CROMWELL, Conn. –James Driscoll, one of the top amateurs in New England before becoming an All-American at the University of Virginia and then qualifying for the PGA Tour, was among the final four players to earn entry into the field in the Open qualifier Monday at Ellington Ridge Country Club.
Driscoll, 39, grew up in Brookline, Mass., won the 1993 Massachusetts Junior Championship, 1995 New England Amateur and New England Open and the Massachusetts State Amateur in 1996 at the age of 18, becoming the youngest winner of the event, and again in 1998. By the summer of 1996, Driscoll was the second-ranked junior in the country and made the final of the U.S. Junior, losing to Scott Hailes. Driscoll also attended Taft School in Watertown, Conn., for a postgraduate year and went to Virginia, where his coach was Mike Moraghan, a native of Litchfield, Conn., who is now the executive director of the Connecticut State Golf Association. In the 2000 U.S. Amateur, Driscoll upset Luke Donald to reach the final, where he won the final holes to force sudden death before losing to Jeff Quinney on the third extra hole.
Driscoll turned pro in 2001 and won his first title at the 2004 Virginia Beach Open on the Nationwide Tour, propelling him to a seventh-place finish on the money list and giving him a PGA Tour card for 2005. Driscoll lost a playoff to University of Hartford grad Tim Petrovic in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans but finished 100th on the money list in his rookie season to retain his card. He played the PGA and Nationwide Tours for several years, losing a playoff to Zach Johnson in the 2009 Valero Texas Open. He retained status through the end of the 2014 season and then alternated between the PGA and what had become the Web.com Tour for several more years, winning his second Web.com Tour title in the Nashville Golf Open.
Driscoll, who tied for 12th in the Massachusetts Open last week and tees off in the first round on Thursday at 1:50 p.m. off No. 1 with Matt Atkins and Andrew Yun, was one of three players to advance to the tournament in a four-way playoff after each shot 6-under-par 66. Andrew Svoboda of Roslyn Heights, N.Y., and Rick Lamb of St. Simons Island, Fla., also advanced when Peter Ballo of Stamford, an assistant pro at Silvermine Golf Club in Norwalk, bogeyed the second playoff hole. Ballo was among the leaders throughout the day, and Lamb forced the playoff when he shot 66 in the final group.
Ballo, a former Northeast Conference Player of the Year while starring at Sacred Heart University, is part of a golfing family headed by father Mike, a longtime pro in the Metropolitan (N.Y.) Section PGA who won the Connecticut Open twice and played in 10 PGA Tour events, including four major championships.
Chase Seiffert of Panama City Beach, Fla., led the qualifier with a 9-under-par 63, which included eight birdies and an eagle 3 at the 13th hole. Seiffert also qualified last year with a 67 and then made the cut after shooting 68-66 before slumping in the final two rounds with 72-71 to finish in a tie for 43rd.
Other New England players include: Jon Curran, Keegan Bradley, Richy Werenski, J.J. Henry, Adam D’Amerio and Rob Oppenheim.
STARS GALORE IN CELEBRITY-PRO WEDNESDAY
A star-studded Celebrity Pro-Am is Wednesday, starting at 6:50 a.m. off the first and 10th tees, and will include former University of Connecticut and Boston Celtics star Ray Allen, past and present UConn coaches Jim Calhoun, Randy Edsall, Chris Dailey, Nancy Stevens and Mike Cavanaugh, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, ESPN personality Chris Berman, Nashville Predators center and Boston University grad Nick Bonino, singer Javier Colon, Emmy Award-winning announcer Mike Gorman, award-winning journalist Norah O’Donnell, actor George Lopez and former NFL quarterbacks Boomer Esiason and Dan Orlovsky. …
Brooks Koepka isn’t playing in the pro-am because he flew home to Jupiter, Fla., after his U.S. Open win for some rest and is scheduled to fly to Connecticut on Wednesday night. He tees off Thursday at 8 a.m. off the first tee with Simpson and Reed. … Henry begins his tournament Thursday at 8:20 a.m. off the 10th tee with Streelman and Geoff Oglivy. Adam D’Amario, the assistant pro at Indian Hill Country Club in Newington who earned the Connecticut Section PGA spot by winning a playoff with Jantzen Vargas of Lake of Isles CC in North Stonington in the Spring Stroke Play Championship, makes his tournament debut Thursday at 9 a.m. off the10th tee alongside Nate Lashley and Ethan Tracy.