Prosecutor bent on recapturing glory days at Amateur

Tony Paul, The Detroit News
Anthony Sorentino

Bloomfield Township — The U.S. Amateur always makes for an interesting mix of competitors.

From the young to the old, and everywhere in between.

From the stars of the future to those who have sturdy day jobs, their dreams of golf fame and fortunes long since passed.

Anthony Sorentino, 38, of Shelby Township, falls into that latter category, as an assistant prosecutor for Macomb County.

On the docket this week is his first appearance in the U.S. Amateur, set for Oakland Hills Country Club, starting today with two days of stroke play, followed by match play for the 64 lowest scores out of the initial field of 312.

“It’s huge,” Sorentino said Sunday, after finishing up a practice round on the famed South Course. “Most likely, I won’t be trying to qualify next year, but being at Oakland Hills, I have a lot of friends out there, it’s a home game. It’s one of the coolest things I’ll ever do, to have a U.S. Amateur in your backyard.”

More than 7,000 amateurs from around the world registered to try to qualify for the 116th U.S. Amateur.

Sorentino qualified locally, at Plum Hollow in Southfield. And that was no cakewalk, as he got into a four-man playoff for the final spot — and thought he was beat on the first playoff hole, when a competitor was 5 feet for birdie while Sorentino was facing a 15-footer for par.

But his opponent missed, Sorentino missed.

And then on the second hole, a par 3, Sorentino stuffed his tee shot to 5 feet, made it, and here we are.

“I was (griping) to my caddie, ‘We just blew it,’ ” Sorentino said. “But pressure does funny things sometimes. The kid hit two great shots. I got lucky.”

A self-described “Deadhead” — thanks to what he calls really cool parents, he was able to see the Grateful Dead eight or 10 times in high school before Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995 — he hopes his luck keeps on truckin’, at least through the first two days, as his initial goal is to make it to match play.

But make no make, Sorentino may spend his long days up to his eyes and ears in court cases, but he still has plenty of golf skills, even if he’s not a professional anymore.

Sorentino’s wife allows him time to practice for an hour or so each night, and that’s kept him plenty relevant in Michigan’s amateur golf scene, as he won the 2015 Michigan Mid-Amatuer and the 2015 Golf Association of Michigan Tournament of Champions.

He also won the Michigan Mid-Amateur in 2006, shortly after he regained his amateur status, after a few years on the mini-tours didn’t pan out as he hoped so — a development which convinced him to head to law school.

“I got a real job now, and I’ve got a kid now,” he said.

Sorentino played collegiately at the University of Akron, and later Oakland, where he earned his degree.

After Oakland, he started his mini-tour journey, and was cast on the first season of Golf Channel’s “The Big Break,” which took place at Treetops in Gaylord, Michigan.

Sorentino finished runner-up to Justin Peters of Florida.

“I did OK,” Sorentino said of his professional career. “Not good enough, obviously.”

Sorentino is among a small contingent of Metro Detroiters in the U.S. Amateur, and few have as much local knowledge of Oakland Hills as he does.

This is the first U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills since 2002, and the first major championship there since the PGA in 2008.

On Sunday, Sorentino said the South Course was playing extremely long, given all the rain the area received Saturday. Things will likely dry out as the week goes along, making the greens as treacherous as they were designed to be. The rough, per USGA tradition, is going to be long, thick and a nightmare, too.

“I’m long enough,” Sorentino said of his game off the tee. “Compared to the college kids, though, no I’m not.”

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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U.S. Amateur

When: Monday-Sunday

Where: Oakland Hills Country Club, Bloomfield Township

Course details: South Course, 7,334 yards, par 70; North Course, 6,849 yards, par 70

TV: Wednesday-Friday, 3-6, FS1; Saturday-Sunday, 3-6, Fox

Field: 312 players

Format: The first two rounds are stroke play, with the top 64 scores advancing to match play

Defending champion: Bryson DeChambeau; he has since turned pro

Tickets: Available through 2016usamateur.com; $20 for single-day, $75 for weekly pass; students and military personnel get in free with a valid ID