Local Qualifying Snapshot: Hellertown, Pa.
By Pete Kowalski, USGA
Talk about indoctrinations. Mac Ryan, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., began his internship at the Golf Association of Philadelphia at 4:45 a.m. on Monday, May 16.
That’s when Chris Roselle, the association’s tournament director, picked him up to drive 70 minutes to Silver Creek Country Club in Hellertown, Pa., to work as part of the small, but enthusiastic, team that conducted U.S. Open local qualifying.
The Golf Association of Philadelphia, or GAP as it is commonly called, employed a group of approximately 18 staff and volunteers to ensure that the 91 players with U.S. Open aspirations who were competing had a first-class experience.
“This is special,” Roselle said. “But, we treat all of our events – whether it’s GAP or USGA qualifying – the same. The players notice that.”
That same approach is taken by state and regional golf associations (SRGAs) across the country, without whose commitment and tireless work U.S. Open qualifying would be, simply, impossible. The local qualifier at Silver Creek was one of 26 taking place nationwide that same day, with SRGAs playing a significant role in all of them. A total of 111 will be conducted before this leg on the #RoadtoOakmont concludes May 19.
Ryan too was soaking up the whole experience, as he smiled and chatted standing under a GAP tent in the early-morning chill and wind.
“This is my first day,” said Ryan, a senior sports administration major at Elon (N.C.) University. “I’m excited this is how I start. I’m working in scoring and whatever else they want me to do.”
Ryan, the youngest of the GAP group working at Silver Creek, was among seasoned and compassionate golf administrators during the 18-hole qualifying event.
Roselle, who has been a full-time GAP employee since 2007, shared the on-site duties with Kirby Martin, the designated official in charge of the qualifying site, as well as Matt Paolucci, who is working as a P.J. Boatwright Jr. intern at GAP this summer.
As potential qualifier Brandon Matthews, of DuPont, Pa., arrived, Roselle greeted him with a hug and a handshake.
“He won our Junior [championship] and I’m glad to run that event for us,” said Roselle. “All he has done is bigger and better and longer.”
Roselle’s pride in ownership goes beyond Matthews, who advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2013 U.S. Amateur, and was an on-site alternate for the 2013 U.S. Open at nearby Merion Golf Club. The GAP staff is serious about its on-the-ground work for the USGA.
“Any time you can prep players for our national championship, because you set up a golf course to test their skills, it gets your juices going,” Roselle said. “It’s neat to have a GAP guy get through. When Brandon made it to the Amateur quarterfinals, we were all excited.
“When a guy qualifies for the U.S. Open, you can say you had a little to do with it.”
Among other dedicated volunteers was Rules official Walter Haenn III, of Ardmore, Pa., who is a business manager at his hometown church.
“My wife is a fundraiser and I am always trying to find ways to give back to the community,” Haenn said. “This is one of the ways I can do it.”
Haenn has been a Rules volunteer since he attended Rules School at the USGA headquarters in 2010, and was a quick convert.
“I called Kirby (Martin) after that and asked how I could get involved,” he said. “I have been doing it since.”
The GAP staff and volunteers at Silver Creek are emblematic of the collaborative efforts of SRGA staffs all over the country. Their efforts ensure that those with a dream of competing on golf’s grandest stage have a path that often starts very close to home.
Pete Kowalski is the director of Championship Communications for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.