If you know me, you know I love great golf stories...as I followed the local and sectional qualifying, I wondered which golf dreamers would have their stories continue all the way to Erin Hills. As a Minnesotan, I was cheering my heart out for all of the guys who made it to sectionals and were playing for a chance to play in the US Open all over the country. Sadly, none of our Minnesota guys were able to advance...but considering there were less than 80 spots for over 970 competitors, the odds were tough. But I have no doubt we'll be seeing their names in the golf news in the future.
The thing about sectional qualifying is that there are a great percentage of players who are professionals...and some current players on the PGA Tour. I've wondered what the reaction is of those players are when they see PGA Tour guys in their field also trying to make it to Erin Hills. The Columbus site was brutal, 122 players with a long list of PGA Tour players who were vying for 14 spots to get to the US Open....but after 4 play-off holes, Scottie Scheffler, from Dallas, TX, advanced to Erin Hills with a (a) after his name. According to hookem.com, Schelffler, a junior at the University of Texas, is on his way to his 2nd US Open. And since I have some Texas friends, I'll throw out a "Hook 'Em Horns!" during the week.
As of Sunday, there are 14 amateurs in the Erin Hills field...12 from the United States, one from England and one from Chile. What I learned through researching some of these players is there is a World Amateur Ranking and 7 of the 14 players heading to the US Open are in the top 50 in the world Amateur Ranking. Joaquin Niemann, from Chile is currently the #1 Amateur player in the world, and right behind him is Maverick McNealy at #2.
Niemann, who is only 18, travels the world to play golf and will be heading to the University of South Florida in the Fall...his rise to #1 in the world has been through Junior Tournaments.
Maverick McNealy, who was #1 in the Amateur Rankings until being unseated by Niemann last month, will be graduating from Stanford in June. An interesting article in the Mercury News on May 25 shares that McNealy will have a summer full of events before he announces whether or not he'll turn pro some time in September. The article indicates he's planning his summer as if he'll turn pro, but he also has aspirations in the business world, so we'll just have to wait and see.
Here's a quick re-cap of the rest of the current amateurs in the field at the US Open at Erin Hills, WI.
Mason Andersen - 18 years old - committed to the Univ. of Arizona
Cameron Champ - 22 - plays at Texas A&M
Christopher Crawford - 23 - golf coach in PA
Brad Dalke - Univ. of Oklahoma Senior
Scott Gregory - England Am Champion - also played in 2017 Masters
Stewart Hagerstad - US Mid-Amateur Champ 2016 - Low Amateur in 2017 Masters
Scott Harvey - Age 39 - 2014 Mid Am Champion - from South Carolina
Walker Lee - 19 - attending Texas A&M in the fall
John Oda - Junior at UNLV
Alex Smalley - Junior at Duke (medalist in sectional qualifying)
Sahith Theegala - Sophomore at Pepperdine
In 2016, of the 11 amateurs who qualified to play in the US Open (which Dustin Johnson won) only 1 made the cut - Jon Rahm.
Here's hoping we get another great story this year...good luck to all the dreamers!!