It's been a busy summer for some of the country's top amateur talent, including local USC, UCLA and former prep athletes.
By ABBEY MASTRACCOFS West
Two weeks out of every year, the world's best golfers mix with the mere mortals of the sport. The U.S. Open provides an opportunity for anyone – even Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo – to attempt to qualify for golf's toughest test, as the PGA Championship features the nation's best club professionals.
For those don't make tour golf a living, the experience of playing in a major championship is one that almost makes them yearn for more competition.
Mike Miles, the assistant pro at Long Beach's Virginia Country Club, was a touring pro in the 1980s before settling into Huntington Beach and his teaching career. In 2009, Miles qualified for both the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, and fell in love with tournament play all over again.
"To play in two in one year, it's a unique thing," Miles said. "I try every year for the U.S. Open. I played in the Senior PGA Championship this year, I just became a senior a year and a half ago so there will probably be a few of those over the next few years I'm thinking."
Miles comes from a club that has been steadily gaining a premiere reputation. Virginia Country Club is headed by Jamie Mulligan, the instructor who works with PGA Tour pros John Merrick, John Mallinger, Paul Goydos, Peter Tomasulo and one of the sport's brightest young stars in Patrick Cantlay.
Mulligan has created a familial atmosphere at Virginia Country Club, with Miles a part of that family unit. His competitive nature also fits right in with that group.
"I consider myself maybe not as consistent, because I don't get to play like they do, but when it comes to my skills I'm as good as any of those guys," Miles said. "But certainly, having them around is the best part of the club for me. I have a good cross-section of looking at guys that are playing every week on pro tours, and it's kind of neat to be able to say, 'Yeah, I can run with them every once in a while.'"
Miles, along with Mulligan and other club pros, have different responsibilities than touring pros. A tour pro's job is to play and earn a living doing so, while a club pro essentially keeps the club up and running, dealing with a myriad of issues from slow play to private lessons to weddings and other special events. And these are issues that he happily deals with, as he thoroughly enjoys his career as a club pro.
But every once in a while, that desire to contend with the best comes out.
"I was real good when I was young and kind of got away from the game and came back to it," Miles said. "I still think I probably have one more U.S. Open in me. If I can keep my body in shape, I'd love to be a guy that qualifies for a major in his 50s or late 60s."
This particular stretch of the year is a busy one for the country's top amateur talent. Last week, the UCLA and USC women both made statements at the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship at the Country Club of Charleston in Charleston, S.C. This week, it's the men's turn to tee off at Charles River Country Club outside of Boston.
USC and UCLA each sent one player to the men's event this week, but the bigger story is that Big West programs Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara are just as well-represented. UCSB's Glen Scher and Cal State Fullerton's Ryan Tetrault and Mark Anguiano are all in the field.
The most intriguing story this week is Beau Hossler of Mission Viejo. Hossler was the darling of the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club outside of San Francisco, holding an outright lead at one point during the second round. Hossler enrolled at Texas a semester early, but took a redshirt and did not compete in the spring. But Hossler showed that his game acquired no rust during that hiatus, winning the Southern California Golf Association Amateur Championship last month.
The U.S. Women's Amateur nearly featured a Trojan and a future Bruin squaring off against one another when USC junior Doris Chen and incoming UCLA freshman Allison Lee both advanced to the semifinals. Chen was the last of six Trojans in the field after her NCAA Champion teammate Annie Park was eliminated by Yueer "Cindy" Feng.
Chen then fell in an epic match to Cheng, 3-and-2 in 16 holes of match play. Lee fell to eventual champion Emma Talley (Alabama).