5 Things, Ball Ground: Nelson, Kim, Murray advance

Co-medalist Michael Kim watches his shot at No. 9, his finishing hole, during U. S. Open Sectional Qualifying at Hawks Ridge Golf Club in Ball Ground, Ga.

Co-medalist Michael Kim watches his shot at No. 9, his finishing hole, during U. S. Open Sectional Qualifying at Hawks Ridge Golf Club in Ball Ground, Ga.

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BALL GROUND, Ga. – A rain-softened Hawks Ridge Golf Club led to low scores Monday in the 36-hole U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier. California’s Michael Kim and Ryan Nelson shared medalist honors, while Grayson Murray birdied his 36th hole to punch his ticket to Merion. Here are 5 Things you need to know.

1. ENDING ON A HIGH NOTE: California’s Michael Kim shared medalist honors with Ryan Nelson at Hawks Ridge on Monday. Kim shot rounds of 67-66 to advance. He just finished his sophomore season at Berkeley and will head to his first major championship.

“It’s awesome, I don’t know what to say,” Kim said. “To be playing the same tournament as Tiger, Phil and all those guys, it’s an awesome feeling.”

Kim finished the season as the No. 1 player in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, but struggled last week at the NCAA Championships at nearby Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course. He finished T-49 and did not win his quarterfinal or semifinal match. Kim said his game was just off. Between the national championship and sectional qualifying, Kim and Cal head coach Steve Desimone traveled to Columbus, Ohio, so Kim could accept the Jack Nicklaus Award as the best collegiate player in the 2012-13 season.

“It was awesome to meet Mr. Nickalus,” Kim added. “It was an unbelievable feeling.”

He got back to the Atlanta area about 6:30 p.m. Sunday and got plenty of sleep for golf’s longest day.

Kim came into the day not expecting much, but now that he has his ticket to Merion, he hopes that the course will fit his game well.

“I hear you have to drive it straight and it’s not the longest Open course they’ve had, so I hope it suits my game,” he said.

Kim qualified using a local caddie at Hawks Ridge, so he’s still looking for permanent caddie for Merion, which might mean a fellow Golden Bear.

“If one of my teammates wants to fly over and do it then maybe, but nobody special yet,” Kim said.

2. AN EYE FOR HAWKS RIDGE: Just 10 days after the birth of his second child, Ryan Nelson qualified for the second U.S. Open of his career. He also qualified out of Hawks Ridge for the 2011 U.S. Open. On Monday, he shot rounds of 68-65 for an 11-under 133 total and shared medalist honors, just like in ’11.

“I struck the ball fantastic today,” Nelson said. “On this golf course you’re going to have a lot of opportunities.”

Since he has seen the course, Nelson had an advantage on sight lines and knew where to hit his approach shots into the green.

The Charleston, S.C., native made 11 birdies, one eagle and two bogeys during his two rounds.

“It (fits) my eye,” he added. “I really, really enjoy the golf course. It’s a brutal walk, though.”

Nelson plays on the NGA and eGolf tours, and tries to Monday qualify for Web.com Tour events as much as possible. In fact, that’s what he was going to do the week of June 13-16.

“I was going to fly to Wichita for a Monday qualifier on the Web.com Tour,” he said. “If I hadn’t got in there, I would have played in an NGA event in Raleigh, N.C.”

Instead, he’ll be in Ardmore, Pa., at a famous course he’s never seen.

“I may go on PGATour.com or U.S.Open.com and play a little computer game or something,” Nelson added. “All I know is the driving range is two miles away.”

3. LOST AND FOUND: Grayson Murray has been a bit lost this year. After starting the fall at Wake Forest University, Murray transferred to East Carolina but still couldn’t find the right fit. On Monday, Murray found the feeling and qualified for the U.S. Open with rounds of 69-66.

Starting on the back nine, Murray began the second round with pars but double bogeyed the par-5 13th.

“I never really got mad, never showed emotion just kept an even keel like (Jason) Dufner,” he said adding that Dufner was his idol.

That’s when he caught fire, making six birdies and an eagle to close out at 9-under 135 and finish one-shot ahead of T.J. Vogel.

Murray birdied the ninth (his last hole) to advance with a big fist pump. He blasted his drive down to 124 yards and used a 56 degree to hit it to 8 feet. He knew how that putt would break because he had the exact same putt during his first round.

“It means everything to me,” Murray said. “I practice so hard and just what I’ve gone through this past year with being at Wake and not working out and going to East Carolina and me and the coach just not getting along.”

Murray will have to sit out a year because of transferring purposes, but he’ll attend North Carolina-Greensboro in the fall of 2014.

“Right now I’m really not lost,” Murray assured. “I want to go to UNC Greensboro. I want to play there.”

First, however, he’s headed to Merion.

4. ALMOST: T.J. Vogel made his professional debut at Hawks Ridge just days after finishing up his collegiate career at Florida. Unfortunately for Vogel, Murray snuck in at 9 under, which left Vogel on the outside looking in. He will be the first alternate from the Ball Ground sectional.

Vogel shot rounds of 69-67 for an 8-under 135 total. He bogeyed Nos. 15 and 16 coming in during his second round and called those bogeys ‘dumb.’ He three-putted 15 and could not get up and down to save par on 16. He bounced back with a birdie on No. 17 and came up to the 18th tee thinking he’d need to post 8 under, possibly 9. He hit a 3-wood off the tee on the 528-yard par 5 over water and missed the fairway ending up in the drink. He saved par from about 8 feet.

“I felt like that (8 under) had a chance,” Vogel said. “I think I did very well in recovering on the last to make par so that’s all I can hope for.”

Vogel turned pro because he felt like it was ‘just the right time.’ He was exempt through local qualifying this year because of his victory at the 2012 Amateur Public Links Championship, but he would only be allowed to accept that exemption if he stayed amateur. After some research, Vogel found that if he wanted to turn professional, he would have to go through locals. He did and advanced.

Vogel wanted to try and play for the Walker Cup team in September, but he turned professional to help his family out with financials.

“I’m ready,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for four years through college and I feel like I’m ready to go.”

Vogel will consider playing in either Europe or Canada, but may get a few starts on the PGA Tour this fall.

“This summer I might get some opportunities and I just need to take advantage of them,” he sai.

5. SHORT SHOTS: Vogel will be the first alternate and Jordan Mitchell of Atlanta, Ga., will be second alternate… First-round leader Nicholas Cullen of Australia shot a second-round 2-over 74 and missed qualifying by four shots… Four-time PGA Tour winner Billy Andrade shot 70-71 to miss qualifying… Hawks Ridge Golf Club member Heath Slocum shot two rounds of even-par 72… New Mexico’s Gavin Green finished bogey-bogey to end up at 7 under. Had he parred out, Green would have been in a playoff at 9 under with Murray… John Huston, a Champions Tour player, caddied for his son, Travis, who shot rounds of 78-72… At this sectional, 27 of the 51 players were amateurs… 32 of the 51 players were under par in both rounds.

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