By Frank Rizzo
FARMINGDALE September 4, 2001 Noah Zelnik of Woodridge, who has aspirations to be on the PGA Tour, had visions of glory and money after a brilliant second round placed him second, four strokes behind the leader, at the Met Open last month.
The Open was held August 21-23 at the Black Course in Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, Long Island. According to the Metropolitan PGA, the Black Course has the highest slope (a rating of difficulty) among the 450-plus member courses.
After opening with a 72, Zelnik carded a 66 in the second 18 holes to place himself behind Rich Hartman, the 98 Met Open champ.
But on the final day Zelnik slumped, turning in an 8-over-par 78 to finish with a 216. The 10th place finish earned him $3,500 and automatically qualifying him for next years Met Open, to be held at Winged Foot GC in Westchester County.
A final round 66 by Johnson Wagner of Garrison, a 1998 graduate of James I. ONeill HS and a senior at Virginia Tech University, gave the amateur a 206-209 win over Hartman. Since Wagner was not eligible for the $23,000 first prize, it went to Hartman.
Its a great test of golf, said Zelnik of the course. I dont think theyll tear it up next year.
They refers to pro golfers, wholl challenge the course in next years U.S. Open.
It was U.S. Open length, Zelnik described the course. The greens are really fast, but not undulating. The playability was there, but the course lacked firmness
it was soggy.
The 66 on August 22 was the lowest round Zelnik had ever carded at the Black Course.
Ive always been a streak putter and I hit a lot of shots close [to the pin], Zelnik related. I made four tap-in birdies, which made it easier, and also sank three long putts.
On the third day, according to Zelnik, he had a late collapse, going six-over on his last seven holes.
I got too aggressive, he said. Instead of playing for fifth or sixth [place] I was trying to catch up. I was thinking of that $23,000. It would have been by far the biggest check Ive ever gotten.
The $3,500 represents his best payday this summer. Zelnik puts tens of thousands of miles on his car every year traveling to golf tournaments.
He has placed third at the Woodstock Open, fifth at the New Hampshire Open and 12th at the Vermont Open.
This fall he will pay $4,000 to enter the PGA Tour qualifying school in Brooksville, Florida. He has been there three times before. Last year he advanced to the second stage for the first time.
Aspiring tour golfers play three series of four-round stages, and those who make it to the third stage are guaranteed a spot on the Buy.com Tour, a minor league of sorts to the PGA Tour. The ultimate goal is to get a PGA Touring card.
Its all about playing well at the right time, Zelnik, 27, said of the bruising qualifying process he hopes to get through.
The Met Open experience remains a special memory for Zelnik, who grew up in the Bronx.
It was very exciting. It sure beats working in the pro shop, said Zelnik, who is an assistant pro at the Nevele Grande after holding the same position for years at the Concord.
The other local to qualify for the Met Open was Matt Kleiner, Villa Roma head professional. Kleiner did not make the second round cut, shooting 89-79-168.
It was close to being a U.S. Open set-up, Kleiner said of the course. It had tight fairways and high roughs and it was long close to 7,400 yards.
Kleiner was impressed when told that the Met PGA gave the Black Course a slope of 149.
By comparison, most courses are rated between 120-130, he pointed out.