Forty-nine players making U.S. Open debuts

Ryo Ishikawa hits a drive during a practice round at Pebble Beach.

Ryo Ishikawa hits a drive during a practice round at Pebble Beach.

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – There is no end to the numbers that are of importance for this week’s U.S. Open, including 7,040 (as in course yardage), 71 (par), 15 (Tiger Woods’ margin of victory 10 years ago), and 2019 (the announced year when the national championship will return here).

But here’s one number that will bring a smile to David Fay’s face: 49.

It represents the number of players who are making their debuts in the U.S. Open. It’s a remarkable number which gets to the heart of a point Fay, the USGA’s executive director, often makes: “That the U.S. Open is the most democratic of all the major championships.”

Indeed, the list of 49 includes not only notable names from the pro golf world (Ryo Ishikawa, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Arjun Atwal, for example), feel-good stories (Erik Compton, Ty Tryon), and PGA Tour winners (Derek Lamely), but a host of faces you may not recognize, though you should salute.

One such name: Bennett Blakeman, a Division III golfer who is pursuing a master’s degree.

And another: Erick Justesen, winner of the Golden State Tour’s Get A Grip Open, who is quite at home here at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Why? Because he caddies here.

Now that is the sort of flavor that will convince Fay that his championship is running correctly.

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