PLAINVILLE — Not only is there the likelihood that Mike Philipp will be near the top of the leaderboard at the Attleboro Area Golf Association’s Open qualifying round on Friday, but the former Bryant University Bulldog may also be among the contenders for the championship when the tournament proper is held in August.
“The Open is special, I missed playing in it, which stinks,” Philipp said.
Philipp was unable to play in the 2020 AAGA Open due to traveling for work. Unable to gain one of the 40 exempt spots for the 2021 Open, Philipp then had to retreat into the field of players to re-qualify for the Open.
Philipp begins his quest for the 2021 AAGA Open title on Friday, first by qualifying among a field of over 100 at Heather Hill Country Club in Plainville for the 18-hole play-in event.
The low scorers, approximately 14, from each of the three competing sections — South-North courses, Middle-South courses and North-Middle courses — will advance to the 72-hole AAGA Open to begin Aug. 19 at Foxborough Country Club.
Philipp will be in one of the 12 groups to be competing on the South and North courses, and one of 36 players in that section.
When Philipp last played the AAGA Open, in 2019, he finished 14th with a four-day score of 311 —13 shots off of the winning pace by Derek Johnson. In that excursion, it was a disappointing four days for him as he broke 80 just twice.
The Bristol, Conn., native has been a top-20 finisher in every AAGA Open in which he has participated.
“I missed playing the Open two years before that too because my brother (Ryan) and I were playing in a tournament that had been rescheduled for that same week,” Philipp said.
The 2007 graduate of Bryant University played for legendary Bulldogs coach Archie Boulet of North Attleboro and captained his senior squad.
“Those were special teams, playing for Archie really elevated my game and competitiveness,” the 36-year-old Philipp said.
“The Open is such a great tournament, it really is like no other,” Philipp added.
The tourney takes place over four different courses. In other tournaments, an individual is contending against the field, Philipp said that the Open is one of mutual co-operation and respect with players helping each other line up putts, suggesting clubs, telling one where to hit on a certain hole.
“It really is special in that regard, there’s that community feel to it,” Philipp said. “You have guys from Norton (CC), Foxborough (CC), the other clubs and through the years you get to know a lot of guys from all over the area.
“You really develop some special friendships by playing in the Open.”
Philipp has been a member at Norton CC, Pawtucket CC and Foxborough CC through the years as well as in Connecticut. His competitive tournament golf has been restricted due to his trade, selling sponsorships to golf tournament. He played in a four-ball tournament in Connecticut and two rounds at the R.I. Amateur for two days, missing the cut.
Philipp also played in the 2015 Open and while cracking the top 20 with a 72-hole score of 308, he was 33 shots behind the winning pace of Davis Chatfield. Similarly, Philipp broke 80 just twice during those four rounds.
During the 2014 Open, Philipp made his AAGA Open debut had another top 20 performance. He broke 80 on his scorecard all four and finished at 305, but it was 19 shots behind champion and former Bryant teammate Scott Congdon.
“The reality is that with working I’ve been able to play one day, maybe two a week,” Philipp said. “The good thing is that I know the courses. It was good that I played in the R.I. Amateur, which is very competitive.
“I was able to get out there, swing the clubs and knock off some of the rust,” he added. “Heather Hill always presents its own challenges, that’s a course that you can’t take for granted. “I hear that the greens are in great shape and Pete (Fontaine, the course superintendent) has done a great job with it, with all of the rain (some nine inches during the month of July) we’ve had.
“I know I speak for a lot of the guys, in the qualifying round and in the Open, I love it. It really is an honor to be playing in it. It’s an old school tournament.”