Ryan Harris has a lot to look forward to. The 18-year-old from Carlisle is set to graduate from Concord-Carlisle High School June 9, and will be headed to the University of Akron in the fall to play for the Zips’ golf team.
Those major milestones can wait, though. Almost everything can wait. After all, how many times will Harris wake up with the opportunity to qualify for the US Open?
He’ll be in that position Monday. Harris is one of a number of local golfers who have advanced past the 18-hole local qualifying stage, ready to compete in 36-hole sectional qualifying for the right to play in the US Open, which starts June 14 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
One sectional qualifier was already held in Japan. Another came three days ago in England. That leaves 11 sectional qualifiers remaining, all in the US, all scheduled for Monday, that will nearly fill out the US Open field.
Anyone looking to play in the US Open, including defending champion Rory McIlroy, needs to send in an application to the US Golf Association. There were 9,006 hopefuls this year, including 141 who listed Massachusetts as their primary or preferred address.
Of the 156 players who will end up at the Olympic Club, 88 have already secured their exemptions. That leaves roughly 65 spots up for grabs Monday (a few will be reserved for the time between sectional qualifying and when the US Open begins), to be awarded to notable professionals, probably a familiar amateur or two, and perhaps an obscure dreamer, like Harris.
Hey, he’s got as good a shot as anyone else playing Monday.
“I’d be crazy if I said I didn’t think about it, but I got through at Pinehills, so I know I can do it,’’ said Harris, who shot 68 on the Nicklaus Course at Pinehills three weeks ago to grab one of five spots into sectional qualifying. “There’s the motivation of if I play well, I get the reward. Obviously, this is probably going to be 10 times harder than local qualifying, and I’ll probably be one of the only 18-year-olds there, so I have no expectation of getting all the way through.’’
Like a number of other players with local ties, Harris is playing in New Jersey Monday, at Canoe Brook Country Club, a 36-hole facility in Summit. Seventy-three players are expected to start; the exact number of Olympic spots won’t be announced until at least Friday. Probably three or four, though, so the odds are long.
“I’ve never been in a tournament of this caliber, so it’s going to be a new experience for me and I’m going to take it all in,’’ Harris said. “But at the same time, I am down there for a tournament, so you have to prepare - eat well, drink water, a whole bunch of other stuff than if you were just out for a casual round.’’
Josh Biren went to Canoe Brook two weeks ago for a few casual rounds, hoping the more he learned about the courses, the better off he’d be by the time Monday rolled around. Biren, a 25-year-old from Boston who played at Lincoln-Sudbury High School, then Trinity College, made it through local qualifying on his third try.
Biren shot 69 to share medalist honors at Montaup Country Club in Portsmouth, R.I., on April 30, securing one of three spots. That accomplishment five weeks ago has been nice, but Biren is hoping it’s only the first leg in a journey that ends in San Francisco.
“When I play my best, I know that I can hang,’’ Biren said. “It’s sort of surreal at this point, but I’m definitely trying to stay within myself and realize that while local was a great accomplishment, that’s not the ultimate goal.’’
Biren has pictured himself on this stage. In fact, he’s envisioned an even grander one, something many of us can plead guilty to.
“I can’t tell you how many putts I had as a kid to win the US Open,’’ said Biren, who is paired Monday with Andrew Svoboda, currently fourth on the Nationwide Tour money list. “Did I ever really think that I would have an opportunity to play in the US Open? Probably not, but that’s the great thing about golf. A sport like hockey or soccer or baseball or football, once you’re 25, if you haven’t been in the pipeline, you have no chance.
“In golf, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you’ve shot in the past. It’s all about the score, and if you can go out and shoot a score, at the end of the day you can be there, and that’s all that matters.’’
Other locals headed to Canoe Brook include Matthew Adams (Peabody), Rick Leal (West Springfield), Michael Welch (Quincy), Daniel Dwyer (Gloucester), Jim Renner (Plainville), Rich Berberian (Derry, N.H.), Andrew Gruss (Trumbull, Conn.), Garren Poirier (Killington, Vt.), Cameron Wilson (Rowayton, Conn.), John Murphy (Wilton, Conn.), Brad Valois (Warwick, R.I.), Chelso Barrett (Keene, N.H.), and Cory Muller (Darien, Conn.). Charlie Edler, a New Jersey resident who just completed his freshman year at Dartmouth, is also playing. Edler, along with Poirier, Wilson, Valois, and Barrett, are amateurs.
Welch will be attempting to qualify for his second US Open; he got through local qualifying, then sectional, in 2009, advancing to Bethpage Black, where he missed the cut.
James Driscoll will be trying to qualify in Columbus, Ohio, a popular location because of this week’s PGA Memorial Tournament in nearby Dublin. Worcester native Scott Stallings has selected Memphis, another sectional crowded with PGA Tour players because next week’s tour stop, the FedEx St. Jude Classic, is held there.
Rob Oppenheim of Andover will be playing in Rockville, Md., while Richy Werenski of South Hadley and Patrick Sheehan of Warwick, R.I., will be in the Suwanee, Ga., sectional. Werenski, a junior at Georgia Tech, was medalist from the local qualifier at Twin Hills Country Club.
One day, 36 holes. It’s an opportunity thousands wanted to have, yet only hundreds remain. Dreams, large and small, will be realized Monday.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly nervous, but I know once I get out there and get on the course, everything will be calm and hopefully I’ll have it that day,’’ Biren said. “And if I don’t, regardless, I’m going to enjoy it.’’