Two of area’s top amateurs battle with pros at final U.S. Open qualifier

SPRINGFIELD — Amateur golfers who want to play for money some day always want to know how they measure up to the pros.

On Monday two local golfers, Jordan Gilkison and Dhaivat Pandya, enjoyed that opportunity at the 36-hole U.S. Open final qualifying event at Springfield Country Club with a field that included 48 pros.

“It’s pretty cool to play the same golf course in the same conditions and see how you stack up,” said Pandya, a 2018 Centerville High School graduate who just finished his college career at Kentucky. “It gives you a good benchmark for what you want to be in the future.”

Gilkison shot even-par 70 and 73, while Pandya shot rounds of 73 and 72 on a day when only the top five, who all finished well under par, out of 75 players advanced to the 123rd U.S. Open on June 15-18 at Los Angeles Country Club.

Gilkison won an individual Division I state championship as a senior at Springboro in 2020. He just completed his second year at Kent State and earned first-team honors in the Mid-American Conference. On Monday, he met former Kent State golfer Taylor Pendrith, who plays on the PGA Tour.

“It’s cool to see guys that you see on TV, but at the same time you don’t want to get too caught up in what other people are doing,” Gilkison said. “Just play your game and hope it’s good enough.”

Springfield Country Club, designed by the famed Donald Ross, is known for its difficult greens. Both Gilkison and Pandya have played the course several times and knew what was required.

“Tee to green it’s not much of a challenge usually,” Pandya said. “You really have to know placement-wise second shot but it’s usually wedges.”

Gilkison added, “The greens aren’t usually this fast. You gotta keep it below the hole.”

Gilkison reached Monday’s qualifier when he shot 2-under par 68 at Westfield Country Club near Cleveland. He placed fourth out of six qualifiers. Pandya shot even-par 71 at Coldstream Country Club in Cincinnati to finish in a four-way tie for third to be one of eight qualifiers. This was the first final qualifier for both.

“I want to turn pro after college,” Gilkison said. “It’s great to play in tournaments like this where you’re playing 36 holes. It’s just like a college tournament.”

Pandya began his college career at East Tennessee then transferred to Maryland for three seasons. When his coach left he used his fifth season, given to all NCAA athletes affected by the COVID pandemic, at Kentucky and earned a masters degree in Finance.

“Kentucky was a lot a closer to home, I had some friends down there and I loved every minute of it,” he said.

Pandya wants to pursue a pro career and plans to compete in qualifying school to make the Korn Ferry Tour, a pro tour for PGA Tour hopefuls.

“It’s always been a goal of mine so I’m definitely going to be all in on it for the near future. It’s definitely my full focus.”

Gilkison wants to make the most of his final amateur summers and two final years at Kent State.

“I really enjoy college golf, playing a lot of golf, really good friends with my teammates.” he said. “We travel a lot, play really nice courses, so I like it.”

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