Friday, May 3rd, 2013 marked the beginning of the biggest series of qualifying tournaments in U.S. Open history, with a tournament in Jupiter, FL, but the process got underway in earnest on Monday, May 6th, with twenty-seven tournaments in sixteen states, including six in California.
With a record number of entrants for the 2013 Open – 9,860, eclipsing the previous record of 9,086 set in 2009 – the first stage of qualifying will take place at 111 golf courses nationwide, from May 3rd to May 16th, in every state of the Union except for Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
The odds are long – there are only 156 spots, overall, in the U. S. Open field, and as many as 52 players are already exempt into the field based on previous accomplishments, leaving just over 100 spots for 9,860 players to scramble for. That’s about 1 in 189 players.
At the local level, anywhere from two to five players advance from each local qualifying tournament, depending upon the size of the field, to the next level – sectional qualifying. There are eleven sectional tournaments in the United States, with two overseas tournaments – at Walton Heath Golf Club, in Surrey, England, and Ohtone Country Club, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan – serving qualifying foreign-based players who want to try and qualify.
On May 6th, San Jose’s Almaden Golf & Country Club hosted one of the five local qualifying tournaments to be held in Northern California; Butte Creek Country Club in Chico, and Sunnyside Country Club in Fresno also hosted qualifiers Monday. Two others are coming up over the next couple of weeks, at Half Moon Bay Golf Links (Old Course) on May 8th, and Ruby Hill Country Club, in Pleasanton, on May 13th. The nearest sectional qualifier will be held at Newport Beach Country Club and Big Canyon Country Club, in Southern California, on June 3rd.
The Almaden tournament had a field of eighty-nine players, ranging from club and teaching pros to college players to talented amateurs. Talented they have to be, because, while the United States Open is golf’s most democratic championship, there are standards: entrants must carry a maximum USGA Handicap Index of 1.4 – quite an achievement in itself. After nine withdrawals and one disqualification, a field of seventy-nine players contended for five spots to advance to sectional qualifying, and two alternates, in case a qualifier could not make it the next tournament.
After 18 holes of regulation play over the scenic and challenging Almaden Country Club course, three players advanced cleanly: Austin Roberts, of Carmichael, CA, a freshman at New Mexico State, with a score of 67; Jeff Brehaut, of Los Altos, a professional who is currently playing on the Nationwide Tour, with a score of 68; and Brian Thompson, a former CSUMB Otter, now a teaching pro at Eagle Ridge Golf Club in Gilroy, with a score of 69.
At the end of regulation play, six players were tied at even-par 72 behind the three direct qualifiers. After the first playoff hole Chris Parkinson, of Danville, and Brandon Harkins, of Scottsdale, AZ, were qualifiers, filling out the five spots. The playoff for the two alternate spots continued, and after the second playoff hole Matthew Hollinsead, of Roseville, was eliminated, leaving David Brown, of Auburn, Chris Hatzke, of Vacaville, and Justin Estrada, of Yuba City in contention. Finally, after two more playoff holes, David Brown was eliminated, leaving Hatzke and Estrada as alternates.
Next, these five qualifiers (or alternates) will face a long day of competition in a sectional qualifying tournament on June 3rd. Thirty-six holes of golf at the sectional qualifying location they have chosen will determine who gets a chance to move on to Merion Golf Club, Haverford Township, PA, for a spot in the field at the 113th United States Open.