From tertiary tours, Blair, Rask qualify for U.S. Open
Monday, June 2, 2014
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CRESWELL, Ore. – Zac Blair, medalist in the U.S. Open sectional qualifier here at Emerald Valley Golf Club, is the son of the Utah golf legend Jimmy Blair.
Blair the elder played golf at Brigham Young University from 1974 through 1977. Blair the younger graduated three weeks ago from BYU and is competing as a professional on the PGA LatinoAmerica Tour. So far this year, he has made six of seven cuts and claimed two top-five finishes in Latin America.
Blair was 7-under-par with rounds of 69 and 68 at Emerald Valley. That gave him a four-stroke cushion over 29-year-old Clayton Rask, who posted rounds of 69 and 72 to earn the second of two spots in the U.S. Open.
Rask, of Otsego, Minn. plays the Canadian Tour. He finished the Tour's first tournament Sunday, then drove through the night from Vancouver, British Columbia, to get here. He played in the sectional qualifier without seeing the golf course beforehand.
"Blind as a bat," he admitted. "Maybe I should do the same thing at Pinehurst (site of the U.S. Open). Well, maybe not."
Blair had plenty of personal motivation for getting to Pinehurst.
"My dad played in the U.S. Open, so it's been a huge goal of mine to qualify," said Blair, who finished the 36-hole marathon by holing a 40-yard wedge shot on the final hole for a closing birdie.
Jimmy Blair won state opens in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota. His 23-year-old son has big dreams, too, but his first order of business is to gain full status on the Web.com Tour.
"I have conditional status now," he said, "but my immediate goal is to get status and then make the PGA Tour."
Blair was spectacular, making 12 birdies, 3 bogeys and one double bogey in 36 holes.
The golf course was dry and fast, and the greens were exceptionally firm with very sharp edges.
Blair cruised home, making six straight pars before his wedge-out birdie on the final green. Rask, however, had to launch a comeback to earn his qualifying spot.
Finishing on the front nine, he birdied the par-5 seventh by hitting the green with a 3-wood second shot and two-putting from 25 feet. He wedged to 3 feet for another birdie at the par-4 eighth.
To end the day, he two-putted from 18 feet on the ninth.
"I'm the happiest guy on earth," said Rask, who grabbed his fiancee, Gina Bishop, for a lengthy hug. "This is the fourth time I've played in a sectional qualifier, but it's the first time I ever made it."
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LOCAL MAN IS ALT-HERO: Brandon McIver was the hometown hero in the U.S. Open sectional qualifier at Emerald Valley Golf Club. That's because the sophomore is a member of the University of Oregon golf team, which plays and practices at Emerald Valley.
McIver, a native of Billings, Mont., finished third in the qualifier with a 2-under-par total (71-71). That was one spot too many in a field of 50 with just 2 spots available in the U.S. Open.
After McIver birdied the par-5 13th in the second round, he was 5 under par with five holes remaining to be played. However, he bogeyed the 14th and double-bogeyed the 15th. He parred the final three holes to finish at 2 under.
He was overtaken by Rask, who birdied two of his final three holes to finish 3 under and edge McIver for the second and last qualifying spot.
"I've come a long way," McIver said. "Casey (Martin, the Oregon coach) has really helped me. I'm learning to play the game the right way."
Before the qualifying event, Martin was confident in saying McIver could earn a spot. "There is no doubt he can make it," said Martin, who had qualified for the 2012 U.S. Open on this same Emerald Valley course.
"I learn something from every tournament," McIver said. "I played well here."
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AND THEN THERE'S WESTERN ZEN: Professional Zenon Brown of Arvada, Colo., tied for 14th in the U.S. Open sectional qualifier at Emerald Valley Golf Club. He shot rounds of 75 and 73 for a 148 total.
Golfweek: You have an unusual first name. Is it a family name?
Brown: No, my parents wanted a first name that was different because Brown is such a common name.
Golfweek: So what is Zenon?
Brown: My father started with the name Lennon and decided to make it Zennon.
Golfweek: With two N's?
Brown: Right. But on the birth certificate, my mother made a mistake and wrote only one N. So I became Zenon.
Golfweek: And what do people call you?
Golfweek: That's spiritual. I wish you a multitude of peace with your golf game.