Ryan Rucinski didn’t eat breakfast Tuesday morning.
With a nearly 30-mile trip up the Blue Route from Wilmington, the 21-year-old barely made it to Whitemarsh Valley Country Club on time. Ten minutes of practice later, he was on 10th tee.
Rucinski was the only golfer under par in Tuesday’s 36-hole qualifying event at the 118th BMW Philadelphia Amateur championship, closing with 13 straight pars to post a 2-under 141 to top the leaderboard and earn the No. 1 seed in match play. The rising senior at Division II Wilmington University said he “didn’t have his A-game,” though, meaning the best might still be to come.
“My first [18 holes,] I only hit seven greens,” Rucinski said. “My short game was on fire today, and it allowed me to be confident with my putter, too.”
The Delaware native hit just 19 of 36 greens in all but chipping and putting kept him out in front all day.
After graduating from Salesianum in 2015, Rucinski stayed close to home, opting to play for his hometown university. Rucinski finished second in scoring average for the Wildcats, but turned it on late in the season, as he wound up second in NCAA regionals to move on to the national tournament in Muscle Shoals, Ala.
He struggled on the big stage, opening with an ugly 82, but Rucinski recovered with rounds of 70 and 72 to wind up in the middle of the pack.
A strong finish to his college season seemed to pick Rucinski up for a stellar start in one of Philadelphia’s premier amateur events.
“I’ve been proud of myself lately,” he said. “I carried some lessons from last summer and last year into this year and it’s nice to start the season out strong. … This is nice but I’m hopefully looking forward to Saturday.”
The Philadelphia Amateur continues Wednesday with the first and second rounds of match play. Thirty-two players advanced through Tuesday’s stroke-play competition, yet it was not without some late drama. Thirty-six holes were not nearly enough to determine the field — 24 players qualified at 4-over-par or better, leaving 11 men to compete for the final eight spots. Five of the 11 made par on the first playoff hole, while two were eliminated, but the other four needed five more holes to settle things.
In the longest playoff in tournament history, Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Marc Mandel outlasted clubmate John Brennan for the 32nd spot. Mandel two-putted to end the day after Brennan’s second shot found the greenside bunker.
Round of 32 matches begin at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.