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Local Qualifying Competitors Chasing a Dream, While Living it

May 11, 2017 Silver Spring, Md. By Garrett Johnston

Kent Hagen, Steven Delmar, Mickey DeMorat, Justin Feldman and Jordan Meltzer all advanced to U.S. Open sectional qualifying via the local qualifier on May 8 at Northwest Golf Club in suburban Washington, D.C.

Meltzer, 25, advanced to sectional qualifying for the first time in eight tries, claiming the final spot via a 6-for-1 playoff. The Long Island native first competed in local qualifying when he was 15 and flew cross-country from his home in Los Angeles to play in Maryland so his girlfriend could visit family in nearby Bethesda.

“It was worth the wait,” said Meltzer, who shot 1-over 73.Meltzer’s identical twin brother, Brandon also competed in local qualifying on Monday, as well, at The Wanderers Club in Wellington, Fla. He didn’t get through, but will be caddieing for Jordan in sectional qualifying at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., on June 5.

Meltzer’s golf journey hasn’t always been this sweet. During his senior year at Johnson & Wales University in Miami, he was moving some boxes when he injured his back. The injury kept him off the course for four months and forced him to play the game differently, committing to new workouts and stretching routines. He turned pro after graduation and has been playing on various mini-tours since 2013.

“It feels great to have all my hard work finally pay off,” said Meltzer. “Getting here at 6:30 and waiting for five, six hours to find out if I get in a playoff, it’s very rewarding and it feels great.”

Meltzer, David Kocher (73), Evan Santa (73) and DeMorat (72) all nervously waited out the afternoon in Northwest Golf Club’s clubhouse for several hours to see if their scores would hold. Feldman (72), a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Maryland, tried a different approach, heading 15 minutes down the road to his home in Rockville to watch TV.

“I’d rather have had the final say and played in the afternoon instead of sweating it out at my house for four hours,” Feldman said. “The whole day takes it out of you, just the whole grind of it all.”

But getting through to sectionals in his fourth try was nevertheless rewarding.

“You’ve just got to have it on one day and I had it today,” Feldman said.

Feldman will also compete at Woodmont for sectional qualifying, an event he attended as a high school senior at nearby Thomas S. Wootton two years ago.

DeMorat, of Merritt Island, Fla., made it through to sectionals for the second time in three tries. He missed out on a 5-for-2 playoff by one stroke last year in the sectional qualifier at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla. The 21-year-old Liberty University junior was relieved to have made it through with an even-par round.

Like Meltzer, DeMorat has overcome physical ailments to get to this stage. After the fall season at Liberty, DeMorat was filming a shot of his teammate trying to hit a drive over his head with a GoPro on Liberty’s driving range. One of the errant drives struck him squarely in the palm while he was lying on the ground, arm extended.

“It basically just shattered my hand, it’s still not completely the same, but it feels a lot better,” DeMorat said, showing a hand that still looked a bit swollen. “It took me out for three months and I wasn’t able to hit any balls.”

At last year’s Western Amateur, he was in second place through four stroke-play rounds before losing in match play to eventual champion Dylan Meyer. DeMorat also qualified for the U.S. Amateur last year, missing the cut at Oakland Hills Country Club.

But on Monday at Northwest, DeMorat finished safely above the cut line and moved one step away to a spot in the field at Erin Hills. One step closer to a dream fulfilled.

Hagen, of Upper Marlboro, Md., easily topped all scorers, shooting a 6-under 66. Delmar, of Gaithersburg, Md., had the next lowest score, posting 1-under 71.

Garrett Johnston is a freelance sportswriter and video producer.