By David Shefter, USGA
WHEATON, Ill. (July 9, 2007)-- Jon Cochrane came to Cantigny on a whim.
During sectional qualifying for the 2007 U.S. Amateur Public Links, a fellow competitor had mentioned that four alternates had managed to get into the final field last year at Gold Mountain’s Olympic Course in Bremerton, Wash.
So as the second alternate from the Cottage Grove, Minn., the 28-year-old from Eagan, Minn., decided he would take a chance and come to the 2007 site in case of a late withdrawal. Cochrane attended a wedding of a college friend in Dubuque, Iowa on Saturday and then made the short three-hour drive to Wheaton with the faint hopes of getting into the field.
“I was thinking it would be less than one percent chance,” said Cochrane, a former Division III golfer at Clark College in Dubuque. “[My dad and I] were both thinking about how to check out of the hotel [on Monday]. How could somebody not show up for a tee time for the U.S. Public Links? I guess the most random things can happen. We were thinking just no way, but we might as well take a chance.”
Then the bizarre occurred. Dan Doyle, a qualifier from Rochester, Mich., and a member of the Northwestern University golf team, was caught in traffic coming to the course from his on-campus residence in Evanston for his scheduled 7:30 a.m. starting time. A disabled truck backed up cars on Interstate 88 – the main freeway to Cantigny from Chicago – and Doyle suddenly was in jeopardy of not making it. He quickly turned his vehicle around for an alternate route, but in his haste to get to the course, received a speeding ticket.
With Doyle not on the property, USGA officials quickly started to search for available alternates. Cochrane, who arrived on the property at 7 a.m., was the third person on the list. The first two, however, never answered their cell phones and weren’t on the premises. Cochrane was on the practice putting green when his father noticed just two players on the 10th tee. He urged his son to come to the tee, where he waited. When Doyle’s five-minute grace period had elapsed and he was officially disqualified from the competition, Cochrane, a high school art teacher and varsity golf coach at Lakeville (Minn.) South High School, was told to play away.
He wound up carding an 8-over-par 80 in his first-ever USGA competition.
“It took me nine holes to settle down,” said Cochrane, whose only nourishment that morning was a banana he purchased at a local convenience store. “It’s little to focus for a round when you are pretty much guaranteed that you’re not going to play. To get mentally prepared is pretty tough.”
But not as tough as losing a spot in the field for being late. Doyle eventually arrived at Cantigny. He came running from the parking lot, only to be told by USGA officials that he had been disqualified (Rule 6-3).
“I feel really bad for him,” said Cochrane, whose wife, Jill, is expecting the couple’s first child next month.
Cochrane’s chances of qualifying for match play are slim. His career-best round is a 69 and he might need to shoot a 66 or 67 to make the final 64.
“This would be a great place to have my career round,” he said. “But if not, the experience has been great.”
Philip Arouca has had the 2007 APL circled on his calendar for a long time. The Wilmette, Ill., resident had hoped to qualify for the 2005 U.S. Amateur at Merion in suburban Philadelphia, where he was born and went to college (St. Joseph’s). He didn’t make the field. So the APL at Cantigny offered the 22-year-old another chance to play in a national championship, this time in his adopted hometown of Chicago. Arouca’s family moved to the northern suburb when he was 14 and he attended New Trier High School before enrolling at St. Joseph’s.
“It’s very special,” said Arouca, who shot a 1-under-par 71 on Monday, which included a one-stroke penalty assessed his group for violating the championship’s pace-of-play policy. “This is probably the 10th to 12th time I have played here. I played a U.S. Amateur qualifier here, so I know what to in tournament conditions. Essentially, I feel I have an advantage just because I know everything out there. There are no surprises to me. I just have to go out there and do it.”
Arouca struggled with his nerves early and made the turn at two over par. But he made four birdies on his second nine, including 17 and 18 for a 70 on the card. Because of the pace-of-play violation, his score was reduced to a 71.
“After I birdied the second hole I got real nervous and jittery and started making some sloppy shots,” said Arouca, who is competing in his first USGA event. “It felt good to get a tournament round in.”
On Tuesday, his father is expected to make the trek out to the course. If Arouca continues to stay hot, this could turn out to be quite a week.
“Recently I have been playing well enough that I know I can put together a good score,” said Arouca, who will graduate this December. “I can put together a good score. I just needed to let myself relax.”
Good To Go
Three years ago, Clayton Rask’s shoulder was such in bad shape that surgery was the only option. Years of playing basketball, football, baseball and messing around had done enough damage that Rask sometimes would wake up in the middle of the night in sheer ago. Rask, then a sophomore on the University of Minnesota golf team, decided to have the reconstructive surgery and redshirt.
Two years removed from the surgery and Rask is playing some of his best golf. On Monday, he carded a 3-under-par 69 to share the early clubhouse lead with Mark Harrell. Harrell and Rask were in the same group with Timothy Madigan of Rio Rancho, N.M., who carded an even-par 72, making the threesome a combined six under par.
“I don’t even think about it now,” said Rask of his left shoulder, which still has the surgical scar. “Before [the surgery], I used to compensate for it so it wouldn’t hurt.”
Rask is also one of the few players in the field who uses a long putter. It might be odd for a 22-year-old to use such an implement usually reserved for older players, but he’s had it in his bag for the last seven years. And Rask says he is putting better than ever.
“I get a lot of grief for it,” he said. “But as long as you get [the ball] in the hole, it doesn’t matter what you use. I feel really comfortable with my putter. I am feeling that I can pretty much roll anything in.”
Hey Cousin, How About Some Mojo
Eight days ago, LPGA Tour rookie Angela Park walked away from Pine Needles as the runner-up (with Lorena Ochoa) at the U.S. Women’s Open. It wasn’t a bad accomplishment for the up-and-coming 18-year-old.
Now her first cousin is off to a good start at the 2007 APL. Lucas Lee, who like Park was born in Brazil from Korean parents, shot a 2-under-par 70 in the first round of stroke-play qualifying to put himself in solid position to qualify for match play. Lee’s parents sold their clothing business in Brazil and moved to the United States seven years ago. He graduated from the same high school as Park (Torrance High in southern California).
Lee’s father now owns a Japanese restaurant and his mother runs a coffee shop. Meanwhile, Lee, a rising junior at UCLA, has become one of the top collegiate golfers in the country, earning third-team All-America honors from the Golf Coaches Association of America this past season.
“I was watching the [Women’s Open] on TV and it was awesome,” said Lee of Park’s performance. “She calls me every now and then. She called me a couple of days ago. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and hopefully, yeah [I’ll be in contention].”
--Story courtesy USGA