Kevin O'Connell probably couldn't have wished for a better birthday present than the one he earned at yesterday's U.S. Open local qualifier at Worthington Manor Golf Club in Urbana.
O'Connell, a junior at the University of Virginia who turned 22 yesterday, shot a 4-under-par 68 and was one of seven players to qualify for the sectional round in two weeks. Woodmont Country Club in Rockville will host one of the 13 nationwide 36-hole sectionals on June 7. The 104th U.S. Open is set for June 17-20 at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y.
PGA Tour professional Michael Muehr of Bonita Springs, Fla., won medalist honors with an 8-under par 64, breaking the course record by three strokes. Worthington Manor opened in 1998. Muehr's round also included a course-record 7-under 29 on the back nine.
The other golfers to qualify for sectionals were: Fred Widicus (Arlington) and George Bradford (Pikesville, Md.) with 68; and David Bradshaw (Harpers Ferry, W. Va.), James Schouller (Olney), and David Hutsell (Baltimore) with 69. Matt Sughrue (Alexandria) also shot a 69 but lost in a four-man playoff for three spots and was named first alternate.
Craig Groenendaal (McLean) and Ryan Stinnett (Amherst, Va.) shot 70 and Paul Scaletta (Richmond) shot 71 to earn three other alternate spots.
O'Connell made seven birdies, including a 40-foot putt on the par-4 first hole.
"That got me off to the right start from the get-go," said O'Connell, a Potomac resident who is making his first attempt at qualifying for the Open. O'Connell also birdied all four of Worthington Manor's par-5s.
"It felt pretty rewarding [to qualify for the next round]. I've been working hard on my game. I've been close [to scoring very well] plenty of times but haven't put together any great rounds."
Hutsell, former assistant pro at Columbia Country Club now playing on the NGA/Hooters Tour, qualified for the sectionals for the third time.
"Quite a long day," said Hutsell, who teed off at 7:30 a.m., then had to wait around for the playoff at 7:20 p.m.
Among the notable players who did not qualify for the Open: Woodholme Country Club's Wayne DeFrancesco (72), one of the top teaching professionals in the nation; Steve Madsen (75), former pro at Lakewood now teaching at Wilmington (Del.) Country Club; and former All-Met golfers Will Shriver (Gonzaga) and Chris McCartin (Yorktown).
-- Dave Yanovitz