The Road To The U.S. Open Begins Here
The journey to a spot in the U.S. Open field often begins with local qualifying at spots around the country. A look at the wide array of personalities who try to earn a chance to compete among the best players in the world.
Released on 6/7/2016
(jubilant piano music)
Qualifying for the US Open really began
with the most famous of all the US Open victories,
certainly by an American, which was Francis Ouimet winning
in 1913, when he was a 20-year-old amateur,
who lived across the street from the Brookline Country Club.
It's like the ultimate Cinderella story.
That tradition of Ouimet has continued on.
At this local qualifying level, almost 10,000 golfers try
in that first round of local qualifying.
When you go to a local qualifier, you see all variety
of golfers, the whole spectrum.
I'm Jack Druga, the head professional
at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York.
Playing in what, I think,
might be my 30th local US Open qualifier.
My name is Mario Guerra.
My name is Nathan Han. I'm 15 years old.
I'm David Young from Scarborough, New York.
Will Bernstein. I'm from New York, New York,
and I'm 20 years old.
My name is Troy James, 44, Bronx, New York.
Originally from Saint Kitts, Eastern Caribbean Island.
The atmosphere at these local qualifiers
is actually sort of uplifting.
There's really a certain joy that the way these players
approach the challenge. I mean, it's very stressful
in many ways to play competitive golf. At the same time,
there's really nothing to lose.
I mean, there's only a few who make it through.
It almost doesn't matter what you shoot
if you happen to miss. You could shoot 72 or shoot 91,
and if you miss, you'd be in the same place.
This will be my fifth US Open local qualifying attempt,
and I've never been able to get through,
but last time it was here at Willow Ridge,
I missed by one shot.
So, there's definitely a romance with the idea.
I enter the US Open just because
I believe in my heart that I've got a chance,
and I'm three rounds away from potentially playing
with some of my idols.
I've probably played about 30 of these local qualifiers,
and I've made it through, this is probably
about my seventh or eight time.
I've never made it through the sectional to the Open.
So, we're still trying.
I think I had about a six-year streak
where I was either first alternate or missed by one.
So, there's about six straight years
where if you beat me, you were in.
Everybody who goes to a local qualifier feels
it's an opportunity, and there's a certain joy
in the competition, but don't get me wrong,
there's a lot of stress, and that's really what
competitive golf is all about. You know, dealing
with that inner conflict, that inner battle.
It's stressful, and you'll see hands shaking,
and you'll see things where people look
like they're not really happy,
but deep down, as golfers, they know they're getting better,
and so, in a profound way, it's actually a joyful moment.
In the US Open, you cannot be judgmental
on the golf course, because you never know
who gonna show up that day. You can't really
be judgmental about golf.
If my game is on,
I don't care who it is,
I can compete.
You may wonder, Do any of these players have
a chance to actually win the US Open?
Well, it's actually been done in history twice.
Ken Venturi in 1964.
Orville Moody in 1969 went
through local sectional qualifying and won the tournament.
How good are these golfers?
Well, they're among the one percent best golfers
in the World based on their having
at least a 1.4 handicap, but compared to a tour player,
they're quite different.
Professional tour players are at five times the level
that we are, but again, in the US Open,
in a one day shoot-out or a 36 hole shoot-out,
guys have a chance against them.
Probably my biggest goal is to play in the Major,
especially around my teen years, to try to see
just how awesome those touring pros are really,
and just to play with them and have that experience.
I'm not even on a same league as Jason Day
or any of those guys. So, it wouldn't even be about,
you know, competing to win the tournament.
Just being an amateur and enjoying the experience
is what I would probably cherish most.
It takes guts. You have to scare yourself a little
to try to qualify for the US Open,
and they had an experience that day
that they'll remember their whole lives,
and might be even the highlight of their whole golf career.