Alternates play waiting game at U.S. Open

Robert Allenby tees off during the first round of the U.S. Open.


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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – When Robert Allenby made his way to the first tee a short while ago, it wasn’t the best of news for alternate Jarrod Lyle. Allenby, a good friend of Lyle’s and a fellow Aussie who is nursing a sore, taped left wrist, was a doubtful starter, and one of the main players on Lyle’s “watch” list as he wonders if he will get a shot today to play in the 110th U.S. Open. 

There are a few alternates on site here at Pebble Beach, and all they can do is sit. And wait. And hope. All can hit endless balls on the practice tee, but none was allowed to play the golf course the past few days, instead relegated to walking it, trying to prepare best they could to be mentally ready if the shot does arrive.

For alternate Brad Wright of Cambridge, Ohio, traveling to the Open this week meant missing his college graduation. When Wright’s class at Ohio State received diplomas on Sunday, he was on a plane bound for San Francisco. 

“That was difficult for my parents, definitely,” said Wright, 24, who earned a business degree in Logistics. “But this is what I want to do in life, and for me, school was a step in the process. I just turned pro, and coming straight here to the U.S. Open and not stopping in any of the ‘middle leagues,’ it’s a great confidence-booster for me.”

Since the finish of school this spring, Wright has played a couple of small mini-tour events around Ohio, and hopes to be granted an exemption into the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Inviational in Columbus July 22-25. After that, it will be a series of Monday qualifiers on the Nationwide and PGA tours. He’d sure love to get his career jumpstarted with a start today at Pebble Beach, and that’s why he made the long trip.

“There wasn’t much of a decision to make – I was going to come here,” he said. “You don’t know how many opportunities you’ll have to play in a U.S. Open, and I wanted to be as prepared as I could be.”

Wright was one of 59 players who tried to land one of three available spots at Springfield (Ohio) Country Club. He shot 9-under 135 to tie for second with young South Korean standout Seung-Yul Noh and Erik Compton, a three-time heart-transplant survivor from Florida. (England’s Brian Davis was the medalist.) Noh, Compton and Wright played off for two spots. Noh birdied the first extra hole; Compton eventually earned the final spot with a par at the third playoff hole. 

“It’s tough being an alternate, but it’s on me,” Wright said. “I had an 8-footer for birdie on the first playoff hole, and had I made it, I wouldn’t be in this situation. But I think it’s just a matter of time for me. I need to build the trust and consistency in my game, and hopefully I’ll be out here playing with all these guys pretty soon.”

Pretty soon. However, barring some stirring developments and a couple withdrawals, probably not today. 

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