By Hector Longo
---- — About the only thing Andover’s Rob Oppenheim had to worry about over the last four days at Stage 2 of the PGA Qualifying School was whether his caddy would hold up over the duration.
“I can tell you his legs were sun-burned bright red after the first day,” said Oppenheim of his good friend and part-time mentor Mike Menery of Andover Country Club. “But he hung tough and stuck it out. And he was huge for me all week.”
With Menery making the suggestions and Oppenheim executing, the aspiring Tour pro surged into the final stage by winning his 74-man qualifier with a 72-hole score of 21-under par 263.
Nineteen players advanced, and Oppenheim hardly worried as he pulled away from the nearest competitor to win by four shots with a 67.
“He was unbeatable this week at any level. He could have hung with anyone in the world,” said Menery, who will head out to Palm Springs, Calif., for the final stage, beginning Nov. 28. Out West, 25 PGA Tour cards will be up for grabs with approximately 160 players gunning for them. “This field was a Web.com Tour plus, plus field, an international field with a lot of good players. And he didn’t eke by them.”
Nope, Oppenheim crushed them, opening with a 63 and never looking back.
He could have coasted in yesterday, needing something in the low to mid-70s to be safe. But instead the recent new dad (Zoey Elizabeth, one-month-old) instead went for the victory.
“I think it was pretty important for my confidence to go out and prove that I can win a four-day, 72-hole tournament. It’s been a while since I’ve won a tournament like this,” said Oppenheim, who missed the PGA Tour by two shots in Q School last year. “It felt good to beat a field like this. Mike kept pushing me.
‘Let’s win this thing,’ and that was big. Instead of just settling for pars and avoiding a big number, we went after it.”
Maybe, it’s fatherhood. Perhaps, it’s health as Oppenheim has rested his tender shoulder. But Menery noticed a different Oppenheim at the Plantation Reserve, just outside of Fort Lauderdale this time around.
“If it was day 1-2-3-4, he didn’t play defense, he didn’t play offense. He was just in such control of his golf ball,” said Menery. “We picked the same lines we had in the practice rounds, and he executed the shots. He never tapped the brakes.
“I’ve been following and working with him for 10 years, and I have seen him do this on a given day dozens of times. But to see him do it in its entirety for 72 holes, it was impressive, not only to me, but to everyone who saw him.”
Now 32 years old, Oppenheim has been knocking on the door of the PGA Tour, spending the past three years at the Triple-A level, Web.com Tour, earning over $400,000 in prize money.
Still approaching his prime, he’s hoping that this is the time he ultimately busts through.
“Obviously, there are no guarantees,” he said of the 6-round final stage. “I’ll need to play some of the best golf of my life to do it. And I definitely can.”
FOUR AMAZING ROUNDS In the 72 holes of Q-School golf at the Plantation Reserve this week, Rob Oppenheim made: 25 birdies, 43 pars, 4 bogeys.