Bieber, 16, moves on to U.S. Open sectionals

Gilmour Academy's Andrew Bieber qualified for U.S. Open sectional qualifying May 10.

Gilmour Academy's Andrew Bieber qualified for U.S. Open sectional qualifying May 10.

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Rumors started to circulate around the hallways of Gilmour Academy last year.

“Did you hear? Justin Bieber’s brother just moved to town!”

True, a 16-year-old kid named Bieber had moved to Shaker Heights, Ohio, but if there is any relation to the teenage pop star, Andrew Bieber is not aware of it.

“I get asked about (my name) a lot,” Bieber said, laughing. “It can be kind of fun at times. Sometimes, I’ll tell people he’s my cousin and that we drive around in his Range Rover together.”

Be it ambition or differing musical tastes, Bieber said he hopes to one day be known for the success of his golf career, rather than his last name. What better way to put himself on the nation’s radar than gaining a spot in one of golf’s biggest shows – the U.S. Open?

Bieber advanced out of U.S. Open local qualifying at Beechmont Country Club in Cleveland on May 10, shooting 1-under 70 and finishing second to Kent State junior Mackenzie Hughes, this year’s Mid-American Conference champion. Bieber will play his sectional June 6 at Oakmont Country Club in Glendale, Calif., for a chance to advance to the U.S. Open at Congressional.

Thanks to a sub-7,000-yard course, Bieber said he was able to hit a number of hybrids off the tee in local qualifying, resulting in him missing just three fairways.

“I really went out there with a game plan that would keep any big numbers off the card – hitting a lot of hybrids and letting my putter do the work for the birdies,” he said.

Bieber says his sectional qualifier in Glendale should set up similarly, making him confident about his chances to advance. His main concern is his putting, after an offseason that saw him overhaul his swing with instructor Dale Abraham in Scottsdale, Ariz. When he wasn’t out West this winter, Bieber was parked in front of his newly installed hitting net at his Ohio home.

“We looked back at my results from last year and didn’t really like where things were at,” Bieber said. “So I’ve just used the net and some video equipment and made some changes. I’m hitting it a lot straighter and hitting more fairways.”

Bieber has already seen some junior golf success, qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur the past two years and missing match play by a stroke in 2010. He has also played multiple AJGA and FCWT events and will take part later this month in the IJGT’s Tournament of Champions.

“I’m slowly working my way up,” he said.

While he wouldn’t be the youngest to qualify for the U.S. Open – Tadd Fujikawa was 15 when he teed it up at Winged Foot in 2006 – Bieber says it would be a dream come true. In fact, just playing in the sectional qualifier should provide some good experience.

“I’ve looked at some of the names that have played (sectionals) in years past, and so I’m sure there will be some really good amateurs and the occasional Tour pro that I saw on TV growing up, which will be cool,” Bieber said. “I really just need to stay in my own game and not be too intimidated about what they’re doing. That’s the way to not be successful at the sectional. You’ve instead just have to understand that it’s going to take 6 to 8 under to get to the U.S. Open and figure out how you can play your game and get there.”

So, what if he was to advance?

Bieber thought about the question for a bit and, on impulse, recited a few cliches about the history of the event and the experience that would come with playing. But after a bit, he sheepishly allowed himself to sound like a 16-year-old kid.

“It’s hard to resist the thought of winning.”

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