Scott Pinckney (pictured right), Matthew Edwards (pictured left), Beau Hossler Jr., Steve Irwin and Brian Locke will match their swings with some of the finest golfers in the world next week at the U.S. Open, having risen to the top at a Sectional Qualifying Tournament Monday at Oakmont CC in Glendale.
The five received invitations to the 111th U.S. Open Championship, to be held June 16-19 at Congressional CC in Bethesda, Md. Three of the five – Pinckney, Hossler and Irwin – are amateurs.
Some compelling stories unfolded throughout a day that dawned damp and drizzly at Oakmont but gave way to comfortable temperatures and a glorious blue sky.
Pinckney, an Arizona State star, and Edwards, a former New Mexico State player, each fired five-under-par rounds of 67-70 – 137 to share medalist honors in a field of 94.
Hossler (67-71 – 138) will be the youngest player to participate in this year’s Open, having just celebrated his 16th birthday in March. And Irwin, the son of three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin, also qualified with a four-under 67-71 – 138.
Grabbing the fifth slot in dramatic fashion was Brian Locke (pictured), a 2009 graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CC. Mired in a four-way tie after regulation, having shot a 3-under round of 69-70 – 139, he defeated Jeffrey Roth of Farmington, N.M., on a third playoff hole in virtual darkness, sinking a 7-foot putt on Oakmont’s par-3 16th hole.
Hossler might have to show his player credentials to get past the marshals and onto the course at Congressional. He has braces on his teeth, just finished his sophomore year at Santa Margarita Catholic High School and, just before heading east, will sit down in a classroom and take his final exams.
“I don’t think words can describe it,” Hossler said after qualifying. “I’m going to play against the best players in the world.” His previous career highlight, he said, was “qualifying for the U.S. Amateur in the eighth grade.”
Hossler said that his ball striking was key to his four-under-par round. “I drove the ball great,” he said. “It’s a very narrow golf course, but I probably only missed a couple of fairways. Having a course like this eliminates a lot of the field because those guys try to blast driver and get into trouble cutting corners and stuff.
“I always like my chances when I have a golf course that is difficult when you’re off the fairways. I feel very comfortable with my driver – more than any other club. I feel like my swing’s kind of grooved over the years. It gets me in position.”
Pinckney’s day was all the more impressive when weighed against a recent whirlwind of travel: to Colorado for an NCAA Regional, to San Antonio for the Texas Public Links Championship (where he was medalist), a brief return to his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., off to Stillwater, Okla., for the NCAA Championships, then back home to Scottsdale and an immediate road trip to Glendale for the sectional qualifier.
“What day is it?” he asked after his round – and he seemed startled when told it was Monday.
But there was no road weariness evident in Pinckney’s play over the day’s 36 holes.
“I’ve been getting in the rhythm,” he said. “Going from the NCAA nationals, the course plays so hard that any other course you go to is going to be playing easier.”
His opening round featured seven birdies and three bogeys. In the afternoon, he was plagued by a series of putts that lipped out, “but I just stayed patient. I knew it was going to fall.”
He finished strong, blasting a 7-iron into the wind from 158 yards on No. 18. It settled gently onto the green, five feet from the pin, and he holed it for a satisfying birdie.
Edwards had been added to the field just five days before when Kevin Sutherland withdrew. He said he kind of “stumbled my way in” with a double-bogey on 14 and a bogey on 16, but he got up and down from 50 yards on 18 – a rewarding finish.
Irwin, after his round, paced in front of the scorer’s table, fidgeted on the putting green and would accept congratulations from no one. He didn’t even call his dad until long after he got word that he’d qualified. “I’m not one to call before I know the final results,” he said, “and I didn’t want to jinx anything.”
Roth was named first alternate. Grant Rappleye of Elk Grove was second alternate.
Elsewhere Monday, Patrick Cantlay of UCLA qualified at a Sectional Qualifying Tournament in Columbus, Ohio.
Meanwhile, five Southern California golfers qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, to be played July 7-10 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. They are amateur Gabriella Then of Rancho Cucamonga, Jane Park of Rancho Cucamonga, Jennifer Johnson of Carlsbad, Ryann O’Toole of San Clemente and amateur Lizette Salas of Azusa.
Alternates are Alison Lee of Valencia, Jane Rah of Torrance, Tiffany Lua of Rowland Heights, Rachel Morris of Carlsbad and Joy Trotter of Chino Hills.