Local golfer Michael Dooner has qualified to play in the U.S. Senior Amateur golf tournament next month in North Carolina. The USGA-sanctioned event has been in existence for the last 59 years.
Over the past couple of weeks golfers have attempted to qualify for the event at various courses around the country. Dooner played with 56 other golfers in Ocala at the Golden Ocala Golf Club. The qualifying events are open to any golfer who has a seven or better handicap and is at least 55 years old.
Dooner shot a 74 to tie for second and finish in the top three golfers. The winner shot a 72.
“It was a course I had never played before except for a practice round Sunday before the tournament,” Dooner said.
The course, which has 12 replica holes of several famous golf courses including Augusta and the St. Andrews Old Course, was playing long because of the wet conditions, Dooner explained. The balls were muddy and had to be played down (could not be moved).
“I hit the ball really well and putted well,” Dooner said. “But I had one bad hole on the front nine and shot 40.” But things fell into place on the back nine, and Dooner shot a 34 to card the 74.
Dooner will now play in the US Amateur Championship starting September 21 at the Wade Hampton Golf Course in Cashiers, NC. During the first two days of the tournament, 156 golfers will try to make the cut of 64. Those making the cut are then eliminated through match play over the next four days until a winner is declared.
Dooner’s son, John, also an avid golfer, will caddy for his dad at the tournament.
Coincidently, Dooner recently returned from a trip with his wife Jacquelin to the United Kingdom where he played golf in Scotland at the St. Andrews Old Course (which has been in existence for 600-plus years), the St. Andrews New Course (in existence since 1895) and the Turnbery Course. He shot a 76 at the Old Course and a 74 at Turnbery.
“It’s neat to be playing for a national championship,” said Dooner. “I’ve never done anything like this before.”
Golfers who make the cut, Dooner said, are qualified to play in next year’s British Amateur.
The Wade Hampton Golf Course, built in 1987, is considered by many golfing authorities as one of the top 100 golf courses in the country.