Monday, June 05, 2006

U.S. Open qualifying story lines

As compelling as the Michelle Wie saga is, she's not the only interesting story in sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open.

Here are a few from the USGA:

June 5
Littleton, Colo. (Columbine C.C.): 25 golfers for 1 spot
Steve Irwin of Golden, Colo., the son of three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin, is in the field. The younger Irwin has never competed in an Open, while his father has 34 appearances, the second-most in history.

St. Charles, Ill. (St. Charles Country Club): 33 golfers for 2 spots

Joel Kribel of Edmond, Okla., was the runner-up at the 1997 U.S. Amateur and a member of the ’97 USA Walker Cup team. Just to qualify, he flew from his Nationwide Tour event in Virginia on May 21 to Phoenix, Ariz., where he drove to Tucson at midnight to play at Tucson C.C. Kribel competed at the 1997, ’98 and 2001 U.S. Opens, but has yet to make a cut.

Summit, N.J. (Canoe Brook C.C.): 153 golfers for 18 spots

Several New York-area residents will be trying to make it a special week at Winged Foot.

George Zahringer of New York is the oldest winner of the U.S. Mid-Amateur. He was 48 when he won in 2002 at his home course, The Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Conn.
USA Walker Cupper Nicholas Thompson of Coral Springs, Fla., will be trying to advance to his first U.S. Open. He advanced from a Weston, Fla., qualifier. Thompson now plays on the PGA Tour.

Michelle Wie, 16, of Honolulu, Hawaii is attempting to become the first female to ever play in a U.S. Open. Wie was medalist (shot even par 72) at her qualifier at Turtle Bay Resort in Oahu, Hawaii. Wie won the 2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship as a 13-year-old, becoming the youngest winner of an “adult” USGA championship.

Former major winners Mark O’Meara (1998 Masters and British Open) and Mark Brooks (1996 PGA) are in the field.

Hunter Mahan of Plano, Texas, won the 1999 U.S. Junior title and was the runner-up at the 2002 U.S. Amateur. He has competed in one U.S. Open (2003).

Ricky Barnes of Stockton, Calif., was the 2002 U.S. Amateur champion. He competed in three U.S. Opens as an amateur, but has yet to qualify since turning pro in 2003.

Former Walker Cupper (1995) Kris Cox of Dallas, Texas, will look to draw on his good memories of Canoe Brook, where he shot a course-record 64 on the South Course to help him qualify for the Open in 2004.

Ben “Bubba” Dickerson of Plano, Texas, won the 2001 U.S. Amateur, but turned pro after the Masters and thus forfeited his exemption into the ’02 Open. He is hoping to qualify for his first Open.

Austin Eaton III of North Sutton, N.H., won the 2004 U.S. Mid-Amateur and was a semifinalist last summer at the U.S. Amateur.

David Gossett of Germantown, Tenn., won the 1999 U.S. Amateur and made the cut at the 2000 Masters. He is paired with Michelle Wie in this qualifier.

John Nieporte of Boca Raton, Fla., would like to have a special Father’s Day at Winged Foot. His father, Tom, is Winged Foot’s longtime head professional.

Allan Small, at age 54, is one of the oldest players to qualify from the local field. The Florham Park, N.J., resident was the New Jersey State Golf Association Amateur of the Year in 2004.

Columbus, Ohio (Brookside Golf & C.C./Lakes Golf & C.C.): 144 golfers for 21 spots

Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer's grandson, survived a six-man playoff to grab one of the final three berths available from his qualifier at Orlando’s MetroWest Golf Club. An 18-year-old amateur, he was the stroke-play medalist at the 2005 U.S. Junior, where he recorded a hole-in-one. Palmer has played in 32 U.S. Opens, while Saunders will look to play in his first.

Jason Gore of Valencia, Calif., who was the ‘Prince of Pinehurst’ in 2005, went on to win three Nationwide Tour events and the PGA Tour’s 84 Lumber Classic. Gore played in the final pairing last June, only to shoot an 84 on Sunday.

Two-time major winner John Daly (1991 PGA and ’95 British Open) hopes to make it to his 14th U.S. Open, where his best finish is a T-27 in 1996.

J.B. Holmes of Campbellsville, Ky., competed on the 2005 USA Walker Cup squad and then captured his first PGA Tour event as a rookie this past January at the FBR Open in Phoenix

Trip Kuehne of Dallas, Texas, is a two-time USA Walker Cupper and the runner-up to Tiger Woods at the 1994 U.S. Amateur. He also was low amateur at the 2003 U.S. Open.

Ryan Moore of Puyallup, Wash., would like to get back to the venue where he won the 2004 U.S. Amateur. Moore also won the 2002 and ’04 APL titles and competed on the 2003 USA Walker Cup team.

Jeff Sluman of Hinsdale, Ill., captured the 1988 PGA Championship and competed in 17 U.S. Opens.

Camilo Villegas of Colombia was the 1999 U.S. Junior runner-up and one of the top rookies on the PGA Tour. The 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills was his professional debut.

Columbus, Ohio #2 (Double Eagle Golf Club): 37 golfers for 2 spots

Matt Weibring of Dallas is the son of Champions Tour player D.A. Weibring, who was the runner-up at the 2005 U.S. Senior Open and a 14-time U.S. Open participant. Matt is hoping to play in his first U.S. Open.

Bill Haas of Greenville, S.C., and the son of 2006 USGA Bobby Jones Award winner Jay Haas, hopes to have another father-son week at the U.S. Open. The two both made the cut at the 2004 Open at Shinnecock Hills. Jay has played in 26 Opens, while Bill has competed in two. Jay will also compete in Columbus at the Brookside/Lakeside courses.

Houston, Texas (Lakeside Country Club): 32 golfers for 2 spots

Tom Kite of Austin, Texas, the 1992 U.S. Open champion, will be loo
king to compete in his 34th Open. Only Hale Irwin (34) and Jack Nicklaus (44) have competed in more U.S. Opens.

Kevin Tway of Edmond, Okla., won the 2005 U.S. Junior title on his 17th birthday. He is the son of 1986 PGA Championship winner Bob Tway, who will try to qualify in Columbus, Ohio.

Addison Awe, 20, a Rice University golf team member, shared the top spot with four other players in his local qualifying round in Grand Prairie, Texas.

June 6
Tampa, Fla. (Old Memorial Golf Club): 59 golfers for 3 spots

Robert Floyd, the son of 1986 Open champion Raymond Floyd, turned in a 68 to lead four qualifiers at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla.. This is the fifth time in the last six years Floyd has advanced to sectionals, but he has yet to qualify for an Open.

Josh McCumber is the son of former PGA Tour pro Mark McCumber, who competed in 13 U.S. Opens, including a tie for second in 1989 at Oak Hill. Josh qualified for the 2005 Open at Pinehurst, but missed the cut.

Fred Ridley of Tampa, Fla., won the 1974 U.S. Amateur and just completed his two-year term as USGA President. The 53-year-old will try to qualify at his home club.

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