Yesterday I wrote a behind-the-scenes column on the US Open Sectional Qualifer in Columbus, Ohio. I mentioned a few players, but I talked to plenty more. You see, everyone was just hanging out on the patio or pacing near the leaderboard. In other words, it wasn’t hard to chat with a guy. At PGA Tour events and/or majors, the players usually sign their scorecards and make a dash for the locker room if they don’t feel like talking. But like I’ve said, this was a laid-back environment (and there were probably only three other reporters). So, here we go!
Now a Pro
Chez Reavie has played in two US Opens as an amateur, with the last being at Shinnecock in ’04, where he placed T62. On Monday he shot 69 at Brookside and 63 at the Lakes for a 36-hole total of 12-under to share co-medalist honors with Brandt Jobe. Reavie took a major medical last year because he had knee surgery after tearing his meniscus in his right knee.
“This is my first US Open as a pro,” said Reavie on Monday at Brookside. “It’s exciting, I feel healthy finally and I’m hitting it well and I’m playing well.”
Reavie thinks Congressional will set up well for him since he hits a lot of fairways. (The rough at Brookside, the more challenging of the two qualifier courses, was US Open-esque.)
“I hit the ball real straight,” he said. “That’s going to be a strength — to hit it in the fairways and on the greens and give yourself as many chances as you can. Obviously it isn’t going to be a birdie fest at the US Open, so just keep the ball in front of you and not make bogeys. I feel great. I’m excited.”
He’s most looking forward to the experience and he’s had seven extra years of practice since his last US Open appearance.
“It was amazing as an amateur to go and do it,” said Reavie. “But I wasn’t really prepared. I hadn’t played many courses that they play on tour and now I’m a lot more prepared and I am excited for the challenge.”
Chris Wilson, who has the cutest dog in the world, named Avery, grew up in Dublin, Ohio, and played both qualifier courses hundreds of times. You’d think he’d have an advantage, right? Yes and no.
“I’ve never really played well at these things (qualifiers) that are close to home,” said Chris. “My caddie and I were talking about how even in the local qualifiers, there is something about it — there’s an added expectation. You feel like you should breeze through local if you are a good player and you know the golf course. But those aren’t that easy.
“I’ve played both of these courses growing up, so I feel like I should play well here, but I haven’t in the past. It was nice to play well today and make a few putts.”
Chris had a small entourage following him and cheering him on — his parents, family friends, girlfriend and Alex Brickley, who is one of the pros at Kinsale Golf & CC (the club that Chris practices at and where the local qualifying was held), and Brickley’s two sons.
A few days before the qualifier, he told me that he’d been feeling really good about his game. He’s finished 2nd, 11th and 2nd in his last three starts on the Hooters Tour. Chris played on the PGA Tour last year after earning his card at Q-school in ’09, but unfortunately lost his status. That’s okay, though! — he’ll be back soon.
Here’s an impressive stat from his round, but I’ll let Chris tell it.
“Out here at Brookside you had to drive it well because the rough was long,” he said. “I didn’t drive it well, but I made a lot of good putts to keep myself in the game early. I didn’t hit a fairway until No. 6, but I was two-under.”
The US Open at Congressional will be Chris’s first appearance at a major championship. Naturally, he’s excited, but he’s treating it like any other golf course and event.
Chris had some parting words after playing 36 holes on a sticky, hot day.
“Let’s just say, Thank God for whoever invented the extra-strength green bottle Gold Bond with menthol.”
And we’ll leave it at that.
I followed Australian Marc Leishman for most of his front nine at Brookside, and got to see quite a little birdie fest. He rolled in three out of four when we showed up. Especially impressive was his birdie on No. 6. He pushed his drive into the thick rough and it took a while to find his ball (everyone thought it went far more right, but apparently it got a decent bounce so he had a shot to the green).
“Yeah that was a good one, said Leishman, who was the 2009 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. “It was looking like a double bogey, but I found it and knocked it to 6 feet.”
Maybe part of the reason why I felt the atmosphere was laid back was because I watched Marc, who wasn’t stressing.
“I obviously really wanted to play (the US Open), but if I didn’t get in, two weeks off would have been nice after playing five weeks in a row,” said Leishman. “I wanted to get in, but I wasn’t really stressing about it. Obviously, the last 9 holes you are trying to finish it off. The first 27 holes we were just having good fun.”
Congressional will also be an almost-home game for him.
“It will be awesome, I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s close to home, so I’ll be able to drive there. I live in Virginia Beach. Mom and Dad will be over. Probably my wife’s parents will come up. It should be good.”