Will Kannegeiser pauses for a photo before playing a round of golf at Martindale Country Club recently. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
AUBURN — According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, the term sick day means, “a day for which an employee receives pay while absent from work because of illness.”
Minot native Will Kannegieser’s definition of a sick day is slightly different. All right, that’s being generous — Kannegieser’s definition is drastically different. For him, it means to take a day off from work to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, which begins Monday at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Golf Links, both located in Pebble Beach, California.
Kannegieser, who will be a junior at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, spent most most of June and July working on a trail crew, which included clearing hiking paths around Williamstown, building stone steps to make hiking up steep slopes easier and building bridges and an observation deck on the trails.
He knew he couldn’t take time off from work to compete in the Maine Amateur at Belgrade Lakes, which was held July 10-12. Competing in the New England Amateur at Portland Country Club the following week also wasn’t in the cards due to his obligations to the Williams Outing Club — the largest at student organization at Williams.
“That was something I had to come to grips with,” Kannegieser said. “I knew pretty early on the Maine Am wasn’t an option and the New England Am was probably not going to happen.”
He was OK missing those two events, but he knew he couldn’t pass up a chance at qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, one of the premier amateur golf tournaments in the world, on Monday, July 16.
This year, one of the qualifier sites for the 312-player field happened to be the Taconic Golf Club, the Williams College home course. Kannegieser played and was the low medalist with a two-round score of 137 (5-under-par).
The other qualifier to advance at Taconic was his Williams College teammate Sam Goldenring.
“It was the first time they had a qualifier I think in a long time,” Kannegieser said. “That’s where we play for school, so I knew the course very well. I had been playing it the last whole month leading up to it. I was ready to play when the day came around.”
The qualifier involved 36 holes in one day. In the first round that morning, one might say Kannegieser had a little case of “the Mondays,” as he fired a 1-over-par 72, carding three birdies and four bogeys.
In the afternoon, he feasted on two of the three par-5s Taconic has to offer, including an eagle on the opening hole and a birdie on No. 18. He made five other birdies in the round and only two bogeys to finish 6-under in the second round and 5-under overall.
“I played well in the morning, but I hadn’t taken advantage of a lot of the opportunities that I gave myself,” Kannegieser said. “When the afternoon came around, all the putts I had were dropping and I kept the mistakes to a minimum — I recovered well when I had them. That was really the difference. It turned out to be an awesome round.”
One question posed often to Kannegieser going into the qualifier was what would happen if his boss finds out he took a sick day to compete in the tournament?
“People were asking me, ‘How are you going to get by your boss?'” Kannegieser said. “I said, basically, if it gets out it will be a good problem to have.”
After the fact, the bosses were fine with his decision to play hooky.
He used this past week to prepare for the U.S. Amateur by playing in the Charlie’s Maine Open at Augusta Country Club on Tuesday and Wednesday. He finished tied for 14th at 3-under for the tournament. He placed second among the amateurs in the field, one shot behind Freeport’s Jack Wyman, who will also compete at the U.S. Amateur this week.
Since qualifying, Kannegieser has been receiving advice from all sorts of people who have played Pebble Beach, including Tiger Woods — well, sort of.
“I know very a little about it, really,” Kannegieser said. “I have heard a lot of things from people … and talking to people who have played it. They say it’s beautiful and it’s an once-in-a-lifetime sort of place to play. I don’t know much, beyond maybe playing it on (Tiger Woods’) video games, of actually seeing the course.”
He planned on playing a practice round on Pebble Beach and Spyglass on Saturday and Sunday before teeing it up Monday for the first of two stroke-play rounds. The top 64 after two days move to the match play portion of the tournament on Wednesday. Each round of match play is 18 holes except the final, which is 36 holes.
Among the exemptions the winner receives are entry into next year’s Masters, U.S. Open and the Open Championship — three of the four majors — if the winner keeps his amateur status.
The U.S. Amateur starts a busy rest of the year for Kannegieser. He also skis for Williams College, and has some snow time planned before he studies abroad in Vietnam starting in September.
“I am actually leaving the country on (Aug.) 19th to go to Norway for a ski trip,” Kannegieser said. “I will be there until about (Sept. 1), and I will hang out in Oslo for a day then flyover to Vietnam for the semester. On the way back, our family, we are going to travel to India for five days right before Christmas.”
His travel plans will have to change if he makes the U.S. Amateur final, which is on Aug. 19.
“That’s indeed the final day of the U.S. Amateur,” Kannegieser said. “If I make it that far, I think we can make an adjustment if it has to happen.”
Will Kannegieser, of Minot, lines up a putt during the first day of the Charlie’s Maine Open at Augusta Country Club in Manchester last week. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)
Will Kannegieser, of Minot, putts during the first day of the Charlie’s Maine Open at Augusta Country Club in Manchester. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)