It’s finally US Open week, where 156 players from around the world will battle it out for the third major men’s championship of the year.
Reduced to a sentence like that, it seems simple. But for many, the process of gaining access to the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts has been an arduous journey that began weeks ago.
Of course, the championship will feature all the best players in the world. It will feature Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, all of whom received nine-figure guarantees to leave the PGA Tour. But it will also feature Keith Greene, a mini-tour veteran who earned a total of $656 on PGA Tour-certified tours during his career. It will feature college kids, mini-tour pros and another 57-year-old companion. -Old Fran Quinn trying one last time. It is the most diverse and meritocratic tournament in the world. The reason for that: it’s a real Open. And that relies on the qualification process.
There were 9,265 entries for this year’s US Open, the sixth highest total in championship history. From there, 530 players from 109 local qualifying sites qualified for the final qualifier. Those 530 players joined who were already exempt from final qualifying and that total grew to 871. Sixty-six players advanced from 11 final qualifying venues and joined 88 fully exempted players to make up the final field.
Besides being professional golfers, Mickelson and Green have next to nothing in common. Lefty is one of the greatest of all time – six majors, 45 PGA Tour wins, hundreds of millions in career earnings. Greene, on the other hand? He has been a professional for six years. I worked on the mini-towers. And yet, this Thursday at the US Open, the two will start tied. Both will play on the same golf course. They will be equal.
Mickelson is excused on the court thanks to his PGA Championship victory last year. But Greene, he made his way. It’s something you can do for the US Open. All you need to start the process is to have a low enough handicap.
“He’s a dream man,” Greene tearfully told Golf Channel shortly after qualifying last week. “It doesn’t even feel real right now. I’m just going to soak it up with some of my friends here.
Before we go any further, it’s time to freshen up with a brief history lesson. The US Open dates back to 1895, and for the first 18 years there was no qualifying process. There were no exemptions either. If you signed up to play the US Open, you could play the US Open. As more and more wanted to participate, the USGA began to hold pre-qualifiers. They were first on the same golf course, which was held the two days before the US Open. Then it was three days. From 1924, to handle an influx of entries, they began to hold regional qualifiers around the country. This was the start of the modern US Open qualification process.
There are two levels of qualification for the US Open: local and final qualifications. The local qualification is 18 holes. The final qualifier is 36 holes, and it’s often called the longest day in golf. To access the local qualifications, you must be a professional or have a GHIN index below 1.4. That’s it. The most accomplished professionals and the best amateurs will be exempted from the final qualifications, but they are in the minority.
“I want people to do it. Come to any USGA event and know it’s bigger than anything they’ve been to,” said Jason Gore, Senior Director of Player Relations from the USGA. “I want it to feel big.
“It’s not just here, grab your hot dog and go. It’s when you see that flag waving, you know you’re going to have a test or people who really care and love the game.”
The most recent guy to make it through both qualifying stages and win the US Open was Orville Moody in 1969. That doesn’t happen often, which makes sense – the tournament is usually won by one of the top professionals in the game. tourism in the world. Even if it’s won by an “outsider” like, say, Lucas Glover in 2009 or Michael Campbell in 2005, those guys were both tour pros who didn’t have to play in the local qualifiers. So yeah, it’s rare for someone to go through both stages and win the trophy.
The man who came closest to it most recently was at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2005. His name? Jason Gore.
This Cinderella story, however, did not have a happy ending. Gore was three strokes off the lead, tied for second place, going into the final round. He would go on to shoot 84 and finish 50th. It was actually not the first US Open he had played. At the age of 23, Gore made it through the two qualifying stages to play in the 1998 US Open at the Olympic Club, where he had an impressive driving experience with a legend. .
“I had no idea what the US Open was,” Gore said. “I saw it on TV, but then I walked into the Olympic club and I’m hitting balls on Monday and this guy comes in and he puts his bag down, turns around and crosses his arms and says ‘c’mon, kid! ‘ And that’s Tom Watson. And he’s just there, done nothing, turns around and it’s like oh my God. I don’t know, it was probably like a 3 iron that I hit, and I just scratched it and it said, “Have a great week.” And then he turns around and starts hitting balls. And I’m like, it’s Tom Watson.
That’s the goal when you sign up for local qualifiers: find a way to earn a spot alongside your idols. Well, that’s most people’s goal.
There have been random instances of people slipping through the cracks or playing around with the system to qualify. John Eckert finished last in his fantasy football league and the punishment was played out in a US Open qualifier. The 27-year-old plays once a month and tours in the 90s. But he turned professional and anyone can turn pro at any time. He signed up for a local qualifier at Oakwood Country Club in Kansas City and shot 112.
There were 14 players who shot over 100 this year in local qualifying.
One player who didn’t have to worry about shooting close to 100 was Danny Woodhead, who played 10 seasons in the NFL, playing for the Jets, Patriots, Chargers and Ravens.
Woodhead retired on March 13, 2018 and clearly remembers his retirement goals.
“I remember the day after I retired, I watched the amateur tournaments in Nebraska and I was like okay, this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to try and get good at golf,” he said. -he declares.
He succeeded. Woodhead and his partner qualified for the US Amateur Four-ball in Chambers Bay last year. On his own ball this year, he made the local qualifier at Omaha Country Club shooting a tie 71. He qualified for the final qualifier at Springfield Country Club in Ohio and failed to advance but did shot a respectable 77-73.
One of the most interesting final qualifying stories came at Country Clubs Century and Old Oaks in Purchase, NY Chris Gotterup and Caleb Manuel advanced, but there was an eight-man playoff for the final three spots.
The playoffs included a delightfully diverse group. There were three mini-tour pros, one of whom was from Iceland. You had the nation’s No. 1 junior, Ben James, 18. You had a former American junior amateur champion Michael Thorbjornsen, who is currently a Stanford men’s team stallion. You had Korn Ferry Tour player Brandon Matthews, who might be the longest hitter in pro golf. You had Kelly Kraft, former US Amateur winner and PGA Tour cardholder. And, rounding out the group, you had 57-year-old professional journeyman Fran Quinn.
Quinn is from Worcester, Mass, less than an hour from Brookline. He had to pass a local qualifier just to qualify for the final. And now, having completed 36 holes, he has had the chance to play one last major in his hometown.
Thorbjornsen birdied the second playoff hole to advance. Matthews too. And Quinn too.
“It’s awesome,” Quinn said. “Honestly, to go and play at the Country Club in our backyard. This is the last one I will play. »
Quinn probably won’t make the cut at Brookline. But that doesn’t matter. He played his way into a tournament against Rory and Scottie and Collin and the others, and nobody can take that away from him. Another guy unlikely to make the cut is Keith Greene, the mini-tour pro who was in tears after qualifying. There is a chance that this will end up being the highlight of his career. But it is okay. It’s better than having no strengths.
“There’s a guy in our club here who hasn’t had much of a professional career, but he played in a US Open. And everyone says ‘yeah, he played in the US Open’,” he said. said Jason Gore “You may have made three cents playing golf. You may have lost $100,000 playing golf. But you present it and it’s like this guy played the US Open.
Here’s a look at the ones we’ve documented.
Anthony Brodeur (Columbus, Ohio): A 27-year-old Canadian playing on the PGA Tour Canada this year. Her father is Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur, who played for the New Jersey Devils during his illustrious career. Anthony started playing golf at the age of 7 and played on the golf and hockey teams while in college at the University of Ottawa. He finished tied for 26th at the PGA Tour Canada Q-School in mid-February to earn conditional status.
Chris Francoeur (Columbus qualifier): A 23-year-old hobbyist from Amesbury, Mass., about 50 miles north of Brookline. He played at the University of Rhode Island from 2017 to 2021, but when he received an additional year of college eligibility due to COVID-19, he transferred to Louisville and played the season there. last. For the Cardinals, he played in five events, posted 11 rounds of par or better and had a 71.0 stroke average.
Mark Purrington (Purchase, NY, qualified): A 35-year-old employee at Acushnet, which operates Titleist and FootJoy. The company’s headquarters are in Fairhaven, Mass., 60 miles south of Brookline. He’s played on mini-tours and in PGA Sectional events for years, and has even been a caddy at times in the past. He is also a musician and spends time as a drummer in a band that plays weddings on weekends.
Brandon Wu (qualified for Dallas): A 25-year-old Stanford graduate who has played in two US Opens (he finished tied for 35th in 2019 at Pebble Beach) and is going through the US Open qualifying process for the fifth time. He graduated from Stanford behind the 18th green of Pebble after the final round of the 2019 US Open. He is a PGA Tour rookie this year after earning his card via a 16th-place finish on the Korn Ferry points list Tour last year. He finished tied for second at the Mexican Open in Vidanta and tied for third at the Puerto Rico Open.
The remaining two episodes will air this week.