Column: 17-year-old makes most of his Open chance
The kid came into the U.S. Open hoping to finish as low amateur
and maybe even shake hands with his hero, Phil Mickelson. Modest
goals, maybe, but Beau Hossler wasn’t even the best player in his
state high school tournament a few weeks ago.
So what would he think if someone told the 17-year-old he would
be leading Tiger Woods and everyone else deep into the second round
”I would probably tell them they’re nuts,” Hossler said.
This was already shaping up as a great month for the Southern
California teen. His braces are coming off in a week, he qualified
for the Open for a second straight year, and he found out when he
got here that all players get free dry cleaning.
Oh, yeah, he got to play with Mickelson in a practice round and
even took a few bucks off of Lefty.
Still, the most adult thing he had done recently was ask his
mother for a cup of coffee to help him study for his junior year
finals. And suddenly he was standing on the second tee at Olympic
Club leading the Open.
There it was, right there on the leaderboard. Hossler in big
letters, just above Woods and Furyk.
Sure, the tiny bag of clubs a family friend was carrying had the
initials of his high school on it. He was playing big boy golf on a
big boy course, and having fun doing it.
”I was pretty excited about it, but then again I had another 40
holes at least to be playing in the tournament,” Hossler said.
”You got a long way to go and you can’t get too wrapped up on
where you’re at. You got to keep focused and try to go out there
and salvage some pars on the first six holes, which is pretty
difficult to do.”
Too difficult for Hossler, it turned out. He hit a tree with one
drive and would go on to play his last seven holes at 5 over as his
name slipped down the leaderboard until a final-hole bogey left him
tied for ninth place.
Still low amateur, at least for now. But no longer top dog.
”Let’s be honest,” said his father, the elder Beau Hossler.
”I’m sure he got caught up a bit in the moment.”
Hossler, who played under a big University of Texas – his
destination after next year – visor, is still right in the mix
heading into Saturday’s third round, sitting only four shots back
of Woods, Furyk and David Toms at 3 over. He doesn’t get to play
with Mickelson, but he will be playing a lot later than him.
Pretty heady stuff for any player, though Hossler seems to take
it all in stride.
”I just felt pretty comfortable out there,” he said. ”Pretty
nervous starting the round. Just like any other event I’m normally
pretty nervous on the first tee. But once I got through the middle
of the round I found out I had the lead.”
The lead, of course, can do things to even the most seasoned
veterans. It wasn’t going to leave Hossler unscathed, though he did
chip in on his next-to-last hole for a birdie that helped ease the
sting of things.
”He had to be nervous,” said caddie Bill Schellenberg, a
family friend. ”Yesterday it was like a qualifier. We had a fun
day, loose as can be. He played well, laughed, just had nothing but
fun. We were on the same path today and then he birdies No. 17 then
we’re off to 18 and all of a sudden there’s cameras and stuff all
over us. I don’t know about him, but I started to get nervous at
Nothing for Hossler to hang his head about. He admits he’s not a
student of golf history, but there was a 20-year-old amateur named
Tiger Woods tied for the lead at 3 under in the first round of the
1996 Open at Oakland Hills, only to give away nine shots coming
”I kind of experienced that actually myself at Oakland Hills,
same deal, first round, made a few mistakes after that,” Woods
said. ”I think he’s kind of made a few mistakes as well.”
Hossler’s story is a familiar one in golf. He would tag along
with his father when he was little, playing a few holes at a time,
until he finally got serious about the game around the age of
eight. By the time he was 12 he was winning tournaments, and he
qualified for the U.S. Amateur at the age of 14. After a growth
spurt that helped his driving distance, he qualified for the Open
at Congressional, missing the cut after rounds of 76-77.
”He has the ability, I think, to stay calm in uncalm
situations,” Hossler’s father said. ”In Little League he was
always calm, too. He doesn’t get too high or too low, he just rolls
with the punches.”
That kind of attitude got him to the top of the Open
leaderboard, even if it was short-lived. It got him some television
time, and some reporters who wanted to ask him questions
He’s not going to win the Open, something he seems to realize.
His goal is still to be low amateur, and he’s got a five-shot lead
over the other two amateurs to make the cut, Patrick Cantlay, who
used to beat him regularly in the Los Angeles area, and Jordan
And, of course, there are the Open perks that will continue
through the weekend.
”I find this kind of weird, but the free dry cleaning in there,
that’s pretty sweet,” he said.
Add a few more shirts to the next order. Because Hossler is
playing the weekend in the U.S. Open.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated
Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org