Thirteen years after becoming a professional golfer, reaching the PGA Tour is no longer just a dream for Rob Oppenheim.
Work remains, but Oppenheim put himself in position to play on golf’s best, most lucrative tour by winning his first tournament on the developmental Web.com Tour. That victory, on Sunday in the Air Capital Classic, moved Oppenheim from No. 71 to No. 13 on the tour’s money list. With eight tournaments remaining — Oppenheim missed the cut this week in Nova Scotia — the standout from Andover is in excellent position to finish inside the top 25 on the money list, which would mean playing privileges for the 2015-16 PGA Tour season.
“I’ve been working at it for a long time,” Oppenheim said this week by phone from Nova Scotia. “I’m 35, I’ve been battling the mini-tours, played the Canadian Tour, played some Hooters Tour, and this is my sixth year out here. To finally get a win, and to be in good position . . . you’re not sure if it’s ever going to happen. At my age, you start to wonder, do I keep going, do I keep driving? I never really thought about quitting; luckily, between my wife [Lacey] and my parents [Jim and Karen] I have a good support team that keeps you motivated. That definitely helps.
“It puts me in position to maybe, if I finish out the year strong, get to the PGA Tour. I know the competition out here is so difficult and competitive, where if you don’t win, it’s very difficult to get into the top 25. Now I’m in a good position, if I can finish strong, to maybe get there full time.”
Oppenheim, who won the 2002 Massachusetts Amateur and the 2009 Massachusetts Open, came from six strokes back to win on Sunday in Wichita, Kan. He drained a 10-foot putt for par on the last hole to finish with a 6-under-par 66, then waited an hour to see if his 13-under-par total would be good enough. Turned out, it was, on a day that began without Oppenheim realistically thinking about winning.
“Go low and post, sit back and see what happens. It’s definitely a different way of winning,” he said. “I was definitely motivated to have a good day, but winning wasn’t really in my mind. Playing from where I did at the start of the day, it was definitely different than sleeping on a lead, and in many ways a lot easier.”
The perks that come with winning – Oppenheim earned $108,000, boosting his season total to $146,227 – also allowed him to reconnect.
“The text messages and e-mails I’ve received from friends have been overwhelming. It’s amazing, you start to realize how many people do care and follow, which is great to see. I’ve heard from people I haven’t talked to in a while, people I’ve met through pro-ams, playing on the Canadian Tour and from amateur golf,” said Oppenheim, who has just three career PGA Tour starts to his name. The most recent came in the 2014 US Open.
Of the estimated 400 golf courses designed by Donald Ross, did you know that Massachusetts is the state with the most? Cob Carlson does. It’s one of many informational nuggets included in the Massachusetts filmmaker’s new documentary, “Donald Ross: Discovering the Legend.”
Carlson, a 61-year-old who lives in Hopkinton, needed 15 months to complete his latest project, which includes archival footage and photographs of Ross, dozens of the courses he designed, and some of the championships played on them. In addition to the course design work he’s most known for, Ross also was an accomplished player, winning the very first Massachusetts Open in 1905, adding another Mass. Open title in 1911, and finishing fifth in the 1903 US Open.
The story of Ross’s life and career is told in the film through interviews with some 30 golf figures, including Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Doak, Rees Jones, Bradley S. Klein, and Mike Davis, the executive director of the US Golf Association.
“The thing that I’ve noticed with Ross golf courses is they tend to play tougher than they look,” Davis says in the film. “When you’re around a Donald Ross course, you realize the subtleties, and how he used the land is really what makes Donald Ross courses great.”
Local voices also are included in the documentary: Alex Ross Shapiro, the great-grandson of Ross who lives in Little Compton, R.I.; Kevin Mendik, a noted golf course architect historian and enthusiast; and Paul Murphy, the golf historian and multiple-time club champion at Charles River Country Club.
Ross’s time spent in Massachusetts, according to the film, resulted in 51 course designs, including his first, at Oakley Country Club, a job which brought him over from his native Scotland in 1899, when he was 26 years old. Other Bay State designs by Ross include Brae Burn, Charles River, Essex County Club, Winchester, and George Wright, a public facility in Hyde Park.
After going on to design such gems as Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., Oakland Hills in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla., and Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina, Ross died in 1948. He is buried, likely unbeknownst to many, in Newton Cemetery, next to his first wife, Janet, and their daughter, Lillian.
“When I came up here to Massachusetts in the 1990s, I didn’t really know anything about Donald Ross,” said Carlson, a Connecticut native who has worked at WGBH and on a number of documentary films, primarily as an editor. “Playing at George Wright and in MGA events, I feel very blessed to have been able to play a lot of his great courses here in Massachusetts. There’s never been a film done on a golf course architect, and this guy is the best. I just wanted to pay him some homage.”
Carlson’s film, which runs for 1 hour and 55 minutes, sells for $20, and is available at www.donaldrossfilm.com, and at a number of local courses that Ross designed, including Weston Golf Club, Winchester Country Club, Vesper Country Club, and George Wright. The film can’t be recommended highly enough.
A pair of club professionals with Bay State connections recently qualified for the 2015 PGA Championship. Playing in the 2015 PGA Professional National Championship at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, Adam Rainaud of South Hadley and Daniel Venezio of South Hamilton finished among the top 20, which gives them spots in the season’s final major, to be held Aug. 13-16 at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis. Rainaud works as an assistant professional at the Black Hall Club in Old Lyme, Conn., and used a final-round 68 on Wednesday to jump 21 places, from a tie for 31st to a tie for 10th. Venezio also began the final round in a tie for 31st, and shot a final-round 69 to qualify for his first PGA. He is an assistant professional at Myopia Hunt Club. Two other local pros — Boomer Erick of Boston Golf Club, and Shawn Warren of Falmouth Country Club in Maine — tied for 20th, but couldn’t grab the final spot into the PGA in a five-person playoff . . . Italian 18-year-old Renato Paratore had perhaps the scorecard of the year at the European Tour’s French Open. In Friday’s second round, Paratore shot a 1-over-par 72. What made his card so unique? He made a 4 on all 18 holes; he birdied all three of the par-5s, bogeyed all four of the par-3s, and made par on every par-4. Paratore missed the cut . . . The 107th Massachusetts Amateur is July 13-17 at Oak Hill Country Club in Fitchburg . . . Applications for three MGA championships are approaching: The Mid-Amateur entries are due by 5 p.m. on July 9, with the Senior Amateur (ages 55 and over) and Super Senior Amateur (ages 65 and over) due by 5 p.m. on July 16. Applications for all three are available at www.mgalinks.org.
Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.