VARIOUS SITES, USA (June 5, 2017) - U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying was held Monday at ten qualifying sites across the United States. This is often referred to as "Golf's Longest Day", one of the more grueling days in golf. In all, over 700 golfers are competing for 53 spots into next week's U.S. Open Championship at Erin Hills.
Related: U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying - The Road to Erin Hills
Related: U.S. Open Local Qualifying Roundup
Highlights from sectional qualifying include:
Summit, New Jersey (80 players for 5 spots)
To demonstrate just how competitive sectional qualifying is, former U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and Walker Cupper Scott Harvey of Kernersville, NC shot a bogey-free nine-under 63 in the morning, started his afternoon round with an even par front nine...and lost his lead. Harvey played even par golf until bogeying the final hole, but it was good enough to qualify for Erin Hills, finishing second at eight-under 134. Professional Daniel Chopra of Sweden was medalist at 11-under 131.
Christopher Crawford came to Canoe Brook with good memories. A year ago he rolled in a 40-footer on the 36th hole to make it into the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club. On Monday, Crawford birdied five holes in a row en route to an opening six-under 66 that gave him the lead before Harvey's 63. A solid two-under 68 in the afternoon on the South Course put him in the clubhouse at eight-under 134, and the score held up--no need for final-hole heroics this year. Crawford heads to Erin Hills to play in his second straight U.S. Open Championship.
Lloyd Jefferson Go of the Philippines was the next highest amateur, finishing three shots off the qualifying number at four-under 138. Dawson Jones of Howell, NJ and Matthew Naumec of Wilbraham, MA were next at 139.
Among the other amateur finishers (30 in all), mid-amateur Bobby Leopold of Coventry, RI finished at one-under 141, and five-time USGA champion Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh, PA was three over at 145.
Ball Ground, Georgia (36 players for 2 spots)
With only two spots available, the fewest of any qualifier, the margin of error was slim. Davis Love IV, whose dad was attempting qualifying in Columbus, Ohio sat one behind the lead after the morning round with Viktor Hovland of Norway and professional Stephan Jaeger at five-under 67. Alex Smalley of Wake Forest, NC and Jimmy Stanger of Tampa, FL were one further shot back at 68.
Smalley, a rising junior at Duke University and medalist at last year's U.S. Amateur, separated himself from the other amateur contenders with three straight birdies in his afternoon round starting at the eleventh. He parred in from there to shoot a 69 for a seven-under 137 total to finish co-medalist with Jaeger. Smalley heads to Erin Hills for his first U.S.
Love IV eagled the final hole to get within one shot of Smalley, but fell just outside the top two at six-under 138. Stanger finished another shot back at 139. Benjamin Shipp of Duluth, GA shot consecutive 70s for a 140 total. Hovland shot 75 to fall back and finish at 142.
William Rainey was the only other amateur to finish in the top ten, tied with Hovland at 142.
Among other amateurs (16 in all), former Walker-Cupper Todd White of Spartanburg, SC finished at one-over 145, and 15-year-old Akshay Bhatia of Wake Forest, NC shot 154.
Rockville, Maryland (50 players for 3 spots)
The Rockville qualifier at Woodmont Country Club had the fewest amateurs (12) in the starting field of any qualifier, and the pros dominated the standings, taking all three spots. Ryan Rucinski of Wilmington, DE was the low amateur finisher at two-over 146.
Tequesta, Florida (49 players for 3 spots)
A couple of teenagers battled the pros at the Jupiter Hills Club for the three qualifying spots. On a difficult day for scoring, 17-year-old Eugene Hong of Orlando, FL shot a morning 69, one of only three under par rounds, to sit second going into the afternoon round. Hong, who is a verbal commit to the University of Florida, started his afternoon three under through ten and took a two shot lead on the field. But he started leaking oil from there, bogeying three holes (including the 36th) to fall right onto the cut line at one-under 139.
18-year-old Joaquin Niemann of Chile, the #1 ranked amateur according to the R&A and USGA, had a roller coaster opening round of one-over 71 that included six birdies, five bogeys and a double. Niemann steadied himself in the afternoon, but a bogey on the 15th dropped him outside the final qualifying spot. With two holes left it was between Niemann and his playing partner, professional Tyson Alexander of Gainesville, FL, and Niemann came up big by making birdie on the 36th hole to force a 3-for-2 playoff with Hong and Alexander at 139.
Alexander birdied the first playoff hole to advance, leaving the final spot between the two junior amateurs. The playoff moved to the long par four seventeenth, and Niemann's par was enough to win the playoff and take the final spot into the U.S. Open Championship. Hong will be the first alternate.
Among the other amateur finishers (21 in all), John Vanderlaan, who led Florida Southern to a NCAA Division II title last week, shot a six-over 146. Sam Horsfield, who recently left the University of Florida to turn professional, shot a morning 75 and withdrew from the qualifier.
Dallas, Texas (58 players for 3 spots)
Walker Lee, soon to start his collegiate career at Texas A&M University in the fall, shot a 6-under 65 in the morning to put him squarely in contention for one of the three qualifying spots.
Lee added a front-nine 32 in the afternoon to get to 10 under when the skies opened up and play was halted due to weather. After a 1 hour 50 minute delay, Lee completed an even-par back nine for a 67 to finish at 10-under 132 and earn his place in the U.S. Open field.
In the video below, a relieved Lee talks about handling the conditions and the magnitude of his accomplishment.
Two Mexican amateurs, Alvaro Ortiz and Aaron Terezas, turned in excellent performances at Lakewood Country Club but fell just short of advancing, as Nick Flanagan of Australia (the 2003 U.S. Amateur champion) took the final spot.
Ortiz, who is a rising senior at the University of Arkansas, had rounds of 67 and 68 to finish at 7-under 135. Terrazas, who just finished his sophomore year at the University of Texas El Paso, had five birdies to shoot a flawless 66 and post an 6-under 136 total.
Among other amateur finishers (23 in all), Cole Hammer of Houston, who qualified for the U.S. Open two years ago as a 15-year-old, finished at four-under 138. World #9 Will Zalatoris of Plano, TX shot 140.
Former U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and Walker Cupper Mike McCoy of Des Moines, IA shot 77 in the morning round and withdrew from the qualifier.
Columbus, Ohio (122 players for 14 spots)
Year after year, the Columbus qualifier has the strongest field, filled with PGA Tour professionals who have just competed in the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village. The USGA acknowledges the field strength by offering more spots here than any other site, 14 in all.
As expected, professionals dominated the qualifier. But Scottie Scheffler
of Dallas, TX managed to contend, shooting at six-under 66 at Brookside in the morning. Scheffler would go on to birdie his 36th hole of the day to make a four-man playoff for the final three spots.
Scheffler had to wait until Tuesday morning, however, as Golf's Longest Day got a little longer. The weather delays that halted play earlier in the day didn't allow enough daylight to even start the playoff, and so Scheffler had to come back out first thing Tuesday morning,
along with professionals Michael Putnam, Peter Uihlein, and Talor Gooch.
After Uihlein birdied the first playoff hole to advance, the other three continued until the fourth playoff hole, where Scheffler made a 9-footer for birdie to make it through. It was the second straight year Scheffler qualified for the U.S. Open via a playoff.
"It's nice to get through, but I wish I made it less stressful," said Scheffler, a rising senior at the University of Texas. "I knew the playoff was different this time in that these guys were not going to make mistakes. Pars were good last year. I needed to make a birdie, but I was not going to force it."
Donnie Trosper of Canton, MI was the next low amateur at six-under 138 (tied with Hall of Famer Vijay Singh among others). Derek Bard, the U.S. Amateur runner-up in 2015, was at the same 138 total, as was Hayden Wood of Edmond, OK. World #27 Hugo Bernard of Canada was another shot back at five-under 139.
Curtis Luck of Australia, the former World #1 amateur who turned professional after the Masters, shot a 71 and then withdrew from the qualifier.
Springfield, Ohio (77 players for 4 spots)
This is another difficult qualifier for amateurs, with more tour pros in between stops at the Memorial and Memphis. Professionals took all four spots, led by medalist (and former #1 ranked amateur) Corey Conners from Canada who shot 12-under 128.
The final qualifying score was 7-under 133. Doug Ghim of Arlington Heights, IL made a late run, with five birdies in the last seven holes, to get to six under, one shot short. Chase Hanna of Leawood, KS got it to six under and needed to birdie the last hole to force a playoff, but bogeyed instead to finish at 135.
Among other amateur finishers (36 in all), Daniel Wetterich of Cincinnati, OH shot an afternoon 64 to finish at 4-under 136. Dylan Meyer, who entered the week #1 in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com World Amateur Rankings, shot consecutive 69s for a 138 total. Nick Carlson of Hamilton, MI, a semifinalist in last year's U.S. Amateur, also shot 138.
World #8 Zachary Bouchou of Forest, VA... NCAA Division II champion Chandler Blanchet of Pensacola, FL was at 142. Former U.S. Mid-Amateur Sammy Schmitz withdrew from the qualifier.
Memphis, Tennessee (108 players for 9 spots)
The Memphis qualifier is yet another of the more difficult sites for amateurs, as many of the PGA Tour professionals are in town for this week's FedEx St. Jude Classic. The story of this qualifier is no doubt Steve Stricker shooting 10-under to earn medalist honors and make the U.S. Open field at Erin Hills in his home state of Wisconsin.
But another stellar performance was that of Davis Shore of Knoxville, TN. Shore, an eighteen-year-old University of Alabama commit, followed up his morning round of 69 with a five-under 66 to post a seven-under 135 total.
This got Shore into a five-man playoff for two spots, along with professionals Meen Whee Kim, Scott Brown, Jonathan Randolph and Xander Schauffle. But a poor drive on the first playoff hole led to a bogey and Shore was eliminated from playoff.
Davis Riley of Hattiesburg, MS fell just one shot short of the playoff at six-under 136.
Among other amateur finishers (32 in all), Dawson Armstrong of Brentwood, TN who won the NCAA East Regional for Lipscomb University, finished at five-under 137. World #2 Sam Burns, who just announced that he would leave LSU and turn pro at the end of the summer, was at 139.
NCAA Champion Braden Thornberry of Olive Branch, MS finished at 142 and will head over to TPC Southwind to play in his first PGA Tour event at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Lakewood, Washington (70 players for 4 spots)
Amateurs were shut out at Tacoma Country & Golf Club, as professionals took all four spots. Of the 14 amateurs in the field, Riley Elmes of Lake Oswego, OR had the low score,
a three-over 145.
Newport Beach, California (103 players for 6 spots)
Amateur golfers dominated the leaderboard after the morning round at Big Canyon and Newport Beach Country Clubs. World #14 Cameron Champ had the low round at Newport Beach, an eight-under 63 that put him one shot ahead of John Oda of Honolulu, HI and professionals Beau Hossler of Dallas and Kevin Dougherty of Murrieta, CA.
World #5 Sean Crocker of Long Beach, CA and Brandon Wu of Scarsdale, NY both posted a five-under 66 at Newport Beach, while U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad and Jino Sohn of Chandler, AZ were at 67.
The low morning score at Big Canyon was an eight-under 64 by Mason Andersen of Chandler, AZ. That beat his half of the field by four shots.
Oda, who just finished his junior year at UNLV, was first to finish in the afternoon round, continuing his good play at Big Canyon by adding a 68 to his morning 64 for an 11-under 132 total. Andersen was next in, only picking up one shot on the easier Newport Beach course in a round of 70 that put him at 134. As the round went on, it became apparent that no one would catch either player, and Oda and Andersen were both on their way to Erin Hills.
Down the stretch, there were five golfers in a tight race for the remaining four spots. Sahith Theegala of Chino Hills, CA shot the low round of the afternoon, a 65 at Big Canyon, to get to the clubhouse at seven under 136. He was joined by Dougherty, who slipped to a 72.
Wu had a one-under 70 at Big Canyon to post six-under 137.
That left two golfers on the course with a chance but going in opposite directions: Hagestad and Champ. Hagestad seemed to be through, getting it to four under at Big Canyon and eight under overall with two holes to play, but a bogey on seventeen made him sweat the final hole. Champ struggled all day at Big Canyon, losing shots but still hanging on to the final spot until a bogey on the final hole put him in a tie with Wu.
Hagestad went on to birdie the par-five eighteenth, sending him through to Erin Hills. Theegala and Dougherty also advanced, while Wu and Champ entered a playoff for the final spot.
With the knowledge that a par on the 36th hole would have put him in the U.S. Open field,
Champ had to refocus in the playoff. And did he ever. Champ would go on to roll in a 40-foot birdie putt on the first playoff to claim the last spot, making his dream come true and making Wu the first alternate.
The strength of the amateur field for the California qualifier was unmatched anywhere else in the country. Amateurs took five of the six available spots, plus the first alternate.
Justin Suh of San Jose, CA finished one shot out of the playoff at 138. Crocker was a further shot back at 139. Other amateur finishers (43 in all) included Norman Xiong, the Mickelson Award winner from the University of Oregon who finished at two-under 141. World #4 Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge, CA was at 143, tied with Sohn who faded in the afternoon. Cheng Jin of China who won the 2015 Asia-Pacific Amateur and played in last year's Masters, shot 146.
The 117th U.S. Open Championship begins June 15 at Erin Hills Golf Club in Erin, Wisconsin.