It’s that time of year again, when dreams of playing in our national championship push amateurs, club pros and touring pros to golf courses we don’t normally see on TV, but hold the golden opportunity to play in the 2012 U.S. Open as qualifiers.
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From a Tour veteran such as Davis Love III to young guns Camilo Villegas and Ryan Moore to college standouts Jordan Spieth and Chris Williams to juniors Shun Yat Hak and Beau Hossler, there are plenty of storylines.
And then you have the unlikely local qualifiers like 15-year-old Carl Yuan, and that is what June in the United States is all about: Hope.
While two sectional qualifiers already have been played and 17 players punching tickets to The Olympic Club in San Francisco, here is a look at the 11 U.S.-based sectionals, complete with full fields and tee times of each qualifier.
Course designer: Donald Ross (Scioto), Alister MacKenzie (Scarlet)
Cool fact: Only the second time Scioto and OSU have hosted together, with Bubba Watson and Ryan Moore advancing when they did in 2007.
Notables: Harris English, Robert Allenby, Ryan Moore, Nick O’Hern, Pat Perez, J.B. Holmes, Spencer Levin, Corbin Mills, Tommy Gainey, Chris DiMarco, Rocco Mediate, John Huh, Camilo Villegas, Bud Cauley, Davis Love III, Ben Curtis, Jhonattan Vegas, Henrik Stenson, Ricky Barnes, Stuart Appleby, Justin Thomas, Jeff Overton, Rory Sabbatini, Johnson Wagner, Kelly Kraft, D.A. Points, Sean O’Hair, Tim Mickelson
What to look for: Plenty of big names at this qualifier, one of the two PGA Tour qualifying sites. This one is close to the Memorial, which ends on Sunday in nearby Dublin, Ohio. A nice mix of young and old in this field, with Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III the biggest name. A couple of unexpected names are in this group: Camilo Villegas and Ryan Moore. One amateur to watch: Arizona State coach Tim Mickelson, Phil’s younger brother. Could it be a Mickelson family reunion at Olympic Club? Would the USGA pair them together?
Cool fact: Because the Columbus course can be so busy, Springfield acts as a back-up for Tour players from the Memorial.
Notables: Brian Davis, Seung-Yul Noh, John Peterson
What to look for: While this venue is basically there for those who couldn’t get into the Columbus qualifier, there are some accomplished players to watch. John Peterson, the 2011 NCAA individual champion from LSU, has had sporadic success trying to get his professional career started overseas. He is seeking to make his U.S. Open debut. Meanwhile, Seung-Yul Noh has had four top-20 performances on the PGA Tour this season, including a T-9 at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Course designer: Walter Travis (North), Captain Allison (South); Rees Jones (North renovations)
Cool fact: In 2006, Michelle Wie attempted to qualify for the men’s U.S. Open at Canoe Brook.
Notables: Luke List, Daniel Chopra, Andrew Svoboda
What to look for: Daniel Chopra might be the best-known player in this draw, but Luke List has the hottest hand. List, 27, has a victory and two runners-up finishes on the Nationwide Tour this season. He has earned nearly $225,000 to top the tour’s money list, putting him on track for a PGA Tour card for 2013. Our Sean Martin visited with List this past month.
Cool fact: Lake Merced has hosted a sectional every other year since 1984 (Northern and Southern California rotate years hosting the qualifier).
Notables: Paul Goydos, Max Homa, Beau Hossler, Bob May, Patrick Rodgers, J.J. Spaun, Alex Cejka
What to look for: Max Homa, Patrick Rodgers and J.J. Spaun will have a decided advantage over their NCAA Championship counterparts: They’ll need to travel only up the California coast to make their qualifier after the NCAAs conclude Sunday. Many others will have to catch redeye flights to qualifiers ranging from Texas to Florida. Beau Hossler, No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings, would be a big story, were he to qualify in his home state for the Open. Hossler has committed to Texas for the 2013-14 season.
Cool fact: The Quarry Course features a stretch of holes that are guarded by 30-foot high limestone cliffs.
Notables: T.J. Vogel, Scott Langley, Blayne Barber, Sam Saunders, Brooks Koepka, Shun Yat Hak, Andres Echavarria, Arnond Vongvanij
What to look for: It will be hard not to be distracted by the beauty of this course, but plenty of Florida-based talent should have an opportunity to play the Quarry Course before the qualifier. Sam Saunders, the grandson of legend Arnold Palmer, has experience on the PGA and Nationwide tours and cruised through local qualifying. Shun Yat Hak, Golfweek’s top-ranked junior, could generate more headlines after having committed to powerhouse Georgia Tech two weeks ago. There will be a strong University of Florida presence here, with T.J. Vogel, Andres Echavarria and Arnond Vongvanij heading south on I-75.
Cool fact: Germantown hosts a sectional for the sixth time as one of the two PGA Tour qualifying sites, before the week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic at nearby TPC Southwind.
Notables: Chad Campbell, Stephen Ames, Jeff Maggert, Ryan Palmer, Frank Lickliter, Lee Janzen, Jeff Quinney, Justin Leonard, David Duval, Joe Durant, Brian Gay, J.J. Henry, Hunter Haas, Sung Kang, Heath Slocum, D.J. Trahan, John Rollins, Dicky Pride, Scott Stallings, Bobby Wyatt, Russell Knox, Billy Mayfair, Joe Ogilvie, Luke Guthrie
What to look for: Another strong contingent of Tour stars, most of whom will make the trip to Memphis in preparation for the FedEx St. Jude Classic, the final event before the U.S. Open. Scott Stallings, the 2011 Greenbrier Classic champion, is here because of his drop in the world rankings this year. College stars Luke Guthrie (Illinois) and Bobby Wyatt (Alabama) will try to move up a weight class.
Course designer: Bob E. Baldock (original), Dan Hixon (renovation)
Cool fact: Emerald Valley was the first regulation-length public facility to open in the Eugene area.
Notables: Casey Martin, Daniel Miernicki, Chris Williams, Cheng-Tsung Pan
What to look for: This qualifier will have plenty of buzz because of Casey Martin, who played in the Open’s most recent visit to Olympic, in 1998. Because of a degenerative leg condition, Martin won the right to use a golf cart in a dispute that divided the golf world and eventually landed in the U.S. Supreme Court. Martin, the men’s coach at Oregon, might garner much of the attention, but look for Ducks senior senior Daniel Miernicki to contend for a spot. Pac-12 rivals Chris Williams and Cheng-Tsung Pan of Washington also should be factors. This will kick off a busy summer for Williams, who intends to play on the U.S. Palmer Cup squad.
Course designer: Alfred Tull (original), Arthur Hills (renovation)
Cool fact: Woodmont hosted a sectional qualifier from 1987 to 2007, taking a break in 2008 for course upgrades.
Notables: Shane Bertsch, Fred Funk, Jason Gore, Adam Hadwin , James Nitties, Harold Varner
What to look for: As a senior this spring at East Carolina, Harold Varner led the Pirates to their first NCAA Championship berth. Our Ryan Lavner visited with Varner during the fall, and they discussed how he went from a lightly recruited high school player to a top-50 collegiate star. Meanwhile, Canadian Adam Hadwin, one of the most underrated players in North America, has the game to contend for a spot at Olympic.
Cool fact: The site originally was sold to a local resident in 1861 for $2,000.
Notables: Dylan Frittelli, Jordan Russell, Cory Whitsett, Todd Hamilton, Jordan Spieth, Tom Kite, Bob Estes
What to look for: Texans Tom Kite and Bob Estes will make another run at the U.S. Open, but a couple of younger Longhorns – Jordan Spieth and Dylan Frittelli – will contend, too. Spieth had two victories in his freshman campaign at Texas, while Frittelli arguably was the most consistent player for the top-ranked Longhorns. Texas A&M’s Jordan Russell, who posted nine top-20 results during an all-Big-12 season, could upstage the Longhorns.
Cool fact: Ten of the 18 holes play across five large lakes in the Chattahoochee River Valley.
Notables: Bubba Dickerson, Casey Wittenberg, Russell Henley, James White, Patrick Sheehan
What to look for: James White will have plenty of time to prepare for the sectional after his Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were knocked out of the NCAA regionals. White will play for the U.S. in the Palmer Cup this summer. Former Georgia standout Russell Henley has a solid record in his two U.S. Opens: T-16 in 2010 at Pebble Beach and T-42 last year at Congressional. However, he has struggled on the Nationwide Tour this season, missing five cuts and posting only one top-25 finish. He won the Nationwide’s Stadion Classic in 2011 before turning pro later that year.
Cool fact: Village Links hosted the Western Open Qualifying, held there every year through 2006, except for 1986 when the Links hosted the Illinois Open and 2003 when the 18-hole course was closed for renovation.
Notables: Tom Pernice Jr., Tim Herron, Brad Benjamin
What to look for: Tom Pernice Jr. and Tim Herron have won multiple times on the PGA Tour and will headline this field. Brad Benjamin, who grew up in the Chicago area, will try to return to the U.S. Open after finishing 72nd last year at Congressional. The 25-year-old left-hander, who won the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links, missed the cut in the 2010 Masters.