BOWLING GREEN, Fla. – Callum Tarren missed qualifying for last year’s U.S. Open by a single stroke, three-putting the last hole. The Englishman watched the action at Shinnecock from a hotel room in China.
Tarren came out guns blazing at Streamsong Black, opening with a course-record 64 to take the early lead and then backed it up with a 68 to top the field at 14-under 132. He opened both rounds with an eagle on the first hole, knocking in putts from 7 feet and 10 feet, respectively. Both rounds also included a double bogey. He was 11 under through 15 holes in his first 18.
“I’m getting goosebumps now you even saying that,” said Tarren when asked for his thoughts on playing Pebble Beach. “Just teeing it up with the best in the world on one of the most iconic courses in the world. I’m sure it’s going to be incredible.”
Tarren, a Web.com player, felt comfortable on the links-style course and said he chose the site because of what he’d heard about the property.
“It definitely felt like a true links,” he said, noting that it’s the kind of place that could host a U.S. Open of its own.
Luis Gagne earned low amateur honors at last year’s U.S. Open but will make this year’s championship his professional debut. Gagne, a recent graduate from LSU, finished alone in second after rounds of 65-69.
Gagne drew an awful lie in the sand from the tee on the closing par-5 18th, which played 605 yards. He could only advance his second shot 60 to 70 yards. Still in the sand with 215 yards left into the wind, Gagne turned to his caddie and said, “We better do something cool.”
And he did, hitting hybrid to 10 feet and finishing off the round with an unlikely birdie.
Last year at Shinnecock, Gagne talked to Tiger Woods for a few minutes and Sergio Garcia for half an hour. Gagne said Garcia’s advice ranged from course tips to what to expect in the transition from amateur golf to the pros.
He’ll put those tips to work next week as he makes the U.S. Open his professional debut.
Guillermo Pereira nabbed the third spot by posting a bogey-free 11-under 135. A native of Santiago, Chile, Pereira played his first round of college golf at Pebble Beach while at Texas Tech. He said the landscape and weather reminded him of home.
Claudio Correa, a childhood friend from Chile, caddied for Pereira in the qualifier. Pereira told him Monday morning that if he nabbed one of the three spots they’d make the trip to California together. It was hard to tell who was more excited about the results.
“It’s tough to make it,” said Pereira, who was playing in his first qualifier. “You never expect to make it.”
And then you do.
Tyson Alexander, a two-time U.S. Open participant whose grandfather, Skip, played in six U.S. Opens and father Buddy played in two, finished as first alternate, one shot back.