U.S. Open qualifying: Newport Beach sectional full of great stories

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U.S. Open qualifying: Newport Beach sectional full of great stories

USGA

U.S. Open qualifying: Newport Beach sectional full of great stories

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A journeyman trying to put a promising career back on track. A top college golfer from Arizona State and two more young pros in between pro events will all be heading to Pebble Beach.

Throw in former U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion Stewart Hagestad and the Newport Beach qualifier has produced another diverse mix of golfers at all career stages and with stories to tell.

Medalist Chun An (Kevin) Yu may be the most conventional and even his story is spectacular. The son of a driving range pro in Taiwan, he’s been playing since five and just finished third in the NCAA’s.

A junior, Yu has one more year to go at Arizona State but has now been medalist at the U.S. Open’s California qualifying site two years in a row. After rounds 64-67 he heads to a Pebble Beach, a course he enjoyed playing en route to a round of 32 loss in last summer’s U.S. Amateur.

Before the U.S. Open, Yu represents the International team in this week’s Palmer Cup through Sunday before heading west.  Having not played much at the two Southern California qualifying courses, Yu credited former ASU teammate Anthony Truong, now at nearby UC Irvine, with helping him read putts on Big Canyon’s tricky poa annua greens.

After a final exam Tuesday, Truong will drive up to Pebble and carry Yu’s bag, and invitation that was extended after Yu had reached the 18th green and taken all penalty areas out of play.

SCORES: See who qualified |  USGA scoring

 

The most incredible story out of Newport Beach may belong to Andreas Halvorsen, a 22-year-old former Norwegian national team member with PGA Tour LatinoAmerica status. Halvorsen entered the SCGA-hosted qualifier thinking it was just up the freeway from Tijuana Country Club, where the tour visited two weeks ago. Unfortunately, another stop in Cancun for the Bupa Match Play followed, forcing the Florida resident to take a late flight. He arrived at 1 a.m. with an 8:10 a.m. tee time at Big Canyon.

“About four hours,” he said in response to the inevitable sleep question.

Carrying his bag for 36 on courses he’d never seen, Halvorsen posted 69-65 to cruise through before heading back to LAX for a 9:45 p.m. flight. But he already had a commitment from his 24-year old brother to fly from Germany to caddie, while his parents, who also live in Florida and have supported their son since he turned pro in 2015, were in flight from Mexico and still unaware their son had made it to the U.S. Open.

As for getting to know Pebble Beach, Halvorsen is a longtime compatriot and fellow competitor of Oklahoma State’s Viktor Hovland, winner of the 2018 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach. A practice round maybe?

“If he’s not too busy with obligations, I’m hoping so.”

Richard Lee is a former University of Washington golfer who has qualified for one U.S. Open in 2015.

Richard Lee is the epitome of a journeyman pro to root for. A one-time U.S. Open qualifier at Chambers Bay whose career was set back by a thumb injury, has conditional web.com Tour status but has been focused on trying to get into PGA Tour events. He did make the cut in this year’s Genesis Open, but the 31-year-old University of Washington golfer has otherwise been a man without a tour. Now living in Arizona, he made it through local qualifying at Phoenix Country Club and posted 64-68 at Big Canyon to finish tied for second with Fremont’s Hayden Shieh.

Lee will stand out at Pebble Beach thanks to a magnificent mane.

“About a year and a half,” he said when asked when it was cut.

Shieh is a former Santa Clara golfer was a four-time First Team All WCC golfer and 2015 Freshman of the Year who graduated last year. He came to Newport Beach off two Mackenzie Tour missed cuts with little reason to expect a breakthrough day at Big Canyon.

“The swing was not feeling great but that’s why we keep playing, you never know when it will all come together.”

The 23-year-old Northern California native has twice tried Sectional qualifying before and has only played Pebble Beach once, but is looking forward to the dilemma of figuring out who will caddie for him and how to deal with ticket requests.

The joys of qualifying for the U.S. Open.

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