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

Transcript

00:00
(jubilant piano music)
00:04
(birds chirping)
00:06
(lawn mower)
00:12
(babbling brook)
00:15
Qualifying for the US Open really began
00:18
with the most famous of all the US Open victories,
00:21
certainly by an American, which was Francis Ouimet winning
00:24
in 1913, when he was a 20-year-old amateur,
00:27
who lived across the street from the Brookline Country Club.
00:30
It's like the ultimate Cinderella story.
00:32
That tradition of Ouimet has continued on.
00:35
At this local qualifying level, almost 10,000 golfers try
00:39
in that first round of local qualifying.
00:41
When you go to a local qualifier, you see all variety
00:44
of golfers, the whole spectrum.
00:46
I'm Jack Druga, the head professional
00:47
at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York.
00:50
Playing in what, I think,
00:51
might be my 30th local US Open qualifier.
00:54
My name is Mario Guerra.
00:56
My name is Nathan Han. I'm 15 years old.
00:58
I'm David Young from Scarborough, New York.
01:00
Will Bernstein. I'm from New York, New York,
01:03
and I'm 20 years old.
01:04
My name is Troy James, 44, Bronx, New York.
01:08
Originally from Saint Kitts, Eastern Caribbean Island.
01:12
The atmosphere at these local qualifiers
01:14
is actually sort of uplifting.
01:15
There's really a certain joy that the way these players
01:18
approach the challenge. I mean, it's very stressful
01:21
in many ways to play competitive golf. At the same time,
01:23
there's really nothing to lose.
01:24
I mean, there's only a few who make it through.
01:27
It almost doesn't matter what you shoot
01:29
if you happen to miss. You could shoot 72 or shoot 91,
01:31
and if you miss, you'd be in the same place.
01:34
(uplifting music)
01:37
This will be my fifth US Open local qualifying attempt,
01:41
and I've never been able to get through,
01:43
but last time it was here at Willow Ridge,
01:45
I missed by one shot.
01:46
So, there's definitely a romance with the idea.
01:50
I enter the US Open just because
01:52
I believe in my heart that I've got a chance,
01:54
and I'm three rounds away from potentially playing
01:58
with some of my idols.
02:01
I've probably played about 30 of these local qualifiers,
02:04
and I've made it through, this is probably
02:06
about my seventh or eight time.
02:08
I've never made it through the sectional to the Open.
02:10
So, we're still trying.
02:12
I think I had about a six-year streak
02:15
where I was either first alternate or missed by one.
02:17
So, there's about six straight years
02:18
where if you beat me, you were in.
02:20
(symbols)
02:22
Everybody who goes to a local qualifier feels
02:24
it's an opportunity, and there's a certain joy
02:26
in the competition, but don't get me wrong,
02:29
there's a lot of stress, and that's really what
02:31
competitive golf is all about. You know, dealing
02:33
with that inner conflict, that inner battle.
02:36
It's stressful, and you'll see hands shaking,
02:38
and you'll see things where people look
02:40
like they're not really happy,
02:41
but deep down, as golfers, they know they're getting better,
02:44
and so, in a profound way, it's actually a joyful moment.
02:50
In the US Open, you cannot be judgmental
02:53
on the golf course, because you never know
02:56
who gonna show up that day. You can't really
02:59
be judgmental about golf.
03:01
If my game is on,
03:03
I don't care who it is,
03:05
I can compete.
03:07
You may wonder, Do any of these players have
03:09
a chance to actually win the US Open?
03:11
Well, it's actually been done in history twice.
03:13
Ken Venturi in 1964.
03:14
Orville Moody in 1969 went
03:16
through local sectional qualifying and won the tournament.
03:20
How good are these golfers?
03:22
Well, they're among the one percent best golfers
03:24
in the World based on their having
03:25
at least a 1.4 handicap, but compared to a tour player,
03:29
they're quite different.
03:32
Professional tour players are at five times the level
03:36
that we are, but again, in the US Open,
03:39
in a one day shoot-out or a 36 hole shoot-out,
03:42
guys have a chance against them.
03:44
Probably my biggest goal is to play in the Major,
03:46
especially around my teen years, to try to see
03:49
just how awesome those touring pros are really,
03:53
and just to play with them and have that experience.
03:59
I'm not even on a same league as Jason Day
04:01
or any of those guys. So, it wouldn't even be about,
04:03
you know, competing to win the tournament.
04:05
Just being an amateur and enjoying the experience
04:07
is what I would probably cherish most.
04:10
It takes guts. You have to scare yourself a little
04:13
to try to qualify for the US Open,
04:16
and they had an experience that day
04:18
that they'll remember their whole lives,
04:20
and might be even the highlight of their whole golf career.
04:23
(upbeat music)
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