It's time...the week that dreamers wait for...the United States Open Golf Championship. This is where anyone with a qualifying handicap can try their luck, beat the odds, and find themselves in the field of 156 golfers, including the best players in the world.
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!!
Come Monday, the last 10 sectional qualifying events to get into the US Open at Erin Hills will happen around the country. The dreamers are getting ready - both amateurs and professionals alike, to get into the 156 man field in which just shy of 9,000 applications were accepted in the local qualifying. We're down to less than 1,000, playing for around 100 spots...19 of which have been secured.
Two sectional qualifiers have already happened in Japan and England. Four players advanced to the US Open in the Japan qualifier including Chan Kim, a 27-year old from Gilbert, AZ...I thought it was interesting that a guy would go all the way to Japan to try to qualify for the US Open, but then, according to Golf Digest, he stayed and won the Mizuno Open and then qualified for the British Open, too! Just like that, and Chan Kim is in 2 Major fields.
The qualifier in England had 111 participants fighting for 15 US Open spots. Of note, Andrew "Beef" Johnston and Richie Ramsay, will be heading to Wisconsin next week. Unfortunately, Padraig Harrington, won't be making the trip.
Since the US Open is about dreamers, I can't help but search out those Minnesota dreamers hoping to tee it up at Erin Hills. After searching each of the qualifying spots, here's what I've found...
Donald Constable is heading to Maryland, in a field of 50 players, to qualify...with a smaller field, there may only be a few spots available so he's going to have to bring his A-game. Notables also playing in Maryland are Jason Gore and Billy Hurley III to make it.
Two more Minnesotans will be heading to Georgia, with an even smaller field of 36. John Hafdal from Prior Lake and Jeff Kringen from Long Lake will hopefully make it! Hafdal played at Bemidji State in MN and according to one of his Tweets this is his first time advancing to sectionals. A Professional at Spring Hill Golf Club in Minnesota, Kringen made it to sectionals by birding the 2nd playoff hole to get the last spot. Good Luck in Georgia!
Springfield, OH will find 3 Minnesotans in the sectional...Sammy Schmintz (who played at the Masters last year!), Thomas Campbell, and Jon Trasamar. The field of 77 also has James Hahn, Tony Finau, and Brian Stuard competing.
Cameron White, from Plymouth, MN, will be teeing it up on Monday in Memphis, TN in the field of 108 which has a few notables as well - including, none other than, Steve Stricker!! Now of course I'll be rooting for Cameron, but we all know where my heart is. Also playing in Memphis are Retief Goosen, Ian Poulter, Robert Garrigus, Harris English and Chris Stroud. The larger field should have a few more spots to qualify into.
Erik Van Rooyan from St. Anthony, MN is in a smaller Dallas, TX field of 58 where he'll be competing against Ryan Palmer and Hunter Mahan. Van Rooyan was a Minnesota Golden Gopher, but his Twitter account says he's from Johannesburg, South Africa, where he's playing on the Sunshine Tour there. Hey, we'll support our Gophers!!
Linwood, Washington, is where Will Holmgren will be trying to make it to the US Open...the field of 70 didn't have any big standout names in it, but it will still be work to make it past most of the other dreamers. Holmgren is a sophomore at North Dakota State University and graduated from Wayzata High School. What an awesome accomplishment to be in the sectionals for the US Open! Go Will!
The last Minnesotan I found (and I apologize if I missed anyone!!) is Sam Matthew from Roseville, MN. Sam will be playing in the qualifier in Columbus, OH on Monday, along with a pretty long list of PGA Tour players who are probably playing at the Memorial Tournament as I type this. The field is 120, so there should be over 15 spots available, but here's just an abbreviated list of names that caught my eye: Keegan Bradley, Smylie Kaufman, Davis Love III, Luke Donald, Ricky Barnes, Nick Watney, Luke List, Martin Laird, KJ Choi, and Vijay Singh. Also playing here is another heart pick for me, Erik Compton!! Sam's got a lot of work to do, but I'm hoping for the best for him!!
There are a few other sectionals where I didn't find any Minnesotans, which include California with a field of 123, Florida, with 49 players, and New Jersey with 80 qualifiers.
Monday should be a fun day!! I wish I could keep track of it all, but I'll be golfing myself.
Go Heart Picks!!
The US Open at Erin Hills is next week!!
I love golf.
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