Marcello Santi last played competitively on the European PGA Tour in 2004 when he lived in his native Italy. So when a friend from Berwyn convinced him to make the trip to Applebrook Golf Club to attempt the first stage of U.S. Open qualifying Thursday, he was a bit apprehensive.
But the 41-year-old Santi, who now lives in the Cayman Islands, made it appear as if he never stopped competing, carding a 4-under-par 67 to share medalist honors on a sunny, sparkling day.
Santi and reinstated amateur Gary Carpenter Jr., of Crofton, Md., led the list of seven players who advanced to next month’s sectional qualifying.
Santi, who had never played in this area before Thursday, gave credit to Chris Jones, the locally-based friend who persuaded him to make the attempt, and caddied for him.
“He came and visited me three years in a row in Cayman and told me, ‘You should come and try to qualify for the Open,’” Santi said. “It was nice to compete again and play with these guys. The golf course was in excellent condition and the people here were very nice. It was fantastic, just like back in the years when I started playing.”
Santi, who originally hails from Carimate in northern Italy, turned pro in 1992 and won “three or four” events on the Challenge Tour – Europe’s answer to the Nationwide Tour. He also held a card on the European Tour at times between 1993 and 2004.
After 2004, he got into the golf-course design business as a project manager. He now promotes golf for the tourism industry in the Cayman Islands.
On Thursday, he started out strong with four birdies on his first eight holes. He added a fifth birdie at No. 12 but made his only bogey of the day at the par-3 15th, where his tee shot sailed right of the right greenside bunker.
“You can miss a shot and still make par,” Santi said, “but I really missed that one.”
Carpenter birdied the first three holes and finished with six for the day against two bogeys.
Finishing one stroke behind the medalists was Eric Beringer, a pro from Delray Beach, Fla., who chipped in for eagle 2 at the 310-yard third hole. Beringer grew up in Bryn Mawr, played golf at Philadelphia Country Club and graduated from Harriton High. He now plays a mini-tour in West Palm Beach.
Former Temple star Jonathan Rusk of Yardley and Wilmington pro Michael Tobiason Jr., came in with 70s where they were joined by Charlotte, N.C., pro Chad Wilfong.
Billy Stewart, formerly of Devon and now playing out of Sarasota, Fla., earned the seventh and final spot by winning a two-hole playoff over Lafayette senior Tyler Ostrovsky. A potential third playoff participant, Woodloch Springs head pro John Pillar of Hawley, Pa., returned home after his round to attend his son’s baseball game and did not participate.
a-Gary Carpenter Jr., Crofton, Md. 33-34—67
Marcello Santi, Italy 32-35—67
Eric Beringer, Delray Beach, Fla. 35-33—68
Chad Wilfong, Charlotte, N.C. 39-31—70
Jonathan Rusk, Yardley 35-35—70
Michael Tobiason Jr., Wilmington 35-35—70
p-Billy Stewart, Sarasota, Fla. 33-38—71
a-Tyler Ostrovsky, Simi Valley, Calif. 36-35—71
John Pillar, Hawley, Pa. 34-37—71
p-won playoff for final spot