MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The wait was worth it. Scott Langley made his first hole-in-one at the eighth hole of Colonial Country’s North Course during his second round to help earn one of nine available spots into the U.S. Open.
“I was in shock,” said Langley, who shot 67 in his second round and finished T-6. “Truthfully, it hasn’t even sunk in yet.”
From 177 yards, the left-handed Langley drew an 8-iron perfectly, watched it bounce once and disappear into the hole. He joked afterwards that he chunked it a little bit, but he still took the ball out of play and planned to celebrate later that night with “some of the guys” at a nearby Chipotle.
Earlier in his first round, Langley said he hit a mud ball into the water on the par-5 18th hole, dropped and holed his fourth shot from 107 yards for birdie.
“I had an inkling it might be my day,” Langley said.
On the other hand, Alastair Presnell was on the verge of conceding it wasn’t going to be his. Presnell made two early bogeys on his final nine holes, including a four-putt bogey at the first. So what turned things around? His caddie bet him dinner based on how he played the final five holes. Presnell reeled off three birdies to sneak into a 3-for-2 man playoff at 4-under 139. Presnell and Andrew Svoboda survived when Scott Stallings bogeyed the par-5 10th hole on the North Course while the others made par. Presnell made it through a playoff a year ago, knocking out Jordan Spieth, to earn a spot in the Open. (He later made it in the field as an alternate.)
“I only had a 12-inch putt,” Presnell said, “but when it’s for the golden ticket, you can feel the heart start pumping a little more.”
Nobody handled the pressure better than Kevin Sutherland, who had his brother, David, caddie for him, and was the medalist at 10-under 133. That was one shot better than Jerry Kelly and Shawn Stefani, who made two eagles in his second round. Although Stefani never has been to Merion, he sure knows what its 18th hole looks like.
“I’ve only seen the photo of (Ben) Hogan hitting 1-iron about a thousand times, maybe more,” he said.
Monday’s sectional qualifying was a day for Tour pros in shorts and caddies with Sunday bags. More than anything, it was a day for patience. That was the secret for Joe Ogilvie. He qualified for his sixth U.S. Open by doing nothing flashy, just “tidy golf” and avoiding the big numbers.
“You never have to shoot as low as you think you do,” Ogilvie said after posting 6-under 137.
Morgan Hoffmann followed a similar mantra, playing bogey-free golf. He had spent time in Florida last week with his golf instructor, Gary Gilchrist. Hoffmann’s joy at qualifying for Merion registered in his expression. Merion is where he qualified for the 2005 U.S. Amateur as a 15-year-old and made match play, and where he celebrated victory with his teammates as a member of the 2009 U.S. Walker Cup team.
Experience paid off as eight of the nine qualifiers at Colonial are making return trips to the Open. At least one dreamer sneaked through. Brandon Crick of McCook, Neb., population 7,000, tweeted that he had failed to pre-qualify for a PGA Tour event, but he had made it to his first U.S. Open with rounds of 70-68 to finish T-6.
Crick is a struggling mini-tour pro, who said he had barely a bean to his name, but he knows where he will be playing next week.
“Merion bound…wow,” he wrote in a separate tweet.
Stallings will have to wait and see if he can join him. He birdied four of his last five holes to finish at 4 under and T-8 with Svoboda and Presnell. But Stallings fanned his tee shot off to the right near a cart path at the North Course’s par-5, 10th hole, and he pulled his layup shot into the water and made bogey. He’ll be the first alternate. Meanwhile, Will Bishop, 20, a rising junior at Kentucky, was busy sewing up the second alternate spot in a playoff against Ben Crane and former U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Jack Newman on the eighth hole of the South Course.
“I’m not one of the guys that’s supposed to make it,” Bishop said.
He still has a flicker of hope. And that’s part of the beauty of Monday’s 36-hole pressure-cooker. For some, the dream is over until next year. For others, such as Stefani, it may just be beginning. “I’ve always dreamed of winning my first tournament at the U.S. Open,” he said.