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Thomas Campbell Pursues the PGA: How to Qualify for the U.S. Open

Thomas Campbell Pursues the PGA: How to Qualify for the U.S. Open

Thomas Campbell Pursues the PGA: How to Qualify for the U.S. Open

2014 U.S. Open Championship Logo

The United States’ true “open” officially starts this week, but thousands of amateurs and pros alike have been competing to qualify for months.

Here’s the USGA’s process to earn a trip to Pinehurst Course No. 2 for 2014 (Maybe next year for me.).

For its crown jewel event, the U.S. Open Championship, the USGA has organized the most rewarding qualifying experience for professional and amateur golfers from all around the world (even if I didn’t have my game for it this year and didn’t move ahead). This year a record amount of players entered dozens of qualifying tournaments around the country for the U.S. Open. 

Our 2nd Swing contributor Thomas Campbell is on the NGA Tour currently and tried to qualify (unsuccessfully) for the U.S. Open. Here he explains the simple -- yet incredibly difficult -- process.

Our 2nd Swing contributor Thomas Campbell is on the NGA Tour currently and tried to qualify (unsuccessfully) for the U.S. Open. Here he explains the simple — yet incredibly difficult — process.

There was a total of 10,127 entries from players all over the country and overseas to attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club’s No. 2 Course set for this week, June 12-15, 2014.

The unique thing about the U.S. Open is that there are only 75 players that are exempt into the Championship itself. A full field is comprised of 156 players, which provides 81 spots for qualifiers attempting the US Open qualifying process.

So if your game gets hot at the right time, you could get the opportunity to tee it up against the best players in the world.

The cost also is reasonable for players who attempt to qualify. The U.S .Open entry fee is only $150.

There are no purses associated with the qualifying sites, however, for the players that do qualify for the championship, they will be rewarded with playing for an $8 million purse. First place gets almost $1.5 million, which would be a life-changer for me or anyone trying to make it to the PGA Tour — not to mention the experiences and sponsorship opportunities that can arise.

There are two stages to the qualifying process. The first stage is comprised of 111 local qualifying sites all over the United States. These are played May 2-19.

The majority of entrants begin their qualifying process here, with the exception of some players that are exempt into the second and final qualifying stage called the Sectional Qualifier. 

Each local qualifying site will have an allocated number of players that will advance to sectional qualifying based on the amount of players at each qualifying site. Here in Minnesota, there were two local sites.

On May 5, the first local qualifying site was contested at Stillwater Country Club and had 61 players competing for three spots.

The historic Stillwater Country Club in Minnesota, one local U.S. Open qualifying site across America last month.

The historic Stillwater Country Club in Minnesota, one local U.S. Open qualifying site across America last month.

Then, on May 12, the second Minnesota local qualifying site was contested at The Wilds Golf Club and had 83 entrants who were competing for four spots.

The Wilds Golf Course outside the Twin Cities was another U.S. Open qualifying site. Anyone with $150 and the skills can give the USGA's unique process to Pinehurst a chance.

The Wilds Golf Course outside the Twin Cities was another U.S. Open qualifying site. Anyone with $150 and the skills can give the USGA’s unique process to Pinehurst a chance.

The thing about local qualifying is that it’s only 18 holes, which makes it very tough preparation-wise. And it means that anybody can go out and have a great round and advance.

I didn’t have my game for the qualifier at The Wilds and could only manage a 72 (even-par), which was tied ninth.

It’s frustrating considering that I didn’t get anything to go my way, and only missed advancing to sectionals by three shots.

For the players that did advance through their local qualifying sites, they now will compete in their assigned sectional sites.The players that were exempt through local qualifying joined all those that advanced through local qualifying on what’s often called “the longest day in golf” with all 10 U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier tournaments going on at once Monday, June 2, 2014.

It can seem dizzying.

For instance, 2nd Swing customer Michael Berg, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., finished tied for 46th with a 3-over par 151 in a field of 63 in Springfield Country Club in Ohio. But that’s after Berg won one of the top-two spots at Bakker Crossing Golf Course in Sioux Falls, S.D. by beating out 33 other players during that state’s Local Qualifier the prior month (Nothing to be ashamed of there!).

Michael Berg, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., is one of more than 10,000 U.S. amateurs to compete for one of 56 spots at Pinehurst. He didn't in 2014 but had seven years ago.

Michael Berg, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., is one of more than 10,000 U.S. amateurs to compete for one of 56 spots at Pinehurst. He didn’t in 2014 but had seven years ago.

And Berg’s qualified for the U.S. Open before — in 2007. He may have missed the cut then, but Berg’s been to the Big Time.  

Berg told 2nd Swing Golf Minnetonka, Minn., store General Manager Scott Johnson that the TaylorMade SLDR TP Driver and Mizuno Irons set from he bought and was fitted for at 2nd Swing this spring “are the best driver and iron set up that he as every played.”

Two Minnesotans and former University of Minnesota Gopher Golf Team members — both same as me — brought their “A game” and made it through the final round of qualifying to earn spots at the 114th U.S. Open. 

Donald Constable, Excelsior, Minn., (Photo below left.) had a 3-under par 141 and tied for second to receive one of four qualifying spots at the Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. Meanwhile, Clayton Rask, of Rogers, Minn., qualified quickly with a 3-under 141 at Emerald Valley Golf Course in Creswell, Ore. Rask came out of The Wilds Minnesota local qualifier (where I was) and Constable from Stillwater’s.

It’s no easy task to get in, but the USGA does make it a true “open tournament.” Out of more than 10,000 entrants in U.S. Open qualifying rounds this year, only two players from Minnesota made it into the filed of less than 200.

The sectional qualifying sites were 36 holes in just one day, which literally makes it a long day on the course. There also are two international sectional sites, one in Japan and one in England, which already have been contested. 

But if you are playing great, you could have been one of those rewarded by making the U.S. Open field at Pinehurst No. 2 Course in North Carlolina this week. 

For me, I’ll just have to wait till next year for my chance to qualify for the U.S. Open, but I will be watching and learning from those players that get to compete this year.


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