Local golfers barely miss qualifying for USGA Amateur nationals

Two Farragut area golfers came within one stroke of qualifying for United States Golf Association Amateur National.

Chip Thomas, a former Farragut High School star, and Graham Gosselin, an ex-Hardin Valley Academy champion, both finished at 141 during 36-hole qualifying Tuesday, July 12, at Willow Creek Golf Club in Farragut. Both are golfers at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.

Thomas, in fact, led after 18 holes with a sizzling 67 before falling out with a 74. Gosselin’s play was a reversal: following a 73 on the first 18, he fired a 68.

“I was really, really happy for [Graham.] He played really well. Didn’t finish quite as well as he would have liked,” Wes Gosselin, Graham’s older brother and also an HVA ex-champion, said. Wes finished 146 (73-73) on his “home course.”

Only three of the 78 participants qualified for the USGA Amateur Nationals at Oakland Hills Country Club, Bloomfield, Mich., Aug. 18-21: Andreas Gjesteby (137) Jake Headrick (140) and Brandon Worley (140).

A senior golfer at The University of Tennessee Chatt-anooga, Wes had a big mo-ment in 2011 when coming close to beating Jordan Speith, currently ranked PGA No. 1 in the world, during match play at USGA Junior Nationals near Seattle.

But at Willow Creek last week, “I was really disappointed with my performance overall,” Wes said. “Playing 36 holes is always tough mentally. My ball striking wasn’t there. I really struggled off the tee. And I really didn’t putt well.

“I kind of struggled on the par 3s, like hole No. 6 I played 3-over [par for 36 holes combined],” Wes, 22, added.

Although saying the course “was in phenomenal condition,” Wes added, “It was definitely playing really tough. I play out here almost every day and that was the toughest I’ve seen it play in a long time. The greens were very fast. There were some tricky pins.”

With WCGC having been chosen by USGA to host one of its Amateur Qualifiers for several consecutive years, “It does speak well for the course and the conditions of the course,” Scott Perkins, Willow Creek PGA head professional, said. “The USGA is selective on who they ask to host their qualifiers.

“… The USGA typically wants a course that’s a challenge, but fair. They want good greens that can have some speed to them. The USGA likes to test their players,” Perkins added. “And they like fast greens. … And our greens are about as fast as they’ve ever been right now.”

With WCGC switching to Champion Bermuda greens about three years ago, “That was one of the best business decisions that was made. They were expensive … but they thrive in excessive heat,” Perkins said.