In just a few weeks, The Olympic Club in San Francisco will play host to the 112th US Open Championship. The second Major of the PGA Tour Season, the US Open is a test of patience, confidence, and decision making for the 156-player field. But this field is a little different than most of the PGA events we watch. When the final pairings are posted you'll see sprinkled in the list of the best players in the world the names of a few dreamers.
The US "Open" allows any golfer with a handicap no greater than 1.4 the chance to qualify their way into a Major Championship field. There were 109 local qualifiers with over 8,500 players competing to advance to the Sectional Qualifying to be held in 11 locations across the US on Monday, June 4. Just over 9,000 applications were accepted this year (including exempted players and those advancing right to sectionals), and only 550 players will compete in sectionals.
Since the field works its way backwards from 156, the more players that gain exemptions through 15 options, including making it to the Tour Championship, ranking on the OWGR, and having won a major in the last 5 to 10 years, the less opening available to qualifiers. Usually over the half the field is exempted in, so of the 9,000 players hoping to fulfill their dream of playing in a US Open, less 80 players will be able to play their way in. What is that, less than 1%?
With all the fun and excitement going on during this PGA Tour season, I almost forgot about US Open qualifying! In my neck of the woods (Minnesota!), Rush Creek Golf Club hosted a qualifier on May 8. A couple names looked familiar from following past Q-school journeys...advancing to sectionals include Clayton Rask and Justin Smith, along with 2nd alternate Jonathan Sauer. Minnesota amateurs Chris Conklin and Jesse Polk advanced to the next stage out of a qualifier in Wisconsin.
Literally hundreds of stories are in the works as they wait for their June 4 chance to make travel plans to Bay Area. Unlike the Masters, a PGA Tour win is not enough to make the field for a US Open. Besides the top 60 on the OWGR, being a Major winner is about the only other way to avoid qualifying, so 2 of the 11 qualifiers coming up will be geared towards PGA Tour players needing to qualify, one in OH for those who need to hang around after the Memorial, and the same day in TN for those heading to the St. Jude Classic that week.
The closest sectional to me is Illinois, so I won't be watching in person, but I sure hope fans of golf might take the chance to watch all kinds of dreamers compete if they are in the neighborhood (to find sites, go here: http://www.usopen.com/en_US/news/qualifying/sectional.html).
Sectional qualifying is a one day 36-hole event (marathon?) with the number of qualifiers dependent on the number of players and the strength of field. For those lucky enough to get to sectionals, chances are there will be less than a 20% chance to qualify for the Open.
I know I'll be rooting for the Minnesota guys! Be sure to find some dreamers to root for, too.
And we can't forget about the Women! This year's Women's US Open is being held not too far from me at Black Wolf Run in Koehler, WI, July 5-8. Over 1,300 women applied to compete, and at this time 85 golfers are already exempt in the 156 player field. Qualifiers started May 14 and run through June 3. Tuesday, May 29, there will be a qualifier in Wayzata, MN with 78 competitors.
Last year, I went and watched the Qualifier in the Twin Cities and really enjoyed it. It looks like they will probably have a wet golf course like they did last year. We'll see if any Minnesota women can play their way to Wisconsin! According to the USGA web site, the youngest applicant was 9 years old and the oldest was 61...I guess there's hope for a lot of us!
All kinds of great information about the USGA Championships can be found at http://www.usga.org/ , including the results of all of the qualifiers. I can't wait for some good stories.
Filed under: Minnesota, US Open, qualifier, Cathy Erickson, Clayton Rask, Justin Smith, sectional, San Francisco