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May 13

U.S. Open – I Could Qualify?

To Qualify for the U.S. Open Remember That Open Isn’t as Easy as it Seems

I’ve always known that there is a qualifying process for a major tournament such as the U.S. Open. It’s different from an invitation – yes, I know that, too. I understand that the Masters doesn’t work that way. No one goes to Augusta by signing up for a qualifying round and heading out to the first tee with a dream of fame and glory. What I did not know is that to qualifty for the ‘Open’ includes a lot of courses in a lot of places, and various qualifying dates, whether one is a local amateur, a club or teaching pro, low handicapper, etc. What if I could get into something like that? How about you? Would a chance to qualify for the U.S. Open be fun, even it was only a pipe dream?

Yes, it would, without a doubt.  But then, of course, we would have to show up and actually play, and that’s where the trouble would almost certainly begin. We would be playing in front of people, which changes everything. Plus, our natural impulse would demand that we at least make a respectable showing and in some small way justify our being there. We would be driven to play better than we actually do. That’s the nature of getting into something you’re not good enough to do with company that you can’t hang with. And, it is the worst possible day to have the worst day of your golfing life, on a course that is more difficult than the one you’re used to. Qualify, Shmalify, now we’ve done it. We’ve stuck our mediocre necks out for a shot at a major event. Just think, if we did qualify, we’d risk being on TV, and then just playing in front of people would be the easy part. Ever had a lens peering down on you while you do finely tuned work of any kind?
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I have played the level of course we’re talking about, around the time I was playing in the low 80s. Add a few strokes for the added difficulty of the course, or even more than a few. I’m thinking of Tamiment in eastern Pennsylvania, around the Poconos – gorgeous. What a thrill to play a great course. Still, that’s where we often have the nightmare round. I can remember slicing into the bunker with a long or middle iron, blasting into the opposite banker, then back again. Following that, I got it out somewhere without sand, hit a short approach miles from the cup, then six-putted. It actually can happen to anyone. With a pro, it’s just less likely, but once in a while, you see it.

A gentleman from Alabama, Chris Burley, had a dream to qualify, and why not? He started 8 over through 9, not great, but not unspeakable for most people. Then he shot a 63 on the back nine. Still, he was there to play that course, so he finished, and that’s good. That’s an average of almost 6 strokes per hole. I’ve seen worse – I’ve done worse. His real shock occurred when he found out that he beat someone. Clifton MacDonald beat Burley’s 107 by 20 strokes, at a blistering 127. That’s around 7 strokes per hole – that’s different than 6. I don’t know why, but it’s really different. Needless to say, neither gentleman got to qualify.

Having seen, sometimes up close, how truly brutal golf can be on the worst day of a person’s worst golfing day ever, there’s no laughing at a high score, or at a dreamer. Few things in the sports and games area are harder than this absurd act that takes a third of a day. Still, now that I have expressed all these thoughts, I believe that I would turn down the chance to qualify, and remember my plac e in the golf world. TV and public groups are not the placees where I want to experience my links nightmares.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.