A standing ovation awaited 17-year-old Beau Hossler as he walked off the 18th green Sunday.
So did future Texas teammate Jordan Spieth, who also offered a well-done handshake to the California kid who couldn’t steal the U.S. Open but won over plenty of hearts along the way.
”I feel bad the way it ended with Beau, I really do,” said Spieth, who ended up as low amateur Sunday after Hossler finished with a double bogey. ”It would have been nice for both of us to be standing out there with the week that he had. You’re going to see him not too far from now having plenty of success.”
Spieth closed with rounds of 69-70 to finish at 7-over 287 – two shots better than Hossler, who shot 70-73-70-76 on the tight, twisting layout of The Olympic Club.
While the Texas native scrambled to find his way into the U.S. Open then played virtually unnoticed all week, Hossler earned as much air time as Tiger Woods after briefly taking sole possession of the lead Friday then playing his way into contention after a solid back nine Saturday.
In the process he went from relative unknown high school junior to Hook `Em Hossler, the teen who thought he could win the U.S. Open.
Fans cheered him when his name was announced on the No. 1 tee, and thousands chanted ”Let’s Go Hoss-Ler” as he walked up to the amphitheater-like eighth green Sunday.
Hossler would take off his Imperial white visor, and tip it to the crowd while his caddie/godfather Bill Schellenberg flashed the Hook `em Horns sign.
”To hear them chanting my name, that’s pretty awesome,” Hossler said.
What wasn’t awesome Sunday was his swing.
Instead of playing to the ”laser” nickname he earned from Santa Margarita Catholic High School teammates, Hossler had a toe-pull going.
”That’s really what cost me today,” he said. ”This is a fader’s golf course. You’ve got to hit it into the slope and you have to have backspin so the ball doesn’t roll through the fairways. I didn’t do that.”
Still, there was magic in the air when he holed-out to save par on No. 1 and got up and down from a bunker on No. 2, sinking the par-saving putt to Tiger-like roars.
Unlike Saturday when he backed each bogey with a birdie, Hossler went bogey-bogey-bogey on Nos. 3, 4 and 5. He made three birdies in the round, but four more bogeys and the double on 18.
On the final hole, he knew he needed par to tie Spieth for low amateur. But he put his drive into the left rough, and his long iron found the right bunker.
With a tricky downhill lie, he ended up leaving it in the bunker then missed his bogey putt after getting out.
”He made double because he went for it and tried to be low (amateur),” his father, Beau Hossler Sr., said afterward. ”I’m very proud of him. I’m glad that he went for it. I’m proud of him regardless of what number he puts up.”
Golfers back at his home course, Mission Viejo Country Club, aka Mission Impossible, no doubt felt the same.
On Saturday, more golfers were in front of the TV set than on the course, ordering Beau Burgers and Billy beers after Hossler and his caddie.
On Olympic Club, fans enjoyed seeing the kid in braces walk tall among the cypress and sinking fog.
”Beau Knows Golf,” one shouted. ”Can you sign my yearbook?” yelled another.
Hossler, who became the first high school player since Mason Rudolph to qualify for consecutive U.S. Opens, took it all in.
”Just like from last year, it’s only a learning experience and I still have some time before I come out and start doing this for a living,” said Hossler, who finished two back of Woods but seven better than idol Mickelson.
Hossler intends to head back to Santa Margarita to finish his senior year then early-enroll at Texas next year to join Spieth, who said he still plans to be a Longhorn but will go through Q-school as an amateur.
First, there’s the matter of those braces that fill Hossler’s smile. They are coming off in a week.
Then there’s the Cal State Am, the Sahalee Players Amateur, then Junior Worlds, the Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur.
And there’s a new goal of qualifying for three straight U.S. Opens.
”He’s disappointed with the way it ended,” said Spieth, who is a youngster himself at just 18. ”But leading the U.S. Open when Tiger’s 1 under and (he makes) birdie to go to 2 under … for a 17-year-old amateur, it’s out of this world. Looking back on it will give him chills.”