Keswick’s Full Cry sends five players to Open’s final round of qualifying

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Bryson Boyette had never laid eyes on Keswick Club’s “Full Cry” golf course before Monday’s practice round for Tuesday’s first stage qualifying for the U.S. Open.

“I looked up the course on the internet and it looked awesome, a really cool course,” said Boyette, a two-year professional golfer out of Wilson, N.C. “I just picked it at random.”

Boyette’s opinion of Keswick grew to greater heights after Tuesday’s rain-soaked round when he emerged as medalist, gaining the top slot out of 84 pros and amateurs playing for five spots in next month’s final stage of qualifying for the Open in Pinehurst.

The 2022 graduate of Barton College slogged his way to a 4-under-par 68 to secure his spot for a 36-hole challenge at Old Chatham in Durham, N.C., on June 3.

Boyette used a fabulous finish of eagle-birdie on his final two holes to edge out Matthew Sharpstene of Charlotte, who finished with a 3-under 69, and Ty Harris of Elon, N.C., with a 1-under 71 to take the top three spots.

Two Virginians, Justin Young of Salem and Jay Woodson of Powhatan, grabbed the final two spots, both winning a three-way playoff, finishing at even-par 72 and surviving the one extra hole to seal the deal.

Young was the only amateur in the top five to move on to stage 2 qualifying. Arlington amateur Zachary Verses and Roanoke amateur Ashton Harper earned first and second alternate positions, respectively posting a 72 and 73.

Notable names recognizable to Charlottesville golf fans of those participants that failed to make the cut were AJ Stouffer (amateur) with a 2-over 74, Keswick’s Stacey Larese (amateur) at 77, Palmyra amateur Daniel Benick 77, UVA golfer Ben Haggin (formerly Woodberry Forest) 77, Tim Pemberton (amateur) Williamsburg (formerly Charlottesville) 78, Chris Snyder (amateur) Waynesboro 81, Liam Foster (amateur) Charlottesville 86, Ryan Slonaker (amateur) Harrisonburg (did not finish)and Killan Donnelly (amateur), Palmyra (did not finish).

It was the second time that medalist Boyette had attempted the U.S. Open qualifying, but this time reaching a level of success. A mini tour player, Boyette played a steady round that really didn’t kick in until his back nine (he started his day on Keswick’s 10th hole).

Even at the turn with a pair of bogeys and birdies, he finally got into the red numbers to stay on his 14th hole, a birdie on Full Cry’s 471-yard, par 4, No. 5. From there, he caught fire with an eagle at the 543-yard, par 5, No. 8, followed by a birdie on the 328-yard, par-4, 9th, for a 4-under par back nine.

“That really boosted my round,” Boyette said.

After his drive at No. 8, he found himself 244 yards out, hit a 4-iron up the right side and caught it flush, catching the slope of the green and rolling to within two feet of the cup for an easy eagle.

“I contained my emotions, stayed with my process, even though I hit my drive on No. 9 into the rough,” the medalist said.

Keswick’s rough was thick enough to begin with, but the rain made it even more challenging.

“I hit it through the rough with a wedge to five feet and knocked it in,” Boyette said. “I hadn’t looked at the scoreboard since the turn, so I glanced at my phone and saw that a couple of people were at 3-under, so I thought I might be OK. I wasn’t thinking about being the medalist, so that was an added bonus.”

While he was the leader in the clubhouse, Boyette knew there were still some players out on the course, so he stuck around until the end before celebrating.

“Considering all the rain, the course was great, good design, great shape, the staff was super nice, the greens were still firm after all the rain and rolled good, held their speed,” the champion said. “It was a great experience.”

Boyette will play his final qualifying rounds at Old Chatham in Durham, closer to his home than Woodmont in Maryland where one of the more familiar names in the field, Jay Woodson, will venture to for the fifth time in his illustrious career.

Woodson, who won the Virginia State Open three years in a row from 2012-14, finished even par with Young and Verses, forcing a three-man playoff for the final two spots to move on to next stage qualifying.

The trio teed off at No. 18 and Woodson’s drive found its way into the thick, wet rough on the left side, four feet off the fairway with a severe side-hill lie, exactly what he hadn’t wished for.

His two competitors drove their tee shots into the fairway, giving them a distinct advantage, but that didn’t stop Woodson from pulling off a little magic.

“I was 147 yards out and I felt like I would be lucky to move this shot 120 to 130 yards,” Woodson said, recounting his situation. “I pulled an 8-iron and wanted to hit it to the right side of the green, at least that’s where I was aiming. I pulled it about 20 yards shot on the left.”

He wasn’t through though, and pitched his third shot to within a foot and made the putt to cement his spot at Woodmont on June 3.

While the rain drenched golfers most of the day, Woodson had endured such battles during his career (he turned pro in 2004) after a Hall of Fame career at JMU.

“My caddie said it was going to be a tough day, but being a veteran, I’ve played enough rounds in nasty weather,” Woodson said. “Nicklaus liked tough conditions because he felt like it automatically eliminated half the field with conditions altered. You just get extra towels, extra gloves, and those are the expectations of the day.”

Woodson stopped playing full time (30 to 35 tournaments a year) about six years ago after getting into real estate and to spend time with family. He also had a couple of shoulder surgeries.

While he still played a few tournaments annually, particularly the State Open, he is just now getting back into the swing of things, partly because his two sons, ages 8 and 11, are showing an interest in golf, and because he misses the pressure and challenges of the game.

This will be his fifth trip to Woodmont, having never advanced past that test to the U.S. Open, but one can dream.

For complete scoring of the Keswick qualifying event, click here.