COLUMBUS, Ohio – Stewart Cink doesn't care that he turned 50 last month. He'll do anything to play in the U.S. Open, even if that means going 36 holes against some kids who weren't even born when he played his first one 27 years ago.
Cink got a pep talk from his wife Monday to keep patient, and he ran off five birdies over six holes at Brookside Golf & Country Club to become one of 11 players to earn spots out of the Columbus, Ohio, qualifier.
“I just love playing in majors,” said Cink, a former British Open champion. “I'm a one-trick pony, and you can't be a one-trick pony if you can't do your trick. I'll keep trying to qualify forever.”
Cink was among 45 players trying to qualify for the U.S. Open, to be played June 15-18 at Los Angeles Country Club. Roughly 45% of the 156-man field have to qualify.
Columbus was among 10 final qualifying sites from California to Canada, from New Jersey to Florida, some of them requiring sudden-death playoffs to see who gets in.
Columbus had the most PGA Tour players because of the Memorial Tournament that finished on Sunday. Viktor Hovland already is exempt for the U.S. Open. He still showed up at qualifying to caddie 36 holes for former Oklahoma State roommate Zach Bauchou, who didn't make it.
The medalist was Olin Browne Jr., the son of PGA Tour winner Olin Browne, and the connection to qualifying was what makes this long day so appealing.
It was in 2005 when the father shot 73 over the first 18 holes and contemplated withdrawing because he was so far behind. Browne changed his mind thinking, “How can you quit at something and then tell your kids you can't quit.”
He shot 59 that day and two weeks later was in the penultimate group at Pinehurst No. 2. The son remembers that moment well.
“He called me up on the phone. I said, ‘How did it go?'” Olin Browne Jr. said. “He said, ‘Oh, I shot 69.’ And I was like, ‘Sorry you missed.' He said, ‘No, no. I shot 59.’ I misunderstood him. It's a vivid memory. I remember hollering at him in the car on the drive home.”
And now it's the son's turn, and the father couldn't be more proud.
“It's gratifying that he's been able to do something that makes him feel like all the work has been worth it,” the father said. “It's the national championship and it's a big deal. Qualifying is something those of us who weren't consistent stars on tour had to face on a yearly basis.”
Browne Jr. had rounds of 66 (The Lakes) and 67 (Brookside) to lead 11 qualifiers, the most of any of the 10 final qualifying sites.
Others to advance out of Columbus were Davis Thompson, Eric Cole, Nico Echavarria, Corey Pereira, Luke List, Patrick Rodgers, Kevin Streelman, Nick Dunlap and David Nyfall. The last three were in a four-man playoff. The odd man out was former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, and it was a painful to watch.
Glover shot 9-under 63 with a three-putt on the final hole at The Lakes. But he struggled to a 73 at Brookside. In the third playoff hole, Glover missed a 2-foot par putt and was eliminated. He recently switched to a long putter, hopeful it would cure what he described as the yips.
Four players with LIV Golf made it through in playoffs — Sebastian Munoz made it out of the Maryland qualifier, while Carlos Ortiz advanced through Florida, both in playoffs. David Puig shot 64 to grab one of five spots in Los Angeles. Last month, Sergio Garcia advanced through a qualifier in Texas.
Florida senior Fred Biondi gave up his exemption for winning the NCAA title, saying he was going to turn pro. That spot went to the first alternate from the England qualifier, Jordan Gumberg, based on a USGA formula for distributing spots.
In other qualifiers:
— In the second Ohio qualifier, Taylor Pendrith and Nick Hardy were among four PGA Tour players to advance. The fifth spot came down to a playoff that Alex Schaake won over Max Moldovan in a playoff that lasted nine holes and ended with Schaake's 3-foot birdie putt in the dark.
— In Los Angeles, UCLA sophomore Omar Morales led five qualifiers, with two spots to be decided in a 3-for-2 playoff Tuesday morning at Hillcrest Country Club. The playoff is among Charley Hoffman, Preston Summerhays and Josh Anderson.
— In Toronto, the qualifier held before the Canadian Open, Ryan Gerard led three qualifiers. Gerard has played well enough this year to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour. The other two were Vincent Normann and Ryan Armour. Among those missing was Michael Block, the California club pro who tied for 15th in the PGA Championship.
— In Florida, Ortiz won a 3-for-1 playoff for the last spot over Wesley Bryan and Luis Gagne. The other two qualifiers were Austen Truslow and Brendan Valdes.
— In Georgia, former NCAA champion Gordon Sargent of Vanderbilt led three qualifiers.
— In North Carolina, Yuto Katsuragawa of Japan led five qualifiers. Among those missing out were North Carolina native Harold Varner III.
— In New Jersey, former U.S. Junior Amateur champion Michael Thorbjornsen led four qualifiers. Thorbjornsen, who just finished his junior year at Stanford, will be playing his third U.S. Open.
— In Maryland, Munoz made a 25-foot putt in a 4-for-2 playoff to join four other qualifiers. Among those who lost in the playoff was Ben Kohles, who leads the Korn Ferry Tour points list.
— In Washington state, Jesse Schutte and Alexander Yang shared medalist honors and earned the two spots available.
After the Los Angeles playoff, the U.S. Open field will be 150 players. The USGA is reserving six spots for players who will move into the top 60 on Sunday — such as Adam Schenk — and if the Canadian Open winner gets his second PGA Tour win since the last U.S. Open.
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