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The Joy, and Pain, of Golf's Longest Day

June 9, 2021 Columbus, Ohio By Dave Shedloski
Amateur Andrew Kozan (right) and his caddie, Justin Burkhamer, survived a grueling 36-hole day at The Bear's Club in Jupiter, Fla., to qualify for the 121st U.S. Open. (Scott Hallleran/USGA)

The longest day in golf became quite a bit longer – and even then some for a few – when the last of the U.S. Open Final Qualifiers wrapped up Tuesday at arguably the toughest of the nine qualifying sites played in eight states.

 Fifty-four spots in the 121st U.S. Open, to be held June 17-20 at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, were available among 685 golfers via qualifying starting Monday. The competition didn’t wrap up until a pair of playoffs were completed in Columbus, Ohio, at The Lakes Golf & Country Club. The qualifier at The Lakes and Brookside Golf & Country Club went an extra day when thunderstorms caused a delay of three hours, 15 minutes Monday morning.

 Erik van Rooyen, 31, of South Africa finished off a second-round 64 Tuesday at The Lakes to tie Chez Reavie for medalist at 12-under 132. Reavie, 39 of Scottsdale, Ariz., stood 2 over par when play was suspended at 9:15 a.m. Monday, but then registered 12 birdies and two eagles the rest of his day.

 Wyndham Clark of Scottsdale and J.T. Poston of St. Simons Island, Ga., were next among players who completed 36 holes, finishing at 10-under 134. Clark, 27, will make his U.S. Open debut next week at Torrey Pines Golf Course near San Diego. He had been trying to qualify to the national championship since he was 15 years old.

“Many times in my career I’ve missed by very small margins,” said Clark, whose 8-under 64 in the morning was the low round at Brookside. “To finally make it through and also play the course that I’ve played a lot and that I really love is going to be pretty special.” 

The 36-hole final qualifier at Rolling Hills Country Club in Southern California lasted into sunset, and eventually to Tuesday morning. (Kohjiro Kinno/USGA)

There were 16 spots up for grabs in Columbus, and others who earned them include Martin Laird of Scotland (135); Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain, Dylan Frittelli of South Africa and Brendan Steele of Idyllwild, Calif. (136); and Sunghoon Kang of Korea, Adam Hadwin of Canada, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa and Michael Johnson of Birmingham, Ala., at 137. Johnson is the younger brother of 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Bradley Johnson, who tragically died in a automobile accident in 2006. 

Five players who tied at 6-under 138 played off for the final four spots, with amateur Pierceson Coody, a member of this year’s USA Walker Cup team, grabbing the last berth with a par on the second playoff hole. Ranked No. 3 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Coody, the grandson of 1971 Masters winner Charles Coody, will make his U.S. Open debut next week at Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) near San Diego. He was the only amateur to advance in the 120-player field populated heavily by touring professionals, including 26 who competed in the Memorial Tournament.

 “It’s a dream come true,” said Coody, 21, of Plano, Texas. “I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘Great year playing Walker Cup and everything, but qualifying for the U.S. Open is something very special when you think about having the opportunity to play against the best players in the world and I can’t wait to get to Torrey Pines and compete.”

 PGA Tour players Jhonattan Vegas and Peter Malnati birdied the first playoff hole, sending Tom Hoge, Coody and Coody’s Walker Cup teammate Cole Hammer to a second extra hole. Hoge, who missed the cut by seven shots at the Memorial, stuffed a 9-iron to 3 feet for birdie on 18, while Coody two-putted for par from 15 feet. Hammer, 21, who also plays for the Longhorns, miss a 5-foot putt for par after finding the left greenside bunker and was relegated to first alternate.

 Former Walker Cup player Rickie Fowler, a runner-up in the 2014 championship at Pinehurst No. 2, was among 12 players who fell one stroke short at 5-under 139. Fowler, who drew a large gallery at both sites, came agonizingly close, making birdies on two of his remaining five holes on Tuesday at The Lakes for a 66. But his bid to get to 6 under stopped inches short on a chip shot from behind the green on his final hole.

“I’d much rather skip this day. It’s a grind,” said Fowler, 32, who appeared in his fourth qualifier in Columbus and first since 2010. “I had some good looks coming in, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out. But we're in a good spot. I'm excited with where the game currently is.”

Click here for a full roundup of U.S. Open Final Qualifying results.

Read Golfweek’s recap of Golf’s Longest Day for further details from all qualifying sites.

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.