Scott Harvey has a U.S. Open tee time and free ice cream; what could be better?

USGA

Scott Harvey has a U.S. Open tee time and free ice cream; what could be better?

PGA Tour

Scott Harvey has a U.S. Open tee time and free ice cream; what could be better?

ERIN, Wis. – You only get to play your first U.S. Open once, and Scott Harvey waited longer than most. He’s 39, a former U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who’d tried his fortune at qualifiers eight or 10 times without ever getting through.

But a week ago Monday in a 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier, Harvey blistered the North Course at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., in 8-under 63 (breaking the course record by two), tacked on an afternoon 71 and here he is, standing on the practice tee at Erin Hills, elbow to elbow amid all the top names in golf.

If you’re wondering whether he’s enjoying the moment as he peers back into the packed grandstands behind him every few minutes to find his wife and his 7-year-old son, well, you can stop. He’s soaking in every bit of it.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Harvey, a property manager from Greensboro, N.C. “It’s what the U.S. Open is all about, right? Anyone and everyone, just play good enough on your qualifier days and you’re in.

“I think last year I missed it by two or three (at U.S. Open sectional qualifying), and that kind of woke me up to think, hey, this could be a real thing. It’s just one of those things, you never know it’s actually going to happen, and then it does, and it’s like, Holy … cow.”

He laughs. Harvey won the 2014 U.S. Mid-Am at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa., and last year was runner-up to Stewart Hagestad, who birdied four of his last five holes to catch, and then defeat Harvey. Harvey played on the 2015 U.S. Walker Cup team and is a candidate along with Hagestad, low amateur at the Masters, to make this year’s team.

The USGA backed off its stance of guaranteeing two spots on the Walker Cup team to mid-ams (players 25 and older), but Harvey knows this is a big stage for him this week.

“Me and Stuart, we’ve stuck our necks out pretty far,” Harvey said. “I feel good about there being two (on the team), but we’ll see what happens.”

Monday afternoon, Harvey signed the practice round sheet at Erin Hills along the same line as former U.S. Open champion and current U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk. When he showed up to the tee, Jordan Spieth joined the group. Steve Stricker later jumped in.

“He’s got a nice game,” said Stricker, who this week makes his 20th U.S. Open start. “He seemed comfortable. He hit the ball well. But I can remember it’s a nerve-racking time. You’ve got to fight those nerves and power through it, I guess. But he’ll do fine. He looked like he was having fun with it all.”

Scott Harvey and Steve Stricker walk down the fairway during a practice round ahead of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

Harvey will tee off at 7:29 a.m. Thursday alongside two other qualifiers, former NCAA champion Jamie Lovemark and Michael Putnam. Harvey’s length should serve him well at Erin Hills. He says he’ll be far more comfortable than he was at his first major, the 2015 Masters.

“That doesn’t mean I’m going to play way better, it just means I’m more comfortable,” he said. “I’m not as anxious, not as nervous.

“It’s not a typical U.S. Open course in that there’s no trees, but at the same time, it’s a typical U.S. Open setup to where if you don’t hit the fairways, you’re paying the price. It’s a long course, and it’s going to be a tough week. If I drive it good, I’ll be good. If I don’t I won’t. Just like everyone else.”

Lots of friends are headed in from Greensboro to watch him play because, well, Harvey playing his first national Open is a big deal. You only get to do that once. To the 39-year-old Harvey, just hanging out on the practice tee on Tuesday morning – he hit balls between Matt Fitzpatrick, 22, and amateur John Oda, 21 – was every bit of a thrill as teeing it up on Thursday morning will be.

“It’s going to be a great week,” he said. “It’s a dream. This is what you think about as a kid, what you dream about, what you watch on TV. It’s a different environment for me.”

With that, Harvey was off to get his official competitor’s credentials and passes, including one for Cameron, who will be 8 in July.

“So he can get all the free ice cream and stuff,” said Harvey, smiling.

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