Jim Gifford and Chad Stoffer believe they possess the perfect mix of aggressiveness and consistency to make a run at this weekend’s USGA U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at fabled Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in the village of Pinehurst, NC.
Gifford, a graduate of Shenendehowa High School and Siena College, plays out of Mohawk Golf Club. He is known for his aggressive play, especially with his driver, while Stoffer, a Union College grad who plays out of Town of Colonie Golf Course, is more of a grinder who hits a lot fairways and greens. They will need to be careful around the Pinehurst layouts. They play No. 8 on Saturday (1:12PM) take on famed Pinehurst No. 2 Sunday (9:48AM).
“The course is incredible,” Stoffer said after a practice round Thursday on Pinehurst No. 2. “Playing in a USGA event is very cool. When I came in to register on Wednesday, there were 11 different tables to check in. The place is very beautiful.”
Stoffer said the greens were rolling true, and added that they were also very receptive: “You can make some putts here, but you’ve got to be careful. I found most of the putts to be a lot straighter than I’m used to. I usually play a little more break.”
Stoffer, a two-time Tri-County Golf Association Match Play champion, pointed out that keeping the ball in the fairway will be paramount for both players. “We will be better off aiming at the middle of the greens, as well,” he said. “I don’t see a lot of birdie holes. Pinehurst No. 2 will play at about 7,100-yards, but it will actually play a little shorter, because the ball bounces a lot in the fairway.”
Gifford, a multiple Saratoga County Amateur winner who has advanced to the U.S. Open sectionals numerous times, knows USGA layouts. He played the Pinehurst Resort courses when he was competing for Siena.
“Our strategy will be to make a lot of birdies,” Gifford said. “I think our games are a perfect mix. Chad hits the ball straight down the middle and hits a lot of greens. He’s also a good putter. I’m going to use my length to get the ball further down the fairway.
“I feel good about my game and so does Chad. We both realize that we have to be very careful, especially around the greens. There are a bunch of false fronts and undulations on the greens. They are also extremely fast. We will both play our own games, but I’m sure we will talk things out if one of us is in trouble on a particular hole. We are looking forward to playing this.”
Gifford is coming off an outstanding 2016 where he was the only man in the state to finish in the Top-10 in both the NYS Am and Mid-Am. He and Stoffer qualified in Massachusetts last September for the USGA 4-Ball this weekend. Click here for our recap story from September 2016.
Also competing this weekend will be former Country Club of Troy standout Matt Clarke, the 2005 NYS Mid-Am champ and three-time Troy Invitational titlist, with Tony Hejna, a former Shaker Ridge CC member now living in Western New York. That tandem qualified out in Buffalo. Click here for our recap from September 2016. They tee off at 12:36PM on #2 on Saturday and #8 at 9:12AM on Sunday.
The top teams in stroke play advance to match play after this weekend’s play.
MORE USGA NEWS: SENIOR MOMENTS
Two other Capital Area standouts – Dan Russo of Hagaman and Scotia native Ron Philo Jr. of Stowe Mountain – qualified for the 38th annual U.S. Senior Open at Salem Country Club in Peabody, MA June 26-July 2.
Russo, the eight-time Capital Region Amateur Golf Association (CRAGA) Stroke Play titlist, qualified for his second U.S. Senior Open and 10th career USGA event by shooting a 69 (-2) at Bonnie Briar Country Club in Larchmont. A two-time Troy Invitational winner, Russo finished two shots behind qualifying medalist Mark McCormick and was one of four qualifiers from that sectional. He birdied two of his final three holes and registered seven birdies in what he termed an up-and-down round.
Philo, a former PGA Professional National Championship winner when it was held at Turning Stone Resort & Casino in 2006, shot a 69 (-1) at Kernwood CC in Salem, MA and then won a playoff with Geoff Sisk of Marshfield, MA by posting a birdie four on the first extra hole.
Philo is a five-time PGA Section Player of the Year and four-time PGA Section champion in Vermont. He has competed in eight major championships, including a U.S. Open, and has played in more than a dozen PGA Tour events.