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Lake Morey Country Club Prepares For 2018 Vermont Open

  • Steve Taylor, of Fairlee, right, steps up to greet his friend Rich Parker during the Vermont Open at Lake Morey Country Club in Fairlee, Vt., Monday, June 19, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Spencer Mellon, of Oakmont, Penn., executes a chip shot during the final round of the Vermont Open held at Lake Morey Country Club in Fairlee, Vt., on June 22, 2016. Mellon went on to win the tournament in a one-hole playoff against Rich Berberian, Jr., with final scores of 66-67-68. (Valley News - Mac Snyder) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — File

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 6/17/2018 11:45:28 PM
Modified: 6/17/2018 11:45:30 PM

Fairlee — Lake Morey Country Club golf director Bill Ross Jr. should be used to the fun of scheduling the Jeff Julian Memorial Vermont Open by now. He’s been doing it for a good 30 years. He’s had to dodge the U.S. Open. He’s had to tango with other state opens for an ideal date. Finding the right time for his event has always had its challenges.

So what’s a little PGA Tour wrench going to do to him? Not much, apparently.

It wasn’t looking like this week’s tournament was going to draw much of a field at last week’s end; as of Friday morning, only 79 golfers had filled tee times for today’s start of the three-day competition. Part of that was because the PGA Tour had scheduled a pre-qualifier for its Travelers Championship south of Hartford, Conn., for last Thursday, with a final open qualifier set for today.

A number of people who would have filled Ross’ field had tee times in the pre-qualifier; when they failed to advance, they started calling the Fairlee course. Ross, who would normally have cut off registration a week before his tournament started, gladly took the late entries, and today’s first round should have closer to 90 to 100 competitors battling for part of a purse that’s usually in the $50,000 range.

“The numbers are down a little bit, although we’re still getting a bunch of entry forms from people that tried to qualify for the Travelers,” Ross said on Friday. “It’s not a done deal yet. I’ve opened registration for a little longer to accommodate.”

If not for the effluent from the Travelers, Ross might have been left wondering what happened to his tournament.

The Vermont Open adjusted its schedule from pre-Father’s Day to post- five years ago, partly to stay out of the U.S. Open’s way and partly to help set up a state open circuit that theoretically would be more conducive to drawing young up-and-coming pros. But even with the Cape Cod Open, the New England Open at the Quechee Club and this week’s Massachusetts Open as lead-ins, fields have been underwhelming: The New England Open started with 84 golfers a week and a half ago, and season-opening Cape Cod drew 73. (The always-popular Mass. Open had a full field of 150.)

“We’ve tried to line everything up with the opens, but I don’t worry about tour events,” Ross remarked. “I guess there’s enough guys trying to get into them.”

The Travelers pre-qualifier didn’t help. The 31 golfers who advanced on Thursday from the 18-hole event at Ellington Ridge (Conn.) Country Club included several who could very well have been at Lake Morey this week:

Recent New England Open champ and 2017 Vermont Open runner-up Braden Shattuck, who was famously picked up by a female admirer while preparing to play the 18th hole of the final round at Lake Morey last June.

Rutland amateur Drake Hull, whom Shattuck defeated in a playoff for the win at Quechee on June 6.

Jason Thresher, winner of his third straight Mass. Open title on Wednesday and a past top-20 Vermont Open performer.

But for every golfer successful in making today’s return visit to Ellington Ridge with an eye toward a PGA Tour invitation, another had a backup plan set. Last year’s Vermont Open champ, Peter French, missed the pre-qualifier cut by three strokes last week. Once done, he was on the phone to Ross and is now all set to defend his Lake Morey crown.

“I heard they had, like, 200 try to qualify for four or six slots,” Ross said of the Travelers process. “We’ve added guys to the list for the last two days. I had eight this morning. There have been a bunch of phone calls. I’d like to have a handle on it, but I don’t.”

It lends to the prospect of a wide-open tournament, which is no surprise. Since 1984, only three golfers — Rodney Butcher, Jeff Lewis and Dana Quigley — have won Vermont more than once.

“The golf course is in great shape; the greens are really good, even with the lack of moisture,” Ross said. “Our superintendent has certainly had the watering system in full force, and he’s done a really good job maintaining the greens and keeping them soft and ready to go.”

Ross cut off finally applications at noon on Saturday. Whatever the numbers ends up being, they hit Lake Morey this morning.

PGA Tour timing be damned.

Divots: French won $7,000 for his Vermont Open victory last June. … This week’s local contingent includes Lebanon’s Patrick Pelletier, Hanover amateur Nate Choukas, Hartford High grad Zach Temple, former Woodstock Country Club pro Jim Gunnare and ex-Rivendell golfer Ryan Landgraf, who qualified for last summer’s Vermont Amateur at the Dorset Field Club. … The top 60 and ties after Tuesday’s second round traditionally advance to Wednesday’s final round.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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