Zach Arsenault likes to think of himself as an underdog but he showed Tuesday at Laurel Creek Country Club during 36-hole qualifying for the U.S. Amateur that he doesn't play golf like one.
Arsenault, 24, a Shawnee High School graduate from Medford, N.J., fired rounds of 68 and 69 in 90-plus degree heat to finish at 5-under-par 137 and capture medalist honors. Anthony Sebastianelli of Clarks Summit, Pa., captured the other available qualifying spot with 67-72 — 139.
Arsenault said it was the first time he attempted to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, which will take place next month at Pebble Beach, Calif.
"It's the USGA," he said. "This is an opportunity to play with the big dogs. I want to prove myself."
Arsenault played college golf for two seasons at Alvernia before transferring to Rutgers-Camden and competing there his final two seasons. A two-time all-state in high school, he made the all-conference teams at each of his collegiate stops.
Now he has his own business flipping houses in Camden, an effort he undertook because "I want to help that place be revitalized, put it back on the map."
"It's a contradiction, the city," he said. "It's in an optimal area. When you look across to Philly from Camden, you see the Philly skyline. You don't see the Camden skyline. Why can't this place come back? I want to be a part of the underdog story because I like to think I am one. There's great people out there and I have a lot of friends I've met out there. The stigma overshadows the truth."
Arsenault carded eight birdies on the day, dividing them equally between his morning and afternoon rounds. Four of those birdies came on par-5's at the Mount Laurel layout, evidence that his driver was working well. He estimated he hit 33 of 36 greens.
"I had a strategy coming in and I executed – play aggressive, trust the driver," he said. "The driver is usually my strength so I just relied on it. My putting was OK. I was grinding with the putter."
Sebastianelli, the 2018 Northeast Conference player of the year competing for Central Connecticut State, carded four birdies in his morning round and closed it with an eagle. He had enough of a cushion to survive some struggles down the stretch in the afternoon.