Shawn Jasper always circles the dates for the Metropolitan Open Championship on his calendar.
It gives the Marthasville native a chance to play in a local event. It doesn’t hurt that he was won the tournament twice, either.
Jasper and a total of 65 golf professionals from St. Louis and around the country along with some of the area’s elite amateur will tee it up Thursday (July 10) in the ninth Metropolitan Open Championship on the Lewis and Clark Course at the Country Club of St. Albans.
The professionals will compete for a $15,000 first-place check. After two rounds, there will be a cut to the low 40 scores and ties for the final round Saturday.
“The Metropolitan Open is a special event to me because it’s my only chance of the year to play in front of family and friends,” said Jasper, a Francis Howell and Missouri graduate. “On top of that, it is played on a great golf course, The Lewis and Clark Course at St. Albans is one of the best in town. All that combined with the Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association running the event in a first-class manner as always, makes this one of the best events in the Midwest period.”
The Lewis and Clark Course is certainly one 18-hole track Jasper enjoys playing.
“I do like St. Albans a lot,” Jasper said. “I just feel comfortable there, not sure what it is. You have to drive it well, and usually I feel like that is a strength for me. The back nine has a great mix of holes you can get and difficult holes, including on of the best 18th holes in St. Louis. All this leads to usually an exciting finish.”
Defending champion Drew Stoltz was unable to make it back to St. Albans this summer for the tournament. There are several past champions are in the field.
Jasper won the tourney in 2010 and 2011.
Each of the Jasper’s wins in the tournament saw him come from behind to prevail.
“In 2010, I was in the final group, but I started well behind Scott (Langley), but was able to make up the ground quickly, and by hole 13, (I) had the lead and knew what I needed to do to win as I was the last group on the course,” Jasper said. “In 2011, I was a couple groups ahead of the leaders, and was trailing by a handful of shots going into the back nine after a poor front but I remember making the turn and telling my caddie, Colin, that we were still in it and might as well go for it.
“I had a 31 coming in and I had posted a number to beat, and this time, I had to watch other players finish, to see if it held up, which thankfully it did.”
This year Jasper will be playing with Mitchell Gregson, who won it in 2012, and amateur Phil Caravia, the 2014 Old Warson Cup champion, in the first two rounds.
“I know Mitch well and have played some golf with Phil,” Jasper said. “Mitch has been in South America most of the early part of the year with some good success. Obviously, he has a ton of talent, (you) just have to look what he did to the field a couple years ago at this event.
“I know Phil has been playing some great golf as well, winning the Metropolitan’s match play event this spring. It should be a great pairing with hopefully some great golf.”
Chesterfield’s Skip Berkmeyer, the inaugural champion in 2006, will tee it up with University of Illinois head golf coach Mike Small and Bellerive Country Club teaching professional Brian Fogt in rounds one and two. This will be Small’s debut in the Open after several attempts to try and fit into his schedule.
There are plenty of other good players in the field this year. Jasper said there are many players who could end up winning the tournament.
Top amateurs like Alex Cusumano, Andy Fogerty, Joe and Sam Migdal and Ted Moloney will compete along with local goflers who play professionally like John Kelly, Collin Neeman, Chris Naegel and many others.
“Once again I feel like the field is strong. There are so many good young players coming out of St. Louis, that I feel the field just gets better and better,” Jasper said. “Numbers-wise, it may not be as deep as last year, but talent-wise, it is for sure. Jace Long and Chris Brant have both played in Web.com events this year. Chris Naegel has been playing very well all year.
“John Kelly has been playing well as of late and has had past success here. Mitchell Gregson has had good finish in the Tour de Las Americas … not to mention all the younger guys who just graduated from college and starting to play professionally.”
As far as his game goes, Jasper noted he could be playing better. But he believes his game is coming around. He is optimistic heading into the Metropolitan Open.
“My game hasn’t been as consistent as last year yet this year, but has been showing signs of progress the last month or so,” Jasper said. “I have been playing most of the Web.com Monday qualifiers and a couple PGA Tour ones as well to no avail yet. I have been playing primarily on the Adams Tour to stay sharp, with a few top 15s but nothing great yet.”
The first round will begin at 7:30 a.m. Thursday with starting times going throughout the day. The public is welcome to attend, free of charge.
Guessing a number to win is always hard, Jasper said.
“It’s always hard to predict the number needed. The weather looks good all week, but I haven’t been over to play the course yet to see if it is firm or soft from recent rain,” Jasper said. “I know three sub par rounds never hurt your chances on the challenging par-70 layout.”
The prize for first has been bumped up. That never hurts and Jasper acknowledged it would be good to win it. The increased money means the tournament is successful and Jasper wants that to continue.
“I guess I’ll have a good start on getting the fall Q-School expenses taken care of,” Jasper said about playing the Web.com Tour Qualifying School event that will be held Dec. 11-16. “Everything Plaza Motors and the membership at St. Albans have done to make this event grow, and continue to grow, is fantastic. It is a great opportunity for us local pros to play a home event and make a substantial paycheck in the process.
“My hope is this event continues to grow year after year and attract more and more players nationally as the purse continues to increase, I have no doubt that will be the case.”