Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Three Qualifying Tournaments in the Bay Area Provide A Path to the U.S. Open

With the 2012 U. S. Open at The Olympic Club, in San Francisco, CA, less than a month away, thousands of competitors are teeing it up in local qualifying tournaments at 109 locations across the United States, including six locations in California, in hopes of winning through to a berth in the field at the 112th edition of the United States Golf Association’s premier championship tournament.

The Bay Area hosted two 18-hole local qualifying tournaments over the past week – May 7th at Ruby Hill Golf Club, in Pleasanton, and May 14th, at the famed Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz. Six golfers advanced from the Pleasanton qualifier last week, with two alternates waiting in the wings, and a further six qualified today at Pasatiempo, along with two alternates. These players, and local qualifiers from other locations in the western United States, will take the next step at the sectional qualifying tournament at Lake Merced Golf Club, in Daly City, on June 4th.

Local qualifiers from the Ruby Hill venue included Kevin Wentworth, 27, an amateur from Arnold, CA; Joshua Stone, of Stockton – the reigning Stockton City Amateur champion, and journeyman Jeff Brehaut, of Los Altos. Brehaut, 48, is a UOP graduate and on-again/off-again professional player on the Nationwide Tour. He has two wins to his credit in Nationwide events, and can lay claim to having been the leader in a U.S. Open round. He led by a stroke after 10 holes at the 2009 Open at Bethpage when rain halted play, only to see his lead taken over by Canadian Mike Weir when the round was completed the following day.

Among the qualifiers from the May 14th tournament at Pasatiempo were three Bay Area golfers – Eddie Olson of Aptos, Andrew Buchanan of Los Altos Hills, and Matt Cohn of San Francisco. Olson, a former California State High School Champion, played college golf at UNLV and was a member of their 2008 Conference Championship squad. Buchanan is a junior at the Menlo School in Atherton who has made a verbal commitment to play college golf at Southern Methodist University. Cohn is the current California Mid-Am champion, having taken that title May 6th at Stevinson Ranch Golf Club.
A notable non-qualifier from the Pasatiempo tournament was Joseph Bramlett, of Saratoga. Bramlett, a 2010 Stanford graduate, made headlines when he became the first golfer of African-American descent to qualify for the PGA Tour through the Tour’s Qualifying School since Adrian Stills in 1985. Bramlett posted a 4-over 74 on the Alister Mackenzie-designed course, 3 strokes back of the final qualifying spot. Bramlett is playing primarily on the Nationwide Tour in 2012 after finishing 199th on the PGA Tour money list at the end of the 2011 season.

The field of 156 golfers who will begin championship play at the Olympic Club on June 14th includes 53 exempt players who go straight into the field without being required to play local or sectional qualifying tournaments. Players qualified for exemption include the winners of the U.S. Open Championship the last 10 years (2002-11), the winner and runner-up of the 2011 U.S. Amateur Championship, the winner of the 2011 British Amateur Championship, the top-ranked in player in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, the winners of the Masters Tournament the last five years (2008-12), the winners of the British Open Championship the last five years (2007-11), and the winners of the PGA of America Championship the last five years (2007-11), among others.

A number of pros from top global tours, and certain elite amateurs, are partially exempt and are able to go straight into the second round of qualifying tournaments, sectional qualifying. They will be joined by 550 survivors of the local qualifying tournaments – just over 6% of the near-record 9,006 players who entered this year. Sectional qualifying tournaments are held at eleven locations in the U. S., with two international locations, in England and Japan, serving overseas players. The sectional qualifying tournaments are a stiff test, 36 holes of golf in one day – a lot of golf, at championship-caliber venues, against determined competition.

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