Playing golf at a qualify Florida course in May sounds enticing for any golfer and Alex Cusumano is looking forward to the opportunity.
Cusumano, 25, and his playing partner Garrett Marschke, have qualified to play in the 2018 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
“It will be the highlight of the summer,” Cusumano said. “We will both be working hard in the spring to prepare making the match play portion of the Four-Ball event.”
Playing in a United States Golf Association is a goal for any amateur golfer. It is a milestone for Cusumano, one of the top local amateurs in the St. Louis area.
“This will be both of our first USGA events. I have been an alternate a handful of times, but they never panned out,” Cusumano said. “It is definitely a great accomplishment to compete in a USGA event, but we aren’t going to take it lightly. We are going down to Jupiter Hills to compete and win and not just be satisfied we made it there.”
The two tied with the veteran team of Brad Nurski and Skip Berkmeyer in the United States Golf Association qualifying tournament at Sunset Country Club. A total of 49 teams vied for the two spots to the 2018 championship. The championship will be played May 19-23 at the Jupiter Hills Club in Tequesta, Florida.
At the national championship, 128 two-player teams will each play their own ball throughout the round. Each team’s score will be determined by using the lower score of the partners for each hole.
After 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying, the field will be reduced to the low 32 teams for the championship’s match-play bracket, from which the eventual champion will be determined.
The Cusumano-Marschke team set a set tremendous pace with a blazing 7-under front 9 in the local qualifier. They finished the round at 10-under 62.
The team of Nurski-Berkmeyer matched that 62 to earn co-medalist honors.
Berkmeyer, of Wildwood, will be in his 31st USGA championship and that includes playing in nine U.S. Amateurs. He has a long list of accomplishments. Berkmeyer was in the field competed in the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, also conducted at the Country Club of Birmingham. He missed the cut.
He is a three-time Missouri State Amateur Champion and a three-time Missouri state Mid-Am champ. Berkmeyer is an 11-time St. Louis Player of the Year and a four-time Missouri Player of the Year.
Nurski, of St. Joseph, is a two-time state champion including this year, among many other tourney titles.
“I told Garrett they were the team to beat,” Cusumano said. “They are both excellent players and an even better team. Missouri will be represented very well.”
Marschke, 22, will graduate from North Georgia University next spring.
“Garrett was recruited to play at Loyola with me,” Cusumano said. “I was a senior, and he was an incoming freshman. I spotted his talent right away, and we have been playing partners ever since. We would always setup ‘friendly’ games and matches at school, and I do not think we have lost one to this day.
“After I graduated from Loyola of Chicago, he transferred back to North Georgia.”
This was the first time either of player has played in the Four-Ball qualifier.
“I texted him earlier this year, and motivated him to sharpen up his game for the qualifier at Sunset,” Cusumano said. “He flew in from Atlanta and stayed with me for the weekend. This date was highlighted on our calendar, and we were looking forward to it all summer.”
Four ball is the name of a golf format in which two golfers partner one another, each golfer playing his or her own golf ball throughout, and the lower of the partners’ scores counting as the team score on each hole.
Four ball is usually played as match play, with two, 2-person teams facing off. In fact, that is where the name “four ball” comes from: In a four ball match, there are four golf balls in play on each hole.
Four-Ball is an excellent format because it brings out the best golfer in each player, Cusumano said.
“In a typical stroke play competition, you have to stay levelheaded and keep composure. In a team best ball event, you can let your emotions and competitive nature take over,” Cusumano said. “You are playing 18 separate holes with another great player, instead of 18 combined holes by yourself.”
Sunset Hills was a good test for the qualifier, Cusumano said.
“I was very impressed with Sunset Hills. The course was in excellent condition,” Cusumano said. “I have only been out there a handful of times, but they did an excellent job setting up the course. The greens are some of the best in St. Louis, right up there with Norwood Hills.”
Cusumano and Marschke played well.
“We traded birdies for much of the front nine. Garrett dropped a handful of putts in which I didn’t need to finish the hole,” Cusumano said. “I birdied two of the par 5s and another par 4. We made it very easy on each other.
The pair did not have a score in mind to shoot in the round.
“We did not put a number or expectation on the day. We knew that we were one of the best teams, and we just needed to take it one hole at a time,” Cusumano said. “We were both very pleased to post a 10-under, and felt we had a good chance to medal.
“I must admit, we were definitely sweating a few teams finishing up. It is never stress free when there are just two spots available.”
They survived and qualified. And that earned a spot in the USGA tourney and trip to Florida to play golf. Now that’s something to look forward to doing.