U.S. Open qualifiers bring unique outlook
Editor’s note: There are 13 U.S. Open sectional qualifiers in progress Monday. Check back to Golfweek.com for complete results and recaps.
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WESTERVILLE, Ohio – A number of flashy Lexuses – courtesy cars from the weekend festivities at the Memorial Tournament – sat in the parking lot of the Lakes Golf & Country Club.
Kevin Hayashi passed them all, however, and found his rental, a sporty blue Chevrolet, and tossed in his golf bag. His day was only half over, so his dream still had a chance.
Not much of one, perhaps, but he had come too far to turn back now. Told that he provided the flavor that makes these U.S. Open qualifiers a treat, Hayashi laughed.
On a day when many touring professionals deemed the U.S. Open not worth a short drive and a few hours of their time, Hayashi stood out as a shining example at the other end. The first alternate at his local qualifier in Hawaii, Hayashi got word Friday that he had a spot in the sectional qualifier here, so without hesitation he made his travel plans.
It meant flying from Hilo on the big island of Hawaii to Honolulu to Phoenix to Cleveland to Columbus, but he did it.
Wait? He flew from Cleveland to Columbus, which is perhaps only 150 miles?
Hayashi laughed, because he didn’t quite realize that, but no worries. “It was a little prop plane.”
Then, waving his hand up and down, he added, “It went like this. It was exciting.”
For one reason or another, some notable PGA Tour members had decided not to go through with the sectional qualifier at the Lakes Golf & Country Club and Brookside Golf & Country Club.
Jason Day, Boo Weekley, Tom Gillis, Fredrik Jacobson, Notah Begay and Brett Wetterich all withdrew. Even Jeff Overton, who was T-12 Sunday at the Memorial and had finished T-2 and T-3 in the two previous weeks, decided not to play.
“A little tendinitis (in left wrist),” Overton said. “My pride says (to play), but deep down inside I probably (did the right thing).”
Day, who won the HP Byron Nelson Championship a few weeks ago, raised eyebrows when he did not show up, though he was not alone. Nathan Green had signed to play this week in Memphis, but after shooting 76 to finish T-41 at the Memorial on Sunday, the Aussie told a reporter that he was bagging his qualifying plans.
“I’m really not that interested in playing it,” Green said. “I’d rather sit home on the couch and watch soccer than beat my head against a brick wall for four days.”
A curious statement, and when relayed to a USGA official overseeing the qualifier here, he shook his head.
“What’s so difficult about this? You play golf for a living, so play golf,” he said.
And from a veteran PGA Tour caddie whose player was on hand, but in need of a blistering afternoon round to advance, there was this: “We talked about it this morning and couldn’t believe (the guys who didn’t show up). Let’s face it, it proves some of these guys make too much money.”
True for some, but fortunately not for all, because as morning turned to afternoon, the area outside the Lakes pro shop was bustling. Davis Love III and Brad Faxon went one way, Stuart Appleby and Ben Curtis another. Pride and dignity still exists, obviously, you just have to look a little harder than ever to find it.
It arrived in the form of a 50-year-old who wore shorts and a brace on his left knee. “Three-under,” Tom Lehman said as he packed his golf bag and prepared to head over to Brookside.
“Go make a few more birdies,” said another 50-year-old, Bobby Clampett, whose dream of playing his favorite course in the world, Pebble Beach, and returning to his home area had been dealt a blow by shooting a 73 at Brookside.
“Nothing to write about,” Clampett said. “Put your pen away.”
Not quite true, for just seeing Clampett and others give it a try was noteworthy, a sentiment that was validated moments later when another 50-year-old, Tom Pernice Jr., checked in with a 68 on the Lakes course.
Told that some of his peers had not teed it up, Pernice shrugged.
“Everybody’s personality is different. But to me, the U.S. Open is very important and it’s important to try. I love Pebble Beach and I owe it to myself.”
It’s such a simple concept, but apparently it gets lost in a blur of million-dollar purses. Hayashi doesn’t have that problem, because his work as a teaching professional at Hilo Municipal GC keeps him humble and in possession of great perspective.
The shine of those Lexuses didn’t faze him in the least, so he closed the trunk to his Chevy and explained why he had flown so far on such short notice.
“Because it’s the U.S. Open and it’s Pebble Beach,” he said.
What’s so hard to understand about that?