After he and his father lost on the sixth playoff hole of a match-play tournament last weekend, Gary Mankulish wasn't feeling too good about his golf game. He even considered not playing in today's U.S. Amateur qualifier.

In the end, he was glad he did. After five years of trying to qualify for the event, the University of Maryland senior and 1994 Laurel High graduate earned one of four spots awarded today at Wakefield Valley Golf Club. He and Derek Ausherman of Middletown, Md., made par on the first playoff hole to break a three-way tie for the final two spots.

Chris Mundorf, a 21-year-old junior at North Carolina State, and Clayton Uselton, 37, of Tullahoma, Tenn., shared medalist honors at 3-under-par 72. Mundorf shot 69-72--141 and Uselton finished 74-67--141. The four advance to the 99th U.S. Amateur championship, which will begin Aug. 16 at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links.

Ninety-two golfers competed in the 36-hole qualifier.

Mankulish, who had struggled to shoot 75 in the morning, started making birdies on the second 18 holes. He sank a 20-foot birdie putt on his final hole--one of five birdies during his later round--to finish the afternoon at 68 and force a playoff.

Ausherman, Mankulish and Keith Unikel were tied at 143. Unikel, the 1998 Maryland Open winner and a teammate of Mankulish on the Maryland golf team, shot 73 in the morning and 70 in the afternoon.

Mankulish, 23, who lost in a playoff the second time he tried to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, began the extra hole by hitting an errant tee shot that put him in the left rough behind a grove of trees. He managed to chip the ball over the trees to the fringe in front of the green. Two putts later, he was on his way to California.

"It's unbelievable," Mankulish said. "I was shaking more after I made the putt. I couldn't believe it."