Thursday, May 17, 2012

More Bay Area Golfers Advance In U. S. Open Qualifying

Thomas Petersson, 28, a native of Stockholm, Sweden, who now lives in Stockton, and Domingo Jojola, 24, a native of New Mexico and former USF golf standout, are two players who are going to be very comfortable on the first tee at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City when play starts in U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying tournament there on June 4th. Petersson, who came to California to attend college at University of the Pacific, and Jojola, who now makes San Francisco his home, both represent Lake Merced Golf Club, so they will be playing a crucial tournament on their home course.

Petersson and Jojola are two of the six area golfers who advanced to sectional qualifying through the local qualifying tournament yesterday at Mayacama Golf Club in Santa Rosa. The scores that the six qualifiers put up on the hilly 6,761-yard Nicklaus-designed course, ranging from 70 to 67, gave notice that they are all players to be reckoned with.
Petersson, the medalist, posted a 5-under score of 67 with a round that included 5 birdies in the first 10 holes, with one bogey in that stretch, at the sixth hole. He stumbled a bit with back-to-back bogeys at 13 and 14, but recovered in high style with an eagle at 15, thanks to a 30-foot putt, and clinched the top spot with a two-putt birdie at 18.

Jojola tied for second with Hank McCusker, an amateur from Mendocino; both carded 4-under 68s. McCusker opened his round with a brilliant opening nine score of 30. Starting from the 10th tee, he carded a birdie on 12 and had a run of four straight birdies on 14 through 17, but two bogies against one birdie on his closing nine brought him back by a stroke. Jojola stumbled out of the blocks with a bogey on the 1st hole, but righted the ship with a birdie on 6, forging ahead with a run of three more birdies at 8, 9, and 10. After four straight pars at holes 11 through 14 he finished birdie, bogey, par, birdie to close out his 4-under 68.

Rounding out the top six were another amateur, Jeff Wilson, of Fairfield, a former touring pro, Michael Jensen, a pro from Los Altos, and Timothy Bogue, of Windsor, another professional player. Wilson and Jensen carded 69s, while Bogue was one stroke back, offsetting a lone bogey with three birdies for a 2-under round of 70.
Lurking at the heels of the top 6, and ready to step in for a shot at a U. S. Open berth should any of the qualifiers not be able to play, are the two alternates, Scott de Borba, of Elk Grove, and Bobby Poole, of Burlingame, who each carded 1-under 71s. de Borba is the first alternate, a position he won in a playoff over Poole after they tied in regulation play.

There are stories behind just about everyone who steps up to the tee box at a U.S. Open qualifier. Hank McCusker, the amateur from Mendocino, has been down this road before – he also qualified at Mayacama for the Sectional tournament at Lake Merced Golf Club in 2008; he has been club champion at his home club, Little River Golf Club, four of the past five years. Wilson, who runs an auto dealership in Fairfield, has played in four U. S. Opens, the first as a teen, in 1982. He was the 2000 U.S. Amateur champion, and in the 2010 U.S. Amateur fired a 62 in the first round, aided by eagles on the two closing holes. Jensen, a third-year touring pro who plays out of the Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club in Menlo Park, played his college golf at Berkeley, and was co-captain of the team in 2008-2009. Bogue, the only Sonoma County golfer in the top 6 (which explains his large gallery), is a longshoreman at the Port of Oakland.

The six qualifiers face a long day of tough competition June 4th at Lake Merced Golf Club, because while local qualifiers are 18-hole tournaments, sectional tournaments consist of two rounds of 18 holes – 36 holes of competitive golf against some of the best players in the western United States.

Lake Merced Golf Club is one of eleven sectional qualifying locations across the United States, of which only three are west of the Mississippi. The other western locations are Emerald Valley Golf Club, in Creswell, Oregon, and Lakeside Country Club, Houston, Texas. There are two international sectional qualifiers – one in Japan for players on the Japan, Asia, and Australasian tours, and one in England for European Tour players. Some 750 players, spread across the thirteen sectional qualifying sites, will be vying for the 75 – 80 spots in the starting roster for the U. S. Open that are not already filled by the pros and elite amateurs who are exempted into the tournament.

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