9,086. I actually had to re-read the sentence in the article I was reading to make sure I got that number right. 9,086 men registered to compete in the 2009 US Open Qualifying. And to be accepted, an applicant is required to have a Handicap Index of no higher than 1.4 or be a professional. And they're all fighting to get into a field of only 156 players.
I know I'm a little sheltered living in MN and having a golf season that's about 6 minutes long (er, I mean 6 months long), so the idea that there are literally thousands of great golfers out there who can qualify to play in the US Open makes me understand a little more just how hard it must be to try to make a living being a professional golfer. But back to the US Open...
Let's do a little math first (no eye rolling, you know I love math!). Of those 9,086 guys, 63 were fully exempt on May 1 through various exemption criteria (past major champions, top 30 money list last year, top finishers in last year's Open, etc.). And on May 25, 12 more professionals were exempted to make the total 75. So that means there are only 81 spots left...and there are a still a few opportunities to get fully exempt before the event, which starts on June 18 at Bethpage State Park (Black Course) in Farmingdale, New York. The open spots in the field have already been cut in half. Ouch.
Step one for these 9,000+ players, who paid $150 each, is to make it from local qualifying to sectional qualifying. There were 112 sites that hosted local qualifying events from May 6-25 (2 in Minnesota!). Only 550 of the 9,000 guys will make it out of local qualifying to sectionals...that is 6% of the field. Yikes - that's not many!
From there, if you're lucky enough to be one of the 550, you're now in a race for the remaining spots not already taken up by fully exempt players (currently 81 openings). Two international sectional qualifiers were held on May 25, one in England and one in Japan. And the rest of the sectionals are on Monday, June 8, at 15 sites across the country - and this is a 36 hole qualifier, not 18 holes like the local qualifiers.
It appears that the number of qualifying spots is based on the number of entrants at each sectional site, and I'm sure some sites will have large fields and others will be smaller. So, doing the math, only about 15% of the 550 sectional qualifiers have a chance to move on to the US Open.
I wish there was a sectional qualifier close to me - I'd love to go watch these guys competing for their chance to get into the field at the US Open. It's like a mini-Q-school for a chance to play with the best golfers in the world for a few days (hopefully all 4!) - how cool is that?! Talk about pressure - a long day on the golf course with a dream come true moment waiting at the end - wow. And how important is it to have a great mental game going? A 36-hole battle not only against the field, but against yourself. Can these guys stop a stray drive or a horrible 3-putt from eroding their confidence or testing their temper? To me, this is what great golf is all about.
If you want to do a little searching for players who registered, you can use the USGA's entrance look up tool on their web site http://www.usga.org/championships/entrant_lookup/entrant_lookup.html I looked up Erik Compton and Phil Bundy and neither appears to have registered. Bummer. Just for fun I put in Woods - and sure enough, he's there...fully exempt of course. And of course, Steve Stricker! There are also 2 Zach Johnsons...and 4 Erickson's (you have to root for your own last name, right?)...unfortunately, none of them made it out of their local qualifiers. Minnesota will have some representation in the sectional qualifiers, so I'll be looking those up before next week.
I know when we talk about the Majors it's easy to get caught up in all of the best players in the world being there, but how about this year we all take a little time to find a local qualifier who makes it to the Open and root them on, too!
There is all kinds of good info about the 2009 US Open at http://www.usopen.com/ or at http://www.usga.org/ . Another Major is just around the corner!!!
Oh, and don't forget that Erik Compton will be playing at the Memorial this weekend - Go Erik!!!
PS...Dan & Bun - thanks for encouragement on yet another failed attempt at breaking par - if golf courses were only 17 holes, I'd have it made!!
Filed under: Erik Compton, US Open, qualifier, Handicap, USGA, Bethpage Black