Sisk Looks to Continue Remarkable U.S. Open Qualifying History

Geoff Sisk, who advanced through local qualifying on May 8, has competed in seven U.S. Opens, going through both stages of qualifying to make the field on six of those occasions. (USGA/Michael Cohen)

Geoff Sisk, who advanced through local qualifying on May 8, has competed in seven U.S. Opens, going through both stages of qualifying to make the field on six of those occasions. (USGA/Michael Cohen)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

By David Shefter, USGA

No one better illustrates the meritocracy of the U.S. Open than Geoffrey Sisk. Even without status on any of the major golf tours, the 49-year-old from Marshfield, Mass., knows he can play his way into golf’s second-oldest major championship.

Exhibit A on what makes the U.S. Open special.

Sisk, who once had status on the PGA and Web.com Tours, is one step away from making his eighth U.S. Open appearance – and seventh via both local and sectional qualifying – after shooting a 69 in a local qualifier on May 8 at Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth, Mass., to garner one of five available spots in sectional qualifying. The odds of qualifying for one U.S. Open via both the local and sectional stages are long enough. Achieving it seven times is improbable.

“I go through these qualifiers with very little expectations,” Sisk said last year prior to playing at Merion Golf Club. "All I can do is just do the best I can and go out and play.”

But Sisk, who will play his 36-hole sectional event in Purchase, N.Y., at Century Country Club and Old Oaks Country Club, is just one of the many interesting storylines from the 111 U.S. Open local qualifiers that were conducted May 5-19.

Sectional qualifying at 12 sites – two of which are overseas – takes place May 26 (Japan and England) and June 2. The U.S. Open will be held June 12-15 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2 in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C.

Three USGA champions and six USGA runners-up advanced to sectional qualifying, along with four past Walker Cup competitors. That list includes Kelly Kraft (2011 U.S. Amateur champion), Lion Kim (2010 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion), Jack Newman (2008 APL champion), Nick Taylor (2009 APL runner-up), Steve Scott (1996 U.S. Amateur runner-up to Tiger Woods), Lee Williamson (2002 APL runner-up), Cody Paladino (2007 APL runner-up), John Chin (2008 APL runner-up) and Ryan Armour (1993 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up to Woods). Taylor shares the low round in a U.S. Open by an amateur with a 5-under-par 65 shot in 2009 at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y.

In addition to Scott and Kraft, past Walker Cup competitors to advance to U.S. Open sectional qualifying include Matthew Richardson (2005 GB&I Team), Blayne Barber (2011 USA Team), Adam Mitchell (2009 USA Team) and Jonathan Moore (2007 USA Team). Moore, the 2006 NCAA champion from Oklahoma State University, secured the winning point in the USA’s triumph at Royal County Down in Ireland, while Barber has since won on the Web.com Tour.

Eric Axley and Frank Lickliter II are past PGA Tour winners, while Scott Dunlap is a two-time Nationwide Tour winner who is now on the Champions Tour. Matthew Dobyns, the head professional at Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success, N.Y., won the 2012 PGA Professional National Championship.

A couple of players with famous fathers also advanced: Todd Miller (father, Johnny, won the 1973 U.S. Open and is NBC’s lead golf analyst); Taylor Funk (father, Fred, won the 2009 U.S. Senior Open); and Richard Todd (father, Richard, is a former NFL quarterback). Mike Van Sickle had his father, Sports Illustrated golf writer Gary Van Sickle, on his bag when he earned medalist honors at Valley Brook Country Club in McMurray, Pa.

Tyson Alexander is a third-generation U.S. Open qualifying participant, his grandfather and father having both qualified for past U.S. Opens. His father, Buddy, won the 1986 U.S. Amateur and played on the 1987 USA Walker Cup Team. Buddy recently retired from his post as the University of Florida’s head men’s golf coach.

Charlie Holland and Scott Smyers also have well-known dads. Holland’s father, Malcom, serves on the USGA Executive Committee, and Smyers’ father, Steve, is a former Executive Committee member who is better known as a golf course architect. Steve Smyers renovated the South Course at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club, which will host the 2015 U.S. Amateur.

Zack Fischer, Ryan Yip, amateurs Cory McElyea and Gavin Hall, and Sisk are among the five to advance who qualified for last year’s U.S. Open.

Brady Watt, of Australia, who turned pro late last year, was a semifinalist in the 2013 U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. He will be looking to join countryman Oliver Goss, the U.S. Amateur runner-up, in the field at Pinehurst. Goss, who beat Watt in the semifinals, is fully exempt.

Vince India, of Lakewood Ranch, Fla., and a member of the Web.com Tour, produced the lowest score in local qualifying, shooting a 61 at Waterlefe Golf & River Club in Bradenton, Fla.

Kevin Hall, a professional from Cincinnati, would be an interesting story if he makes it to Pinehurst due to the fact that he is deaf. Hall lost his hearing after suffering from meningitis as an infant.

Should Sean Moore, of Southern Hills, N.C., qualify, he would likely become a local favorite. Moore is one of Pinehurst’s assistant professionals.

Curtis Thompson, of Coral Springs, Fla., is the older brother of 2014 Kraft Nabisco champion and 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Lexi Thompson. He and his older sibling, Nicholas, who competes on the PGA Tour, would ultimately love to share practice rounds together at Pinehurst. Curtis will play his sectional qualifier in Vero Beach, Fla., and Nicholas is set to compete in Columbus, Ohio, one of the two designated PGA Tour qualifying sites.

Oakmont Country Club and Seminole Golf Club head professional Bob Ford will be looking to qualify for his fourth U.S. Open. The 60-year-old from Oakmont, Pa., was the oldest player to advance out of local qualifying.

The youngest player to advance was 15-year-old Andrew Orischak, of Hilton Head, S.C., who carded a 65 to earn medalist honors at Long Cove Club in Hilton Head. Orischak is a few months younger than Easton Paxton, 15, of Riverton, Wyo., who shot a 66 to earn the lone spot at Riverton Country Club.

John Augenstein, 16, of Owensboro, Ky., a semifinalist in last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur at Martis Camp Club in Truckee, Calif., was a tri-medalist at Illini Country Club in Springfield, Ill., with a 69.

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

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