Joey Chuasiriporn 3 shots short

Mattiace, Zoeller grab spots in Open qualifying

June 09, 1999|By Dan Hickling | Dan Hickling,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SUMMIT, N.J. -- The golfing spotlight shifted a little yesterday from one Chuasiriporn sibling to another. It moved from Jenny, who is an old hand at U.S. Open appearances, to her older (by 11 months) brother Joey, who is trying to find his place in one.

For Joey, the wait will have to continue for at least one more year. His performance yesterday, with Jenny on his bag in the U.S. Open Metropolitan section qualifier at Canoe Brook Country Club, was good but not quite good enough. His 36-hole, 2-over 146 left him three shots out of a chance to claim one of seven spots to be taken from the section.

Those who did qualify for the 99th edition of the Open, to be held in two weeks at Pinehurst (No. 2) include Len Mattiace, who carded the section's lowest score, 6-under 138. That came after he tossed in a 7-under 65 round (the best of the day) in the afternoon.

The others were taken by former Open winner Fuzzy Zoeller, Geoff Sisk, Mark Mielke, Jim McGovern and John DiMarco. Virginian Tom McKnight, the 1998 U.S. Amateur runner-up, won the last spot by winning a three-way playoff with a birdie on the second extra hole.

Chuasiriporn might have been in that mix as well. His 1-over 73 score on the tougher North Course layout left him in great shape to leapfrog into a Open berth, provided he could take advantage of the firm greens and fairways. He did, but not well enough.

"I tried," he said, and then recounted the birdie putts that didn't fall for him. On 17. On 18. "I'd really like to have a couple of those putts back. I'd be at 144 and closer to the bubble [which was later set at 143] than I am."

There were times, however, that his putter came to the rescue. One came when he made an 8-foot par saver on No. 5, and one of twice that length two holes later.

But if Chuasiriporn's putting was one challenge, his decision-making proved to be another.

He started his afternoon round by wallopping a 300-yard drive on the 511-yard, par-5 No. 1. The green was well within his reach, and with it a chance to grab at least a stroke.

But after a conference with Jenny and a change of clubs, Chuasiriporn flubbed the shot and wound up with bogey.

"I topped it," he said. "I was really indecisive. I did that a couple of times today, I was indecisive and it turned out bad. Later, I stuck to the first club I picked and it turned out great."

While Chuasiriporn was trying to steady himself, his sister/caddie stifled any meddling urges she might have harbored.

"I can tell him to be more decisive," she said. "I know I'm still there a little bit. He just needs to take the negative thoughts out of the game. He just needs to commit to the club that he picks, and hit it."

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