TAMPA, Fla. - Billy Horschel earned co-medalist honors at sectional qualifying at Old Memorial Golf Club in Tampa to advance to the 106th U.S. Open Championship. John Koskinen and George McNeill also secured their spot to advance to the Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York on June 15-18, 2006.
Billy Horschel, 19, from Grant, Florida, shared top honors with John Koskinen after each fired a two-round total of 4-under par 140. Horschel, a former Florida Junior Tour (FJT) player, opened with a first round 73 then matched the low round of the day with a 67 in the second round to secure his spot in the Open. In his final round, Horschel made seven birdies and an eagle on the par 4 13th hole en route to firing the 5-under par. Playing as a freshman for the University of Florida, Horschel tied for first at the NCAA West Regionals and placed 10th in the Individuals at the NCAA Championship. Horschel led the Gators to a second place team finish, the fourth time in team history. “This whole year has been unbelievable,” said Horschel. “I had high expectations today coming off my final round 67 at the NCAA.” After the Open, Horschel plans on returning to Florida to compete in the 89th Florida State Amateur Championship at Pine Tree Golf Club in Boynton Beach.
John Koskinen and George McNeill will join Horschel at Winged Foot. Koskinen, 26, from Baraga, Michigan, shot 71 in the first round then made five birdies in his second round score of 69. Koskinen, a former caddy at Old Memorial, now plays the Hooters Tour where he finished second and third in his past two tournaments. “I’ve been playing pretty well,” said Koskinen. “Hopefully, I’ll keep riding this wave.” McNeill, 30, from Fort Myers, Florida, claimed the final qualifying spot shooting a two-round total of 141 to play in his second U.S. Open Championship. McNeill, who played in the 2002 Open, shot a 2-under par 70 in the first round to sit three back from the leader. In the second round, McNeill went 34-35 to tie with two other competitors at 141 for the tournament. On the first playoff hole, the par 5 16th, McNeill was in the greenside bunker in two. From there, he hit a tremendous bunker shot leaving a two foot putt for birdie which he made to clinch his spot in the Open.
The sectional qualifier at Old Memorial is one of 14 across the world featuring amateur and professional golfers competing in 36 holes of stroke play. The field of 59 consisted of 41 professionals and 18 amateurs attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open. Participants have either advanced through local qualifiers throughout the nation or have earned exempt status from local qualifying. The Florida State Golf Association (FSGA) conducted 17 local qualifiers across the state and the sectional qualifier at Old Memorial Golf Club in Tampa. The FSGA will administer more than 40 qualifying events for USGA Championships this year, more than any other state.