LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Michael Barbosa hasn’t played much competitive golf this year.
But that didn’t stop the former Saint Stephen’s and Georgia Tech standout from posting the best round at the United States Open local qualifier held at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club on Monday.
Barbosa earned medalist honors with a 5-under par 67 to grab one of five berths into the sectional phase.
Players can choose any sectional site, but Barbosa is playing the lone Florida sectional, which takes place June 6 at Quail Valley Golf Club in Vero Beach.
Barbosa lives and works in the financial services industry in St. Petersburg, and said he’s played three tournaments in 2011 before Monday’s qualifier.
“My iron game was really good,” the 28-year-old amateur said. “I mean, I hit a lot of good iron shots.”
Barbosa pointed to Ritz caddy Russ Louk as a key part to his round, which included six birdies against one bogey.
Barbosa said Louk helped him navigate the tricky greens at the Lakewood Ranch course, which were running about 12.5 on the stimpmeter – the device used to measure green speed.
Another key came when Barbosa saved par on No. 7.
“I holed about a 20-footer for par, and that kind of kept me going,” said Barbosa, who then birdied the next two holes and finished with birdies on three of his last four.
Sarasota’s Joey Lamielle, who plays regularly on the West Florida Golf Tour, posted a 68.
Five players carded 69s, which meant a playoff for three spots and two alternate berths.
Former Lakewood Ranch High star and Florida State University alumnus Seath Lauer just missed out on the sudden-death affair, when he missed a 4-foot par putt on No. 18 to shoot 70.
He joined several other players who missed by a shot, including Bradenton’s Sean Jacklin, who plays at the University of North Carolina.
Like Lamielle and Lauer, professional Travis Perkins has plied his trade on the WFGT in the past year.
He earned a berth after the first playoff hole, when he saved par after knocking his birdie putt past the hole on No. 17.
“It’s funny, I had the same exact putt earlier (Monday),” said Perkins, who resides in Lakeland but hails from Lewis Center, Ohio. “… It was a dead-straight putt uphill.”
Unlike Barbosa and other players in the field, Perkins toted his own bag – opting to take on the difficult Ritz layout without a caddy.
“I just prefer to be out here by myself,” Perkins said. “It works out better that way. No one else to blame.”
Brazil’s Luis Thiele also picked up a sectional spot when he chipped-in for birdie on the first playoff hole.
The three other participants – Sarasota’s Brian Ward, The Concession Golf Club’s assistant pro Tyler Witman and Cole Taylor – continued the playoff on No. 18.
All three found the fairway off the tee, but Ward was the closest to hitting the green when he found the front left fringe.
Witman and Taylor failed to get up-and-down, while Ward faced about a 3-foot par putt.
On Saturday, Ward had a chance to defeat three-time PGA Tour winner Robert Gamez on a similar length putt during the WFGT’s “Race to the Ritz” match play competition at the Founders Club.
He missed, and ended up losing his chance at earning the $4,500 payment for PGA Tour Q-School.
This time, however, he sank the putt to book a spot in the sectional.
“It kind of entered the mind for sure,” said Ward about thinking of the putt against Gamez when saving par in the playoff. “You get a second chance, a second life, so just try to keep the head down and knock it in. It’s just another putt, right?”
The 111th U.S. Open is held June 16-19 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.