Interesting Stories Behind Qualifiers
This week's U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club has a lot of interesting subplots among the golfers that qualified.
Thanks to the USGA, here are a few of the facts behind some of the 312 players entered in the event that started today.
By State: Forty-six of the 50 states are represented in the U.S. Amateur field. California has the largest representation with 50 players; Florida has 33 players and Texas has 24. Alaska, Delaware, Montana and South Dakota are not represented.
Oldest and Youngest Players: The oldest player in the field is 57-year-old Paul Simson of Raleigh, N.C., a two-time winner of the North and South Amateur. He won his second Senior British Amateur two weeks ago. He is president of an insurance agency. Simson has played in at least one USGA championship in each of the past 25 years.
The youngest player in the field is 14-year-old Lorens Chan of Honolulu, Hawaii, who is heading into ninth grade. Chan won the 2006 U.S. Kids National Championship at Pinehurst No. 4, shooting 64 in one of the rounds. He has been taking Hula dancing lessons since age 9.
Childhood Friends Reunited: Mike Prescott, 23, and Kory Storer, 22, grew up in San Mateo, Calif. They played on the same youth baseball teams and attended the same local college, Notre Dame de Namur. They even had the same 36-hole score of 144 in qualifying at the Peninsula Golf and Country Club. Now they are together in the Amateur field.
Two sets of brothers have qualified for this U.S. Amateur. They are Zenon and Zahkai Brown of Arvada, Colo., and Graham and Matthew Hill of Canada.
Zenon, 21, and Zahkai, 18, attend Colorado State University. Each is playing in his first Amateur. Their father, Orin, will caddie for Zenon.
Graham, 22, and Mathew, 19, qualified at the Dearborn, Mich., site with identical 36-hole scores of 147. Their father, Bob, will caddie for Graham. Graham also played in the 2006 Amateur while Matthew is playing in his first.
Stephen Anderson, 38, of Hobe Sound, Fla., finally qualified for his first U.S. Amateur after six previous failed attempts. Anderson won the 1990 Ohio Amateur and tried his hand as a professional before regaining his amateur status in June 2006. He graduated from Ohio State in 1993 and now works for Golden Bear Realty.
Ben Bendtsen, 22, of Racine, Wis., is having a hard time explaining his recent success. Earlier this summer he won the Wisconsin State Amateur and was runner-up at the Wisconsin State Match Play Championship. This is his first USGA championship. He didn't play college golf and has taken only two golf lessons in his life. He works in the family bakery, where he is an expert kringle-maker.
Alan Bratton, 36, of Stillwater, Okla., is the assistant golf coach at Oklahoma State University. He is playing in his fifth U.S. Amateur. He played on the Cowboys' 1995 NCAA championship team and was a member of the 1995 USA Walker Cup squad. He played professionally for several years before regaining his amateur status in 2006.
Jonathan Caldwell, 24, of Northern Ireland, was a member of the 2007 Walker Cup team for Great Britain and Ireland. Earlier this year he won the individual title at the Sun Belt Conference championship as a top player for South Alabama.
Robert Chappell, 21, of Cincinnati, Ohio, qualified using his friend's driver after his broke the day before the qualifier. He birdied the last two holes to earn a spot in the field. He is heading into his senior year at the University of Dayton. He won the Atlantic Conference individual title in 2008 and earned Conference Player of the Year.
David Chung, 18, of Fayetteville, N.C., is quite young to be playing in his third U.S. Amateur. He gain attention at age 14 by being runner-up at the 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur. He is a freshman at Stanford University.
Stephen Clark, 23, of Raymore, Mo., eagled his last hole (a par-5) to earn a place in the field. A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Clark is a senior at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.
Carter Collins, 25, of Statesboro, Ga., eagled his last hole of regulation just to force a playoff for the last spot at his Amateur qualifier. He then birdied the first playoff hole to earn a spot. Collins is the assistant golf coach at Georgia Southern University. He and his dad, Steve, won the 2004 National Father-Son Tournament at the Country Club of North Carolina in nearby Southern Pines. His father will be his caddie at the Amateur.
Ty Cox, 32, of Fort Worth, Texas, has been involved with the sport in a variety of ways. He played professionally for five years and spent two years as a caddie on the PGA Tour. He regained his amateur status in 2007. He is a member at Shady Oaks Country Club, where he won the club championship earlier this summer. His biggest thrill was meeting Ben Hogan, a well-known figure at Shady Oaks. He was a quarterfinalist at the 2007 U.S. Mid-Amateur and also played in the 1998 U.S. Amateur.
James Davenport, 46, of Marietta, Ga., birdied three of his last four holes to earn his first trip to the U.S. Amateur. It's a bit ironic that two days before his qualifier, Davenport lost in his club championship by 10 strokes and was so frustrated he almost withdrew from the qualifier.
John Ervasti, 53, of Scarborough, N.Y., is playing in his sixth U.S. Amateur. He played in his first Amateur in 1978, 30 years ago. His father, Edward, gained notoriety last year at age 93 by shooting an even-par 72.
Jack Fields, 18, of Southern Pines, N.C., shot 63 in the final round to win the 2008 North Carolina Amateur at Raleigh Country Club. He attended nearby Pinecrest High School and is a freshman at the University of North Carolina. This is his first Amateur after having qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur the last three years (2005-07).
Rickie Fowler, 19, of Murrieta, Calif., was the first freshman to claim the Ben Hogan Award as the top college golfer, in 2008. He was low amateur at the 2008 U.S. Open, finishing in a tie for 60th. He was a member of the 2007 USA Walker Cup team and is sophomore at Oklahoma State University.
Robert Gerwin, 41, of Cincinnati, Ohio, is playing in his 12th U.S. Amateur. In addition, he has qualified for nine U.S. Mid-Amateurs, reaching the quarterfinals in 1997. He also played in a U.S. Junior Amateur. A 1989 graduate of Furman University, Gerwin is now a developer in Cincinnati.
Brendan Gielow, 20, of Muskegon, Mich., set a scoring record of 9-under par in winning the 2008 Northeast Amateur. He is playing in his third Amateur. A junior at Wake Forest, Gielow lost to eventual champion Colt Knost in a second-round match at the 2007 Amateur.
Brian Higgins, 33, of Bellingham, Mass., spent the night before his qualifying round in a hospital emergency room with his oldest child, Kylie, age 7. He headed for his qualifier after just three hours of sleep and proceeded to make a 35-foot birdie putt in a playoff to secure the final spot allotted to the field at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rhode Island. Higgins also qualified for the 2002 Amateur.
Thomas Isaak, 38, of San Diego, Calif., didn't take up golf until he was 19 and is playing in his first Amateur. He is a math teacher at St. Augustine High School in San Diego.
Sean Knapp, 46, of Oakmont, Pa., is playing in his 12th Amateur. In his past appearances, he has faced Tiger Woods (1995) and Luke Donald (2000).
Danny Lee, 18, of New Zealand, won the 2008 Western Amateur and last week made the cut at the PGA Tour's Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C. He was tied for 18th after two rounds with a 36-hole score of 6-under par. The high school senior in his hometown of Rotorua is playing in his third Amateur.
Jason Millard, 18, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., appeared in a music video with Diamond Rio when he was 6 years old. Now a sophomore at Middle Tennessee State University, Millard is playing in his first Amateur.
Jamie Miller, 23, of Silver Creek, N.Y., played hockey throughout his high school years in the Buffalo region. He is a recent graduate of Augusta State who is playing in his second Amateur. His mother, Cindy, appeared on the Golf Channel show, Big Break 3. His father, Allen, was a member of two USA Walker Cup teams (1969, 1971) and his sister, Kelly, is a producer at the Golf Channel.
Andrey Mindirgasov, 20, of Pacific Grove, Calif., is a native of Russia whose father was a six-time World Fencing Champion and Olympic silver medalist. Mindirgasov is a junior at the University of California-Berkeley.
Phillip Mollica, 21, of Anderson, S.C., had his career low score of 63 on Pinehurst No. 4 in qualifying for the 2006 North and South Amateur. A year later he won the prestigious tournament. A left-hander, Mollica is a senior at Clemson University. This is his second Amateur.
Ji Moon, 19, of Korea, made a hole-in-one on the ninth hole of Pinehurst's No. 2 course during the 2007 North and South Amateur. He is a sophomore at UNLV and playing in his third Amateur.
Donald O'Connor, 44, of Carlsbad, Calif., finally earned a spot in a U.S. Amateur after 15 tries. He birdied two of his last three holes to get into a playoff for the last two spots awarded at Sycuan. O'Connor is a 10-time club champion at San Luis Rey Downs.
Chris Osentoski, 21, of Metamora, Mich., worked for eights months in 2007 as an intern for the Pinehurst Management Group. It was then that he set his sights on returning to Pinehurst as a player in the 2008 U.S. Amateur. He is playing in his first Amateur.
Douglas Parigian, 49, of Lowell, Mass., realized a dream when he qualified for the U.S. Amateur after 18 previous failed attempts. He shot 72-70-142 to earn a spot at Vesper Country Club in Tyngsboro, Mass. He birdied the last hole to make his attempt even more dramatic. A quarterfinalist at the 1994 North and South Amateur at Pinehurst, Parigian is now an attorney.
Scott Saal, 19, of Virginia Beach, Va., will share a special moment with his father at this U.S. Amateur as his father, Steve, will serve as his caddie. Scott will also wear his dad's player's badge in memory of his father playing in the 1976 Amateur. Scott is a sophomore at the College of William and Mary. He is playing in his first Amateur.
Sam Saunders, 21, of Orlando, Fla., won his qualifier by an incredible 14 strokes (63-67-130, 14-under par). The grandson of Arnold Palmer, he is a junior at Clemson University and playing in his third U.S. Amateur. Saunders also played in 2004 and '07. Arnold Palmer won the 1954 U.S. Amateur.
Keith Stauffer, 44, of Bradford, Pa., went 22 years between qualifying for the U.S. Amateur. He played in the 1986 Amateur where he failed to advance to the match-play portion of the championship. He has tried to qualify for the Amateur every year since and finally earned a spot this year after shooting 141 in 36-hole qualifying at the Penn State Blue Course. He is a case manager for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in McKean, Pa., and is the part-time golf coach at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.
Nicholas (Nick) Taylor, 20, of Canada, is one of the exempt players into the field as a result of reaching the 2007 quarterfinals a year ago. He was the 2007 Canadian Amateur champion and the NCAA individual runner-up in 2008. He shot a 6-under-par 66 (his lowest competitive round) on the last day of the NCAA Championship. The junior at the University of Washington also qualified for the 2008 U.S. Open.
Derek Tolan, 22, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., is playing in his third U.S. Amateur after having survived a playoff to earn the last spot in qualifying at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo. In 2001 Tolan gained notice at age 16 by qualifying for the U.S. Open, the U.S. Junior, the U.S. Amateur Public Links and the U.S. Amateur championships in the same year.
Michael Van Sickle, 21, of Wexford, Pa., is the reigning Pennsylvania Amateur champion. He will have his father, Gary, a senior golf writer for Sports Illustrated, caddie this week.
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