U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying took place June 3 at 10 qualifying sites across the United States and one site in England. This is often referred to as “Golf’s Longest Day” because it’s truly one of the more grueling days in the sport.
In all, 927 players (including over 200 amateurs) competed for 75 spots into next week’s U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. Thirteen amateurs made it in, even as some will now embark on a professional career.
Highlights from sectional qualifying include:
Walton Heath Golf Club (New and Old courses), Surrey, England – 14 spots
Daniel Hillier knows what it is to compete at Pebble Beach Golf Links. The 20-year-old New Zealander co-medaled there last August at the U.S. Amateur. Despite the No. 1 match-play seed, Hillier bowed out that week in the second round of match play.
Hillier will get another shot this month, having qualified for the U.S. Open out of the sectional in Surrey. Among the 14 men to advance, Hillier was the only amateur.
Five of Hillier’s last six starts have been in pro events. He hasn’t played stateside since the U.S. Amateur. He followed up that tournament with a top-3 finish at the World Amateur Team Championship in Dublin, Ireland the next month.
Hillier tied for eighth at 8 under at Walton Heath, and avoided a playoff by one shot. He had seven birdies in a second-round 6-under 66 – including three in his last four holes – to secure his spot.
Big Canyon Country Club & Newport Beach Country Club, Newport Beach, Calif. – 99 players for 5 spots
The Newport Beach, Calif., qualifier was a story of streaks. Chun An (Kevin) Yu, a rising senior at Arizona State, qualified for the second consecutive year and Stewart Hagestad, remarkably, will play his third consecutive U.S. Open as an amateur.
Yu not only qualified but was medalist at his sectional site. He had 12 birdies and two eagles in his 12-under effort, which was made up of rounds of 64-67.
Leading up to Monday’s qualifier, Yu had finished inside the top 5 in six of his past seven college starts, including a third-place finish at the NCAA Championship.
As for Hagestad, it was the third straight year he has advanced from sectional qualifying.
The 28-year-old is playing as often, and as well, as ever. He was third at the George L. Coleman Invitational earlier this spring, and is in consideration for a Walker Cup pick after receiving an invitation to a practice session for team hopefuls in December.
In his two previous U.S. Open starts Hagestad missed the cut both times.
RattleSnake Point Golf Club (Copperhead and Sidewinder courses), Milton, Canada – 37 players for 4 spots
Only five amateurs appeared in the 37-man RattleSnake field and none of them advanced. Canadian Chris Crisologo, the 23-year-old who won the South American Amateur in January, gave it the best shot with a 4-over 148, but that still left him eight shots away from qualifying.
Streamsong Resort (Black Course), Bowling Green, Fla. – 56 players for 3 spots
A year ago, Luis Gagne tied for low-amateur honors at Shinnecock Hills. It completed a most unusual U.S. Open experience, which started when he won a coin toss for the last advancing spot out of his local qualifier. Gagne, a 21-year-old who ended his college career at LSU last month with a 51st-place finish at the national championship, will play the U.S. Open again this year.
Gagne made a run at the Latin America Amateur title in January, coming up two shots short of Alvaro Ortiz for a trophy and a spot in the Masters Tournament. But Gagne did earn an exemption into sectional qualifying that day, and he made use of it on Monday.
After opening with an 8-under 65 at Streamsong Resort’s newly opened Black Course, Gagne opened his afternoon round with seven consecutive pars. He made four birdies over his closing 11 holes and needed every one. He was bouncing around the cutline until birdies at Nos. 16 and 18 put him safely among the three qualifiers.
His birdie on the par-5 18th was non-traditional, to say the least, after he pulled his driver into the sand and only advanced it about 60 yards to remain in the sand. With roughly 215 yards to the green and the wind in his face, he hit a hybrid to 10 feet and made the putt for birdie.
Gagne was the only amateur to advance with one of the three spots, and at 12 under for the day, finished squarely between Callum Tarren at 14 under and Guillermo Periera at 11 under.
Hawks Ridge Golf Club, Ball Ground, Ga. – 67 players for 4 spots
A pair of Georgia Tech players finished on top of the Hawks Ridge leaderboard, except that one isn’t an amateur anymore. Georgia Tech alum Oliver Schniederjans (whose younger brother Luke will be a senior on the Ramblin’ Wreck team) shared medalist honors with rising Georgia Tech junior Noah Norton. Both finished 36 holes at 11 under.
Norton has twice qualified for the U.S. Amateur – reaching the Round of 16 in 2017 – but never the U.S. Open. He had three top 10s in collegiate events as a sophomore. The native Californian was runner-up at the 2017 California Amateur.
In a near disaster, Norton double-bogeyed his next-to-last hole of the day but made up for it with a par on No 17 to remain at 11 under and with a two-stroke cushion to qualify.
Another amateur, Duke’s Chandler Eaton, also advanced. It was a colorful start to the day as Eaton, a rising senior, had an eagle, five birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey in a morning round of 69. He cooled down for a bogey-free 66 in the afternoon and at 9 under, tied for third with PGA Tour player Roberto Castro and took the final qualifying spot.
Woodmont Country Club (North Course), Rockville, Md. – 63 players for 4 spots
Mark Lawrence, the Virginia Tech senior, narrowly missed out on a playoff for the final spot out of Woodmont Country Club. Lawrence, of Richmond, Va., bogeyed his final hole of the day to finish at 1 under. A 2-under total would have gotten him into a 4-for-2 playoff for the final two qualifying spots.
Still, with rounds of 67-76, Lawrence had the best finish among the 21 amateurs in the field.
Century Country Club & Old Oaks Country Club, Purchase, N.Y. – 73 players for 4 spots
When you’re an amateur of Matt Parziale’s caliber, there is no rest. The last 10 days of Parziale’s life have included a trip to Bandon Dunes Resort for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball (he and partner Herbie Aikens fell in the quarterfinals), an attempted title defense at the Hornblower Memorial in his native Massachusetts and now a successful day at sectional qualifying.
Parziale, of Brockton, Mass., earned a share of low-amateur honors at last year’s U.S. Open, which he played on an exemption earned by winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur. He got in the hard way this year, with rounds of 69 (Century CC) and 73 (Old Oaks CC) for a 1-over total that left him five shots behind medalist Cameron Young, also an amateur.
Young, 22, exhausted his eligibility at Wake Forest this spring after helping lead his team to the match-play quarterfinals of the national championship, then winning his match against Stanford’s Daulet Tuleubayev, 5 and 4. Ultimately the Demon Deacons came up short, but Young has kept it going, firing rounds of 69 (Old Oaks) and 68 (Century) just 25 miles east of his Scarborough, N.Y., home.
Young, whose dad is the head professional at Sleepy Hollow Country Club, won four times in four years at Wake Forest. He won twice as a first-semester freshman and won twice in the spring semester of his senior season.
“Some of it was mindset, some golf swing, some mechanics,” Young after his April win at the Augusta/Haskins Award Invitational.
Whatever it is, it’s working.
Brookside Golf & Country Club & Scioto Country Club, Columbus, Ohio – 121 players for 14 spots
It was the site with the most qualifying spots, but also the site with arguably the most elite Tour players. Still, in Columbus, Ohio, on the day after the Memorial, two amateurs held their own and qualified for the U.S. Open.
Pac-12 players Brandon Wu, a Stanford senior, and Collin Morikawa, a Cal senior, both tied for seventh with a 5-under total to advance.
Wu, who went 3-0 in match play for the Cardinal last week in his team’s national-title run, was 6 under through 15 holes in his morning round at Brookside G&CC. That included a run of four birdies from Nos. 11-15. He chased a morning 67 with an afternoon 70.
Morikawa’s day went in reverse. After an eagle at the par-5 fourth, Morikawa played the remaining 14 holes in 1 over. He followed his morning 71 at Brookside with a 66 at Scioto to make up ground.
Morikawa will embark on his professional career from here, and is playing the RBC Canadian Open this week as a pro.
Springfield (Ohio) Country Club – 73 players for 5 spots
No amateurs advanced out of the qualifier at Springfield Country Club. The closest one, David Perkins, finished 36 holes at 2 under when it took 4 under to advance. Perkins is a rising senior at Illinois State.
Wine Valley Golf Club, Walla Walla, Wash. – 55 players for 3 spots
Three times a local qualifying medalist, and now a first-time U.S. Open qualifier – that’s Matt Naumec’s story. The Boston College senior, who led his team in scoring this season, had rounds of 69-68 at Wine Valley Golf Club to tie for second at 7 under.
Naumec is a Massachusetts native who won the Francis Ouimet Memorial Tournament in 2016. Qualifying as an amateur seems a good bit of karma for Naumec, considering. The 22-year-old also played in the 2014 U.S. Amateur. He will join Matt Parziale, last year’s low am, and Michael Thorbjorsen, the reigning U.S. Junior champion, as Massachusetts amateurs in the field.
Pacific Northwest native Spencer Tibbits, a rising sophomore at Oregon State, also finished at 7 under. Tibbits is a former Oregon Junior Stroke Play and Oregon Junior Match Play champion, and he made an immediate impact as a Beaver, leading the team in scoring as a freshman.
Tibbits had rounds of 67-70 at Wine Valley Golf Club to tie Naumec.
Bent Tree Country Club & Northwood Club, Dallas – 102 players for 11 spots
When you play on a college team with U.S. Amateur champion Viktor Hovland and NCAA champion Matthew Wolff, it’s easy to miss out on the headlines. In the May 20 sectional qualifier in Dallas, played days before the NCAA Championship, a different Oklahoma State player emerged as the only amateur with a ticket to Pebble Beach. That was Austin Eckroat.
Eckroat, a Cowboy sophomore, advanced in a 3-for-2 playoff to take one of the last available spots.
“I’ve probably played [Pebble Beach] eight times,” he told the USGA. “The views are incredible, but you are also playing a fantastic golf course at the same time. We play a college tournament there every year and I played the U.S. Amateur there last year.”
In other amateur news, Fox broadcaster Shane Bacon, a newly reinstated amateur, missed out on qualifying for Pebble Beach. He had a fascinating story, nonetheless, as he tried to do something that few (if any) current sports broadcasters can claim: compete as an amateur in their sport’s national championship.