Omar Morales takes dead aim (Laz Versalles for AmateurGolf.com)
by Laz Versalles, for AmateurGolf.com
88 players played for five spots at the recently renovated Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles, California. Conditions were fairly timid throughout the day with overcast skies and light winds.
Much of the buzz in the morning surrounded 13-year-old Jaden Soong, the youngest player to ever qualify for the final stage of the U.S. Open, but when the dust settled, it was Omar Morales, a UCLA Bruin from nearby Westwood who stole the show and took home medalist honors with a 12-under score of 130 (65-65.)
“I’ve played here every week since my freshman year,” Morales said after signing his card. “It’s a dream to play in the U.S. Open, and especially so close here in Los Angeles.”
Morales credited his brother, who caddied for him, with keeping him even-keeled during the longest day in golf.
“It was great having my brother with me today, teammates and friends. It just feels incredible to share this with them.”
Morales wasn’t the only amateur to win a spot at Hillcrest Country Club. Stanford senior Barclay Brown -- a 2021 GB&I Walker Cup team member -- finished at 10-under 132 (65-67) to secure his spot in the U.S. Open. Brown won the hearts of many of the fans at Hillcrest, as he was one of a handful of players who carried his own bag.
As if that’s not enough PAC-12 amateurs, Preston Summerhays has a shot at securing one of the five spots in a three-for-two playoff Tuesday morning at 7:30 am. And he enters the playoff having made a wildly impressive eagle on his 36th hole, the 525-yard, par 5 9th. Not only was the eagle impressive, it was unlikely.
Walking up his 35th hole, the 465 par-4 eight, Summerhays was almost struck by an errant tee shot coming from the adjacent 13th tee box.
He blew his 20-foot birdie putt by a good three feet by the hole. One had to wonder if nearly being struck by a golf ball had rattled the young Sun Devil. Summerhays cashed the comeback putt and headed to the par 5, knowing he needed at least a birdie to have a chance.
After waiting 15 minutes to hit his tee shot, Summerhays pumped a high fade 325 yards into a slight wind, dead center cut, and stuffed his approach from 200 yards to 12 feet and left no doubt. The eagle for a round of 62 took him to 9-under for 36 holes and a share of the course record.
Oklahoma State’s Leo Oyo made a valiant run putting eight birdies and an eagle on the board for an impressive 63 and a total of 7-under 135. “After this morning, I was in a position where I had nothing to lose so I was able to string off a pretty good run,” Oyo said as he anxiously waited out the field by the scoreboard. As Morales, Brown and Summerhays scores came in, Oyo’s hopes faded away.
Long Beach State’s Ian Gilligan showed well, carding 66-70 for a total of 6-under. Another Arizona State player, Luke Potter, made an impressive run in his second round with a 65 to follow an opening 72, a total of 5-under par. UNLV’s Caden Fioroni made an albatross on the par-5 9th in his opening round and finished at a respectable 4-under par.
TUESDAY MORNING JUNE 6 PLAYOFF UPDATE
Summerhays, Charley Hoffman and Josh Anderson entered a three-for-two playoff Tuesday morning. It was another calm, slightly gray morning with little to no wind as the players reached the downhill par 4 10th. Summerhays and Hoffman hit it in the fairway, Anderson found the fairway bunker on the right side.
As Anderson left his approach short, Summerhays and Hoffman found the green. As a crowd of fifty spectators watched on, Anderson flubbed a pitch shot and left needed to hole out from just off the front edge for par and any hope. He did not, and Summerhays and Hoffman calmly two-putted to secure their spots in the U.S. Open.
All told, the five spots up for grabs went to amateur medalist Omar Morales of UCLA, Brown of Stanford, Summerhays, Hoffman and former Arizona State standout David Puig.
Summerhays reflected on his first round.
“I got off to the worst start of my season, 3-over on my first nine.” Luckily, his friends and family were close by. “My dad was able to talk me back into it, I shot 3-under on my second nine and got back into it from there.”
Hillcrest won over almost everyone who played, including Summerhays.
“The course was awesome. It was really cool. I love the drives you’re asked to hit, how firm and fast the greens are. It’s a great course.”
Summerhays is the 13th amateur to make it through Final Qualifying into the U.S. Open. We can’t wait to see what he thinks of The Los Angeles Country Club.