U.S. Open notebook: Adamonis is in

Brad Adamonis was the first alternate for the 2011 U.S. Open and received the call Monday to participate in the tournament.

Brad Adamonis was the first alternate for the 2011 U.S. Open and received the call Monday to participate in the tournament.

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There is an enormous smile somewhere in the golf world, and it belongs to Dave Adamonis, Sr.

Passionate about golf, the Rhode Island native loved to play, yes; but more than that, he devoted his life to providing chances for juniors to experience the competitive side of the game. The fact that his youngest son, Brad Adamonis, had enough talent to hold a PGA Tour card for two years was an enormous source of pride for Dave Adamonis Sr., who died after a long struggle with cancer in October of 2009.

But what would please Dave greatly is the knowledge that his son has earned a spot into the 2011 U.S. Open.

•••

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•••

It became official early this morning when the weekly world golf rankings were announced and Adamonis received the news as he was about to board a plane.

The U.S. Golf Association had held two spots for players new to the top 50 since May 23, but only one – for Gary Woodland, now 40th – was needed. So dipping into its list of alternates, USGA officials called the 38-year-old Adamonis, who had survived in a most dramatic way at Woodmont CC in Rockville, Md.

With birdies on six of his last eight holes in regulation, Adamonis got into a seven-way playoff for first alternate. He then won it with a birdie at the first extra hole and a par at the second, which beat Drew Weaver’s bogey.

Adamonis became the fourth alternate to get in in the last six days. Previously, Michael Whitehead, the first alternate out of the Dallas site, got the call when Tiger Woods withdrew. J.J. Henry then got in when Tim Clark called in his regrets. Zack Byrd, the first alternate at the Summit, N.J., site, got in because another spot that had been put aside (for being a double winner on the PGA Tour in the last year) was not needed.

Aware of his position on the pecking order, Adamonis spent most of Sunday thinking he’d get in, but . . .

“You never know for sure until you get the call,” he said.

Even before his chances had improved Sunday, Adamonis had determined to fly Monday morning from his Florida home to Baltimore then drive to Congressional CC.

As he waited Sunday and saw that Keegan Bradley, who had an outside chance at being a double-winner, failed to rally at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, Adamonis thought about the how long an effort this U.S. Open exercise has been.

“I think it’s probably my 24th or 25th time trying,” he said. “I was 14 or 15 when I first entered local qualifying. I remember playing at Pawtucket (R.I.) Country Club and I was right behind Billy Andrade. I thought that was pretty cool.”

Now, it’s gotten even cooler, because even though he’s twice held a PGA Tour card (2008-09), Adamonis has never before played in a major. Having played in front of his father plenty of times, including the 2009 Players Championship, Adamonis said he thought of the man who played such a key role in his development.

“I just wish he were here to watch.”

•••

Qualifiers: When alternates Zack Byrd and Adamonis were added to the field, it brought to 29 the number of players making it through both local and sectional qualifying. And while players who travel this difficult route are often unheralded and soon-to-be-forgotten, keep in mind that the best finish for a local and sectional qualifier at the 2009 U.S. Open was Gary Woodland (T-47th).

Chances are, only a handful of people paid attention to Woodland two years ago, but today he’s ranked 40th in the world.

•••

Happy birthday: A birthday cake with 55 candles could greet Fred Funk Tuesday, or perhaps it would be best just to pass along happy birthday wishes.

Easily the oldest player in the field, what makes Funk’s presence even more remarkable is the fact he went through a 36-hole qualifier. Despite a less-than-stellar season (he’s missed the cut in five of six PGA Tour starts and has but three top 10s in 10 Champions Tour events), Funk said there was no way he wasn’t going to try and qualify for what figures to be the last major here in his home area.

A Maryland native and the former golf coach at the University of Maryland, Funk said he got emotional when he earned his spot at the sectional qualifier in Rockville, Md.

“It meant a lot to me because it is home and Congressional is a very special spot,” Funk said. “It’s pretty near.”

He’ll probably play more PGA Tour tournaments, but if this were it, there’d be a splendid symmetry to that. After all, it was at the 1982 Kemper Open at Congressional CC when Funk qualified to play in his first PGA Tour tournament. He shot 76-72-75-73 and was T-51, but what he remembers more than anything was the emotional lift he got from just playing Congressional.

•••

Congrats, Dirk: He’s won a major championship and been No. 1 in the world rankings. But given the way things unfolded Sunday night in Miami – with Dirk Nowitzki leading Dallas to a stunning upset of the Heat in the NBA Finals – Martin Kaymer’s wish list is not all crossed off.

The German golf star would love to meet the German NBA sensation.

“It’s a little bit unfortunate that he doesn’t get the recognition in Germany that he deserves,” Kaymer said. “Basketball is not very big in Germany, but in America he’s a superstar and a big role model.”

•••

Who is your caddie? It’s getting difficult to keep up with all these caddie changes. With Tiger Woods out, Steve Williams will loop for Adam Scott, who recently parted ways with Tony Navarro. Quality caddie that he is, Navarro wasn’t out of work long; he’s now with Angel Cabrera.

Dustin Johnson has signed on Joe LaCava and Brennan Little – who was on Mike Weir’s bag for years, including the 2003 Masters – recently was cut loose by Sean O’Hair so he’s hooked up with Sean O’Hair.

Then there Europeans Paul Casey and Martin Kaymer and the busy traffic patterns they’re creating. Last year, Casey cut loose veteran caddie Craig “Wee Mon” Connelly and took on Christian Donald, brother of Luke. Connelly, meanwhile, was on Kaymer’s bag when the German won the PGA Championship and a handful of other tournaments. But so much for that good teamwork, because Kaymer recently split with Connelly at the same time Casey parted ways with Christian Donald.

So, you guessed it. Connelly is working for Casey this week and Christian Donald for Kaymer, though you didn’t get the sense that premier job security was at work here.

“I don’t know how he is as a caddie,” Kaymer said of Luke’s older brother. “I know that he’s a very nice guy, a great personality. We get along very well. We will try out a few weeks and then see how it goes.”

If it goes the way things have been going for caddies these days, wager against a lasting relationship.

•••

Timing is everything: When it comes to being in the top 50 to get exemptions into the major championships, it comes down to timing.

If you’re top 50 at the end of a year, you’re in the Masters. That was good news for Ross Fisher, (33rd), Yuta Ikeda (41st), and Sean O’Hair (43rd), all of whom teed it up at Augusta National.

But because those three players had dropped out of the top 50 on the two deadline dates established by U.S. Open officials (May 22 and June 13), they’re not going to be at Congressional CC. Fisher is presently 54th, Ikeda 63rd, and O’Hair 89th.

They are the only three players from the final top 50 list of 2010 to not be qualified for the U.S. Open.

•••

What a difference 14 years make: It’s only been 14 years since the U.S. Open was last at Congressional CC, but as proof that the pro golf landscape landscape changes quickly, consider that of the top 12 names on the leaderbaord back then, only two (Ernie Els, the winner, and Jim Furyk, who was T-5) are teeing it up this week.

Even more startling, of the top 23 names on the 1997 leaderboard, only Els, Furyk, Stewart Cink, and Davis Love are in this week’s field.

Oh, and Els’ winning check in 1997? It was $465,000. The Big Easy earned more than that ($480,687, to be exact) for finishing third at last year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

•••

International flavor: Translators won’t be necessary, but they could perhaps come in handy if you choose to follow either of two notable pairings in Thursday’s first round. A trio of Spaniards – Miguel Angel Jimenez, Alvaro Quiros, and Sergio Garcia – will go off the first tee at 1:24, and right behind them will be three Italians – the Brothers Molinari, Francesco and Edoardo, and teenage sensation Matteo Manassero.

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