Northeast Amateur biggest win for Brian Quackenbush

When Brian Quackenbush took the lead at the midway point of the 41st Northeast Amateur, many felt his stay at the top would be short-lived.

After all, Quackenbush wasn’t a name associated with big-time amateur golf and seemed to be a small fish in a big pond of barracudas.

Those feelings didn’t change much, even when the 31-year-old from Fairfax, Va., shot even-par 69 the third day to maintain his one-stroke lead.

Again, most thought he would crack under the final-round pressure in a national tournament against a big-name field. Plus it was the first time he had played in this tournament, and normally Northeast Am rookies have plenty of problems handling the lightning-fast greens and ankle-deep rough at Wannamoisett Country Club.

But Quackenbush had an ace up his sleeve. He knew how to win.

That should have been evident by 2001 victories at the Virginia State Mid-Amateur, Northern Virginia Amateur, Washington Metropolitan Amateur and Middle Atlantic Mid-Amateur. He also won earlier this year at the Hugh Wilson Invitational.

On June 23, he added the Northeast Amateur to his list.

Quackenbush, who played college golf at Virginia in the early 1990s, withstood the pressure and closed with a 1-under 68 on the Donald Ross-designed course, giving him a 4-under 272 total and a three-shot victory.

“Winning tournaments is a learned skill,” said Quackenbush, who turned his full attention to golf after being laid off from his database/Web development job last August. “First you have to put yourself in a position to win, and then you have to do it. I have, and while those tournaments may not be as big as this one, I think it helped me out there today.

“It’s hard to learn how to win at this level unless you’ve done it at lower levels. This is by far my biggest win, and it really feels great.”

Finishing second at 1-under 275 were Ricky Barnes, a senior at the University of Arizona; Camilo Benedetti, a native Colombian who ended his college career at Florida earlier this month; and Chris Nallen, a junior at Arizona.

Barnes tied for the final day’s low round with a 4-under 65, while Benedetti followed his third-round 66 with a 67.

“I just had a bad putting day,” said Nallen. “I must have missed at least six putts within 10 feet. I hit the ball well, but the putter was cold. It happens, and it happened to me today.”

Johnson, a junior at Northwestern, and Buckle, an Australian, finished with 71s at even-par 276, tying for fifth with Jason Hartwick, a junior at Texas, who equaled the day’s low with a 65.

Quackenbush never lost the lead, though Nallen tied him early on the back nine after a birdie at No. 13 put him 3-under for the tournament.

But Quackenbush answered with his own birdie at 13 to get to 4-under. And when Nallen hit his tee shot right and into the water at No. 14 en route to a double bogey, the tournament became Quackenbush’s to lose.

“In addition to winning at the national level, one of my top goals starting the year was to get into the top 20 in the (Golfweek/Titleist) rankings,” Quackenbush said. “The rankings are huge, and everyone looks at them.”

Quackenbush, who is playing this week in the Virginia State Amateur at Virginia Beach, began his move up the rankings ladder earlier this month when he tied for eighth at the Sunnehanna Amateur. That vaulted him from 110th to 41st with 50 points.

Now he’s added 75 points to his total, placing him seventh in the rankings.

Not bad for a guy who was pretty much an unknown when the summer season began. And who knows, with a schedule that includes the Rice Planters Amateur, Porter Cup, Cardinal Amateur and U.S. Amateur qualifying, the name Quackenbush just might work its way into amateur golf’s most elite circles.

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