WILMINGTON – High school senior Danny Dougherty was looking forward to competing in the U.S. Open local qualifier Thursday at DuPont Country Club because it’s a course he has played since the fifth grade.
Dougherty, 18, a Wilmington resident who will graduate next month from the Tower Hill School, took full advantage of his local knowledge, firing a 3-under-par 68 to join a three-way tie for medalist honors and advance to the final stage of Open qualifying on June 4.
Zac Oakley of Lewes, Del., an assistant pro at Waynesborough Country Club in Paoli, and Erick Alonso of Jupiter, Fla., who just completed his junior year at Loyola (Md.), also carded 68s. David Sanders of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., advanced with a 69.
For the fifth and final qualifying spot, a three-man playoff among two college players, Cole Miller of Penn State and Ashton Poole of Virginia, and Silver Spring, Md., pro Zachary Lese, was stopped on the first hole by lightning. The playoff will resume Friday.
Dougherty, a two-time Delaware State Golf Association junior player of the year who will be attending Villanova in the fall, said his familiarity with the course was a key to his round, especially since the U.S. Golf Association does not allow contestants to use range finders in qualifying.
“It probably was a big factor,” he said. “I play out here all the time, so with no range finders I think that’s definitely a big help.”
The first benefit he received came at his ninth hole, the 18th at DuPont, where he had a double-breaking 30-foot birdie putt and drained it.
“I’ve had that putt a couple of times before, so I knew what it was doing,” he said. “After that [putt], I started seeing the lines better and started rolling everything in.”
Dougherty carded four birdies on his second nine, three of them on putts of 3 feet or less.
Oakley, 35, rebounded from a double bogey on his 14th hole, which occurred after he received a warning for slow play on the tee. He birdied three of his last four holes, including a two-putt birdie at his 18th hole, a par-5, “so I didn’t have that much of a sour taste in my mouth,” he said.
Alonso, 22, carded six birdies and three bogeys in his round.
The U.S. Open will begin June 14 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island.