If 18-hole local qualifying is for anyone with a dream of playing in the US Open, 36-hole sectional qualifying is for those looking to convert that into a reality.
Monday was that day, when the field for next week’s US Open took a huge step toward becoming finalized, with 11 sectional qualifiers held throughout the country. It brought together a collection of established PGA Tour professionals, mini-tour grinders, club pros, college stars, hotshot high schoolers, and even the grandson of a legend, all looking for golden tickets into golf’s second major championship of the season. The 113th US Open starts a week from Thursday at Merion Golf Club, near Philadelphia.
For the seventh time, golf’s national championship will include Geoff Sisk. The 48-year-old from Marshfield was one of three medalists at the qualifier in Purchase, N.Y., shooting rounds of 67-69 to claim one of four spots. He’ll be joined by Jesse Smith, a 33-year-old from Dover, N.H., who plays on golf’s lower-tiered circuits. He didn’t need the 59 he shot in March at a mini-tour event in Orlando, Fla.; rounds of 70-67 got him in for the first time.
The other medalist in Purchase was 18-year-old local amateur Gavin Hall, who birdied his final four holes to sneak in. Jim Herman of Palm City, Fla., was the fourth and final qualifier; fortunate, because the site didn’t get a fourth spot until Monday morning, after Richard Sterne, one of 93 players who had been exempt into the US Open, decided to withdraw.
Others with local ties who played in Purchase: Brad Faxon (Barrington, R.I., 71-69), Michael Welch (Quincy, 73-69), Bobby Leopold (Coventry, R.I., 74-71), Eddie Kirby (Wakefield, R.I., 71-74), Chris Houston (Gilford, N.H., 74-73), Kenneth Lewis (East Sandwich, 75-74), Evan Harmeling (Andover, 78-73), Andrew Gai (Westport, Conn., 77-74), Nick Pandelena (Atkinson, N.H., 80-73), Jonathan Brisbane (Killington, Vt., 78-75), Peter Richards (Westport, Conn., 77-78), Jeffrey Dantas (Seekonk, 76-80), John Gilmartin (Andover, 80-79), and Cameron Chottiner (Westport, Conn., 80-83).
Worcester native Scott Stallings put himself in position to make his US Open debut, making four straight birdies at the end of his second-round 69 at Colonial Country Club in Memphis. But that was only good enough to get Stallings into a three-man playoff for the final two spots, and he ended up being the odd man out; Alistair Presnell and Andrew Svoboda survived the playoff and earned the last two spots in a qualifier loaded with PGA Tour players, because this week’s tour event is also in Memphis.
The other qualifying site packed with PGA Tour talent was in Columbus, Ohio, where 120 players were competing for 15 spots, highest among Monday’s 11 sites. Boston’s James Driscoll (70-71) missed out in a sectional that needed a playoff involving 11 players to determine the final seven spots.
Other newsworthy qualifiers around the country included Jay Don Blake taking medalist honors in St. Louis. At 54, Blake will be playing in his 13th US Open, and will likely be the oldest player in the 156-man field.
Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, bogeyed his 36th hole in Rockville, Md., when a par would have gotten him to Merion. He advanced to a three-man playoff for one spot, which Matt Bettencourt grabbed. Rockville was also the site where Lee Janzen, a two-time winner of the US Open, was disqualified for wearing metal spikes. Janzen was well off the pace after a first-round 75.
Two players — including 15-year-old David Snyder — will return to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla., on Tuesday morning for one coveted slot.
More than 800 players — out of an original 9,860 entries — tried to qualify on Monday. Only 57 will make it through. The odds aren’t in their favor, but the reward is certainly worth the struggle.