With balky putter, Pavin misses Open chance

Complete U.S. Open sectional qualifying results

WOODSTOCK, Ill. – Corey Pavin hasn’t played in the U.S. Open since 2006, and thanks to a shaky putter, he’s going to have to keep waiting.

Pavin burned cup edges all day Monday in a 36-hole sectional qualifier at Bull Valley Golf Club, leading to a 141 total (70-71). He finished as the second alternate in the 31-player field.

Pavin, the 1995 U.S. Open champion, needed 31 putts to complete his afternoon round. One of his three birdies came from a chip-in from just off the ninth green.

“I couldn’t make any putts all day,” Pavin said. “I hit some shots on the back nine that just weren’t the best.”

Due to a full tournament schedule for the last four weeks, Pavin, who will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team this fall, was unable to play a practice round at the 7,032-yard Bull Valley.

“I think we figured it out pretty well,” he said. “There are some tricky things out there. Maybe I got lucky the first time around, but there are a few places you can hit out there that seem like they are pretty good and they’re not so good.

“We just tried to use our experience and figure it out the best we could.”

The player to catch quickly became amateur Bennett Blakeman of Burr Ridge, Ill., who was in the first group off and posted a 5-under 67 in his opening round.

Blakeman, a former Illinois Wesleyan player who is now working on his master’s degree at Loyola, backed up his morning round with a 71 in the afternoon. At 6-under 138, he earned medalist honors and one of two qualifying spots for the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach next week.

“As well as I played in the first round, I guess I thought it was out there for everybody else,” said Blakeman, who hit every green in regulation in his morning round. “I was in the first group, so I had no idea where I stood. I thought I needed to keep my foot down, so I guess that was my mindset more than anything else.”

The second qualifying spot was grabbed by ex-PGA Tour pro Jerry Smith, who came in at 139 (72-67) to knock amateur Donald Constable (69-71–140), a junior at Minnesota, into the first alternate position. This will be the fourth U.S. Open for Smith, who was on Tour from 2000 to 2002 and again from 2006 to 2007.

“I’ve always had good success playing a golf course for the second time,” Smith said. “I made five bogeys in the morning round, but the second time around I felt like I had a lot of the same shots and the same clubs, so I knew what the right shots were and what clubs to hit.”

Monday marked the first time Pavin has attempted to qualify for the U.S. Open since losing his 10-year champion’s exemption.

“Pebble Beach is one of my favorite courses to play and it’s one that I think I can handle,” he said.  “The courses that they’ve played the U.S. Open on the past few years just aren’t very good courses for me, so I haven’t tried. But I thought this year was a good opportunity to give it a shot.”

Notables who failed to advance: Northwestern rising sophomore Eric Chun, the 2009 Big Ten Championship medalist and Asian Amateur runner-up, shot a pair of 72s to miss the cut. . . . David Merkow, a Northwestern graduate and 2006 Big Ten Player of the Year, also came up short at 148.

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