U.S. Open notes: Allen at home at Olympic Club
SAN FRANCISCO –- So, Andy Zhang is here at The Olympic Club as a 14-year-old? What’s the big deal? Michael Allen was here as a 14-year-old, too.
True, all of that, only there’s a big difference. Zhang is here as a U.S. Open entrant, while Allen 40 years ago was accepted into The Olympic Club family as part of a family membership. It is home and it is where his heart is.
“I wasn’t able to play in the club championship, I’ve never played a U.S. Amateur or U.S. Open here and it’s always been my dream (since) I started playing professional golf to be able to play in a U.S. Open at my home course,” Allen said.
Now a steady threat tournament after tournament on the Champions Tour, Allen circled the U.S. Open sectional at nearby TPC Harding Park and Lake Merced for years. Rounds of 67-70 gave him a share of second and one of seven spots.
“For me to be here with a chance to compete in this event . . . “ Allen said, shaking his head. “My mother says I’m a slow learner. Back 30 years ago she said that, so after three chances of getting here (into a national championship at The Olympic Club), I finally got my chance. She just never told me how slow a learner I was.”
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FAMILIAR PLACE: Of the 156 entered into this week’s U.S. Open, only 15 can lay claim to having made the cut the last time the U.S. Open was held at The Olympic Club, back in 1998. Of those, Steve Stricker can boast the best memory, having finished joint fifth.
Then again, Stricker’s favorite memory from 14 years ago had nothing to do with his finish, but the front-row seat he had to history. He was paired the final round that year with the winner, Lee Janzen.
“The ball up in the tree and then chipping in for par on, I think, the fifth hole,” Stricker said. “That’s what I really remember about it.”
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PRACTICE MAKES FOR ODD, BUT FUN, PAIRINGS: Forget the contrived groups that are hand-picked by USGA officials in advance of the U.S. Open. The fun stuff is on practice days when you get the sort of flavor like that which went off at 8:10 – Phil Mickelson with amateurs Beau Hossler and Alberto Sanchez and club pro Mark McCormick.
Earlier, it was the all-Stanford grouping of Tiger Woods with former teammate Casey Martin and current Cardinal standout Cameron Wilson.
Of course, they were trumped by the Orange crush at 8:32 – formers Cowboys from Oklahoma State Hunter Mahan, Bo Van Pelt, Charles Howell III and Edward Loar.
No surprise, either, that a foursome of South Africans – Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace and George Coetzee.
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EXPERIENCED, YES, BUT STILL, HE’S A ROOKIE: At 38, David Mathis is taking in all the hoopla of his first major championship.
That he sounds like a teenager speaks to his joy.
“I’m diggin’ it,” said Mathis, in his third year on the PGA Tour. “For my own golf, I’ve got to start playing in the majors to see how my game shapes up against the best in the world under those kind of conditions.”