Trammell Trophy for himself. “Just the way he plays without fear,” said Rackley in reference to what he could take from last year to help him in Thursday’s final round. “That’s something that I’ve noticed about Mark’s game that I really admire,” Rackley continued. “There are some tight holes out here and you have to hit the fairway. So, just try to play without fear, don’t think about the negativities out there on the golf course and just hit a good golf shot.”

Meanwhile, Buckley stands as the only player with two sub-70 rounds through the first two rounds, following his 2-under 69 Wednesday. Buckley also got off to a strong start, posting birdies on Nos. 10-11. He turned in 3-under but momentum was halted as he carded two bogeys and a double-bogey over the first five holes. But, Buckley—the 2013 MGA Player of the Year—quickly regained control with an eagle-three on No. 7 and closed with a birdie-three on No. 9 to grab a share of the lead.

According to Dobyns, his 3-uner 68 was a product of a stronger putting performance on Wednesday, saying, “I made a few putts and a couple of par saves that kept the round going on the second hole of the day and on our 11th hole as well. I had a pretty steady day—ballstriking not the best, not the worst, but putted better.” Dobyns registered five birdies on the day, including three straight on Nos. 6-11.

Labritz carded five birdies to one bogey en route to his 4-under 67 and is confident heading into Thursday. “It’s all kind of firing on full cylinders,” said Labritz. “I’ve been playing some solid golf—putting well, keeping it in the fairway, hitting some good shots and even if I miss a green I’ve been tidy in getting up and down. So, I’m just playing solid.”

Even as decorated competitors, Thursday brings an opportunity for both Dobyns and Labritz to claim a championship that has so far eluded them. “This is not a tournament I’ve historically played very well in, so I’m excited to be in the mix and looking forward to a great day,” said Dobyns. Labritz didn’t shy from expressing his desire to claim the title, saying, “I want to try to win one. I’ve been second a few times in this event and I’ve never gotten it and I’d love to get it. So, we’ll attack the flags tomorrow and see what happens.”

Kim remained with his game plan on Wednesday, not getting too aggressive and taking advantage of opportunities as they came, firing a 1-under 70. “It was another day where I just stayed really disciplined with the tough pins and hit greens, make pars, and make the occasional birdie or two,” said Kim, who had three birdies to two bogeys. “I’ve been giving myself lots of good looks at birdies from the fairways and onto the greens, so I’m definitely trying to keep that train going.”

First-round leader McCormick rounds out those just one shot back, echoing Kim’s sentiments about staying patient. “I just tried to stay patient today,” said McCormick after his 1-over 72. “I think the course played a little tougher—the wind kicked up and I just tried to keep it below the hole, make some good two-putts and hang in there.”

David Schuster of Sleepy Hollow and amateur James Nicholas of Westchester Country Club sit at 3-under 132 after matching rounds of 70-69. Nicholas, current leader in the MGA Player of the Year race, is looking to continue an outstanding summer in which he has won the Arcola Cup, advanced to the semifinals of the Met, Westchester, and Long Island Amateurs and registered a tie for fifth in the Ike Championship.

Amateur Darin Goldstein of Deepdale is 2-under 140 after a pair of 70s, while Max Greyserman of Crestmont, Jimmy Hazen of St. George’s, Sean Quinlivan of Piping Rock, and amateur Christian Cavaliere of Mahopac are tied for 10th and round out those under-par at 1-under 141. Cavaliere, the 2017 Westchester Amateur champion, fired the low round of the championship Wednesday morning with a 6-under 65.

“The greens were a little soft this morning and there was no wind, so it was good scoring conditions,” said Cavaliere, who registered six straight birdies from Nos. 6-11. “I finished the stretch with two tap-in birdies which was really nice too. I had a really good stretch with my irons and just stuck it close.”

Though five shots back, Danny Balin of Westchester Country Club, Kevin Foley of Raritan Valley, and amateurs Cameron Young of Sleepy Hollow and Jeremy Wall of Manasquan River have the ability to go post a low number on Thursday.

Competitors have been thrilled with the outstanding layout and conditioning at Hollywood Golf Club, which last hosted the Met Open in 1991 and also welcomed the Met Amateur back in 2012—just before a 2013-14 restoration project which focused on its bunkers. Though relatively open, the Walter Travis gem demands accuracy off the tee if players aim to take on its undulating greens.

Following 36 holes of play, a cut was made to the top 54 scores and ties, with 55 competitors advancing with scores of 5-over 147 or better.

Wednesday’s final round will begin at 7:00 a.m. with Rackley and Buckley going off at 11:30 a.m. Live hole-by-hole scoring will be available for the majority of groups, while additional updates will be available on the MGA’s social media outlets.