THE FLATS – Tyler Strafaci, a rising junior on Georgia Tech’s golf team, is one of 20 amateurs playing in the 118th U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, the most amateurs in the field since 1962. Strafaci is the latest in a long list of amateur players associated with Georgia Tech, either as graduates or undergraduates, to play in the U.S. Open.
The Davie, Fla., amateur is part of a group of six current and former Georgia Tech players at the U.S. Open, the Institute’s best representation in the history of the U.S. Open. Tech has had as many as five players in the field once – 1999 at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club with PGA Tour pros Stewart Cink, David Duval and Larry Mize playing with Tech undergraduates Matt Kuchar and David Duval.
In fact, 11 different Yellow Jackets have played in the U.S. Open as amateurs. That tradition began with the legendary Bobby Jones, who competed in 11 U.S. Open championships, winning four of them (1923, 1927, 1929 and 1930). It has continued with All-America players such as Bunky Henry, David Duval, Matt Kuchar, Bryce Molder, Cameron Tringale and Ollie Schniederjans.
Strafaci, who survived a local qualifier and a sectional qualifier to get a chance to compete at Shinnecock Hills, will be the first undergraduate player from Tech to play in a U.S. Open since Kuchar, who did so twice. He tied for 14th place in 1998 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif., earning his spot after winning the 1997 U.S. Amateur following his freshman year at Tech. His 1998 finish allowed him to return as a rising Tech senior for the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort, where he missed the cut.
The most recent Tech player or alumnus to play in the U.S. Open as an amateur was Schniederjans, who tied for 42nd place in 2015 at Chambers Bay in Washington state, the summer following his senior year at Georgia Tech. He earned his way into the U.S. Open by winning the Mark H McCormack medal as the world’s top amateur player in 2014, and delayed turning pro in order to keep his spot in the field.
Molder and Tringale remained amateurs following their senior years in order to play in the Walker Cup later in the year, and qualified to play in the U.S. Open. Molder was the low amateur and tied for 30th place in 2001 at Southern Hills Golf Club in Tulsa, Okla., while Tringale missed the cut at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in 2009. Molder also qualified in 1999, following his sophomore year, and missed the cut.
Duval, a four-time All-American at Tech, played two U.S. Open championships as an undergraduate at Tech, missing the cut in 1990 at Medinah Country Club and tying for 56thplace in 1992 at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Michael Barbosa, who never played professionally after graduating from Tech in 2006, qualified for the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club and missed the cut.
Henry, who attended Tech on a football scholarship and was a standout kicker, played in five U.S. Opens, the first as an amateur in 1966 a year before he finished as the runner-up in the NCAA Championship. He turned pro following that and played 12 years on the PGA Tour, including four more U.S. Open appearances.
During the 1920s and 1930s when Bobby Jones built his legendary amateur career, two of his contemporaries, NCAA Champions Watts Gunn and Charlie Yates, each competed in two U.S. Open championships.