I caught up with my friend, Canadian Tour player Byron Smith, who is an alternate, by the practice chipping green on Wednesday afternoon. He took some time to show three different type of chip shots players might encounter in the heavy US Open rough — and how he would play them.
Byron had a stroke of bad luck at the sectional qualifier. After a Canadian Tour event in Victoria, he flew to Portland for the qualifier. He made it there, but his clubs didn’t — the airline lost them and those of two other players. (Surprise!) And they didn’t arrive in time. He ended up playing with his caddie’s driver and 3W and the assistant pro’s irons, which were “short, light, weak and upright.”
“The pro shop had a 58 degree and a 54 degree [wedge]. Speirsy [Adam Speirs who also didn’t have his clubs) and I tossed for the 58. I won. I grabbed a putter off the rack and shot 73 with the Barney clubs.”
His clubs arrived in time for his second 18. He fired 65 and missed qualifying by one stroke.
As the fourth or fifth alternate (he estimates), Byron has still been enjoying himself.
“I just cruised and practiced,” Byron said. “I’ve put my bag down by the grandstand to try and make people wonder who the hell I am. I’ve had fun with it because if you’re not playing in the Open, the next best thing is to hang out, practice, putt and chip with the big dogs.”
[Ed. note: Thank you Ryan Kerr for the excellent camera work.]