Top amateur golf moments of 2018, No. 10: Twist of fate
(Photo illustration)
(Photo illustration)

At AmateurGolf.com, we admit to loving the amateur sector of this game for the stories, the depth of the players, the remarkable courses, the history of the tournaments and the sheer love of the game displayed by amateur golfers. As 2018 comes to a close, we’ve gathered the year’s best stories for a countdown to the end of the season. Be sure to come back each day to relive the moments that made amateur golf great this year.

Click here to see the whole list as it is revealed

There may be no more nerve-rattling test of golf than the one experienced in a USGA qualifier. A USGA start – never mind a U.S. Open or U.S. Women’s Open start – is often a defining moment in a player’s career. It is sometimes not obvious who will qualify until the last minute, and this is a lesson we all learned in 2018 when a U.S. Open local qualifier ended in a coin flip.

Heads and tails are usually not the deciders of such things, but when neither of the two players tied for the final spot – who would normally be sent to a playoff – are present, it becomes the correct procedure. That’s what happened May 9 when Florida’s Cristian DiMarco and LSU’s Luis Gagne ended the qualifier at Orange Tree National Golf Club in Orlando, Fla., tied for the fifth and final spot into U.S. Open sectionals.

Each player posted an even-par 72 that day, and thinking he was out of it, left the course. That’s when the Florida State Golf Association officials in charge of the event pulled out the coin. In a statement later given to Golf Digest, the USGA confirmed that it was the correct procedure under the circumstances.

“The Florida State Golf Association, which conducted the qualifying, proceeded correctly per procedure to flip a coin when both players were not present to decide the final spot in a hole-by-hole playoff. If the playoff had involved more than two players, the spots would be decided by lot. It is unfortunate that the players did not remain on property to determine the last qualifying spot through their play.”

As DiMarco later told the Golf Channel, “I called (Gagne) and was like, ‘Well, I didn’t put up that much of a fight to you, buddy. We had a good laugh about it. Neither of us thought we’d get in. But that’s how it is. It’s a learning experience. I’m very disappointed in myself for leaving, but in the grand scheme of things, is it really going to make a huge difference in my career? I hope not. I hope I’ll play in many U.S. Opens.”

Gagne not only went on to qualify for the U.S. Open, but was medalist at his sectional qualifier at the Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla.

The last wrinkle to this story unfolded at Shinnecock Hills, where Gagne was one of just three amateurs to make the weekend. He tied for low amateur honors with 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Matt Parziale.

In his first major – and official PGA Tour event – Gagne was steady with rounds of 73-74-75-74.

“I just learned a lot,” Gagne said. “One thing is knowing that, you know, I can play with these guys. I still have a lot of work to do to be able to be out here. Knowing that I’m working on the right things and my skill level’s right with these guys, it gives me a lot of confidence.”

ABOUT THE U.S. Open Local Qualifying

18-hole stroke play qualifier open to male amateurs with a handicap of 1.4 and below. Players who advance will get to choose their top three sectional qualifying sites. The number of qualifying spots will depend on the size of the field.

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