Local Qualifying: Former Athlete, Son of Major Champ Among Those to Advance
May 19, 2017 By David Shefter, USGA
Mike Dunham, who spent 10 years as a goaltender in the NHL, has earned a spot in U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying. (USGA/Chris Keane)

Results from Every Site        Recap: May 2-11

Number of local qualifiers conducted: 114

Number of competitors: 8,979

Number of sectional qualifying spots earned: 525

Low score: 62- Hunter Stewart (5/11), Jackson (Tenn.) Country Club

The number of three-generation U.S. Open competitors can be counted on one hand. Since the championship’s inception in 1895, only two families have achieved such a distinction: the Herrons and the Alexanders.

A third family could join that unique fraternity.

When Davis Love IV carded a 69 at Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., on May 15 he moved a step closer to joining his Hall-of-Fame father, Davis Love III, and grandfather, Davis Love Jr., as U.S. Open competitors.

Nineteen years ago, Tim Herron qualified for his first U.S. Open, joining his father and grandfather, both named Carson, to become the first three-generation U.S. Open qualifier. In 2009, Tyson Alexander added his name to the family list that included his father, 1986 U.S. Amateur champion Buddy Alexander, and his grandfather, Skip Alexander.

Possibly making Davis Love IV’s journey even more special is the fact that the 23-year-old will likely compete alongside his 53-year-old father in sectional qualifying on Monday, June 5. Both listed the Columbus, Ohio, site as their top choice. The elder Love, the 1997 PGA champion who will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in September, is exempt from local qualifying.

It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve competed on a big stage together. In 2015, Davis Love IV – or Dru as he is commonly known – qualified for a spot in the RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club. The PGA Tour even grouped them together for the first two rounds – along with 2013 USA Walker Cup competitor Justin Thomas, who helped recruit the younger Love to the University of Alabama, where he recently completed his eligibility. Dru Love shot 70-76 to miss the cut, while his father, who hosts the Tour event at his home club, tied for 33rd.

This time the stakes will be much higher.

From NHL to Erin Hills?

Few things in life can make an athlete prouder than to have an Olympic silver medal draped around their neck. Or to share the William M. Jennings Trophy with a future Hall-of-Fame netminder for yielding the fewest goals during the NHL’s regular season.

Now Mike Dunham, who played 10 seasons with five NHL teams, has a chance to make a splash in an entirely different sporting endeavor. The Concord, Mass., resident, who turns 45 on June 1, carded an even-par 70 in a local qualifier at historic Newport (R.I.) Country Club on May 16 to earn one of the five available spots into sectional qualifying. It’s the first time Dunham has advanced to 36-hole sectional qualifying after being an alternate six years ago.

He isn’t the first current or ex-NHL player to enter U.S. Open qualifying. Pierre Larouche, Dan Quinn, Brett Hull and Grant Fuhr have all tried, but none qualified for the championship proper.

“It was exciting for me to make it through local qualifying, especially for an ex-hockey player,” said Dunham, who is headed to Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., on June 5 for his sectional.

Fifteen years ago, Dunham helped Team USA earn a silver medal at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Five years earlier, he teamed with Martin Brodeur to earn the Jennings Award while with the New Jersey Devils, the team that drafted him in the third round of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft out of the University of Maine. Dunham also played for the Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, Atlanta Thrashers and New York Islanders, the organization that has employed him as its goaltending coach since his retirement in 2007.

Golf has also been a big part of Dunham’s life since his junior days. His father, Ron, is a retired PGA professional. Ron and Mike unsuccessfully went through U.S. Open local qualifying in 2005 at different sites, and Ron served as Mike’s caddie when he qualified for the 2007 U.S. Mid-Amateur, which was contested at Bandon Dunes. Dunham qualified for the Mid-Amateur again in 2014.

“Playing golf has given me an outlet to continue my competitive nature,” said Dunham, who was on the 1992 and 1994 USA Olympic hockey teams, both of which failed to medal. “The only expectation I put on myself is to continue trying to get better in a game that can really drive you crazy.”

Advancing With Valor

Apparently football isn’t the only sport with a strong pedigree at Valor Christian High School in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, Colo. The small private school that produced Christian McCaffrey, the No. 8 pick in April’s NFL Draft out of Stanford, and his younger brother, Dylan, a quarterback headed to the University of Michigan this fall, also can boast of a few notable golfers.

Golf coach Jason Preeo, who made the cut in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links a year after being hired, has a chance for a second opportunity next month at Erin Hills after carding a 4-under 67 to share medalist honors at a local qualifier on May 16 at Collindale Golf Course in Fort Collins, Colo.

This came after three of Preeo’s ex-players – Jake Staiano, Josh Seiple and Ross Macdonald – advanced through local qualifiers the previous week.

“I’ve got to keep up with those [former Valor] guys,” said Preeo, an instructor at the MetaGolf Learning Center in Englewood.

Another Valor alum, Wyndham Clark, failed to advance in a local qualifier last week in Oregon. Clark was the Pacific-12 Conference Player of the Year at the University of Oregon. He could still earn a spot in sectionals should he win the NCAA Division I individual title at Rich Harvest Farms outside of Chicago May 25-28. The NCAA champion receives an exemption into sectionals. Portland, Ore., native Jonathan Moore, the hero of the 2007 USA Walker Cup Team, made the U.S. Open in 2006 via that route after failing to advance out of local qualifying earlier that spring.

Hall Pass

Kevin Hall, 34, of Cincinnati, Ohio, never has let his disability get in the way of his golf career. A bout of meningitis at the age of 2 caused Hall to go deaf, but that didn’t stop him from becoming one of the top players in his home state. He qualified for the 1999 U.S. Junior Amateur before competing at The Ohio State University. Now Hall has another crack at qualifying for the U.S. Open after earning one of the 10 berths in a local qualifier at Maketewah Country Club in Cincinnati on May 15. With 168 competitors, it was the largest of the 114 local sites.

Earlier this year, Hall received the Charlie Sifford Exemption into the PGA Tour’s Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club, site of this year’s U.S. Amateur.

The qualifier also included one of the area’s most prominent sports figures volunteering his time.

Main Street

Gregor Main’s first competition at Erin Hills was going quite well – until it switched to match play. The Danville, Calif., resident was the stroke-play medalist in the 2011 U.S. Amateur, which included a 5-under 67 at Erin Hills on Day 2. But the top seed suffered a 2-and-1 defeat in the Round of 64 to Bobby Leopold, of Coventry, R.I.

They could have a reunion next month after earning medalist honors at separate local qualifiers. Main posted a 69 at Ruby Hill Golf Club in Pleasanton, Calif., on May 15, while the next day, Leopold carded the same score at Newport Country Club.

Chip Shots

Ben “Bubba” Dickerson, the 2001 U.S. Amateur champion, earned one of the three available qualifying spots in the Palm Coast, Fla., local conducted at Hammock Dunes Club’s Creek Course. Dickerson missed the cut in his only U.S. Open start in 2011. … Cody Paladino, the 2007 U.S. Amateur Public Links runner-up, survived a 6-for-3 playoff to earn a spot at Wintonbury Hills Golf Club in Bloomfield, Conn. His older brother, Brent, had to settle for first-alternate status. … Jason Widener, the 1988 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, is the first alternate from the Pinehurst, N.C., local qualifier after a 3-for-1 playoff at Pinewild C.C. on May 15. … Former UCLA quarterback Drew Olson, of San Francisco, who served as a backup in the 2007 NFL season with Carolina and Baltimore, earned second-alternate status at the Pleasanton, Calif., local qualifier on May 15.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.