Walton Heath Golf Club (Old and New Courses)
(105 golfers vying for 14 spots)
Ever since the USGA implemented overseas sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open in 2005, Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England has been a host site. The club's Old and New Courses are utilized for the 36-hole event, which features many of the top professionals from the European PGA Tour as well as elite European amateurs.
In its first year, Walton Heath was where Michael Campbell of New Zealand qualified prior to winning the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
Walton Heath is one of two international sectional qualifying sites; the other site is Nara International Golf Club in Nara Prefecture, Japan.
Two past major champions and four past U.S. Amateur champions highlight the field. That group includes Padraig Harrington and Jose Maria Olazabal, who have a combined five major titles, Peter Uihlein of the USA (2010 U.S. Amateur), Richie Ramsay of Scotland (2006 U.S. Amateur), Byeong-Hun An of Korea (2009 U.S. Amateur) and Edoardo Molinari of Italy (2005 U.S. Amateur). Uihlein also played on two USA Walker Cup Teams in 2009 and 2011.
In addition, 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Sihwan Kim of Korea is also in the field.
Fifteen Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup alums are in the field: Robert Dinwiddie (England), Nick Dougherty (England), Oliver Fisher (England), Harrington (Ireland), Michael Hoey (Northern Ireland), David Howell (England), David Horsey (England), Tom Lewis (England), Kevin Phelan (Ireland), Garrick Porteous (England), Ramsay (Scotland), Graeme Storm (England), Andy Sullivan (England), Marc Warren (England) and Danny Willett (England).
Besides Uihlein, two other notable Americans are hoping to qualify at Walton Heath: former Florida State standout Brooks Koepka and former Kent State golfer John Hahn, a 2010 U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist.
Two Frenchmen, Gregory Havret and Thomas Levet, are past runners-up in the U.S. Open (2010) and British Open (2002), respectively.
The Old Course at Walton Heath was opened in 1904, with the New Course opening three years later as a nine-hole layout. In 1913, nine more holes were added to the New Course. Both layouts were designed by Herbert Fowler.
Walton Heath also has had a long association with royalty and politics, with Edward, the Prince of Wales having been the club's first captain in 1935, and former United Kingdom Prime Ministers David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Andrew Bonar Law and Arthur Balfour all having been club members.
Five-time British Open champion James Braid also served as a club professional.
Besides U.S. Open qualifying, Walton Heath hosted the 1981 Ryder Cup Matches when it stepped in as a replacement for The Belfry, which had not been completed in time for the event. In 2011, Walton Heath hosted the Senior British Open Champioonship that was claimed by American Russ Cochran.
By European Tour
Lowry Medalist at Walton Heath U.S. Open International Sectional
SURREY, England – Shane Lowry, 27, of Ireland, took his fine form from Wentworth to Walton Heath to earn one of the 14 available spots into the 2014 U.S. Open Championship on May 26 at an international sectional qualifier conducted on the Old and New courses at Walton Heath Golf Club.
Lowry nearly qualified for the U.S. Open one day earlier by winning the BMW PGA Championship, the PGA European Tour’s flagship event, but he finished one stroke behind winner Rory McIlroy. So Lowry focused his attention on the 36-hole international qualifier – one of two conducted by the USGA on May 26 (the other was held in Japan) – and earned medalist honors by one stroke out of a strong field of 105 golfers, most of whom compete on the European Tour.
In a steady rain, Lowry posted an 8-under-par total of 136, which included a 69 in the morning on the New Course and an afternoon score of 67 on the Old Course.
“It was really tough out there,” said Lowry, whose lone U.S. Open start came in 2011 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., where he missed the cut and his good friend McIlroy won his first major title. “I played OK and putted really, really well. I holed a lot of 6- to 8-footers for par and carried a lot of momentum in from yesterday to get the job done. I was three under this morning and this afternoon chipped in for eagle to get to five [under], so that got me going.
“I just tried to play steady from there and not lose my head. It was tough last week and then 36 holes in this weather was very tough. I’m looking forward to my bed tonight.”
The U.S. Open will be held June 12-15 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2.
“I’m really looking forward to getting to Pinehurst,” said Lowry, a two-time winner on the European Tour. “Majors are where I want to be playing. Last week, I was comfortable competing down the stretch with the likes of Thomas Björn, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald, so I’ve got a lot of confidence and I’ll take that with me to Pinehurst.”
Others to qualify at Walton Heath included Niclas Fasth (137), of Sweden; Simon Griffiths (137) and Graeme Storm (139), of England; Marcel Siem (139) and Max Kieffer (139), of Germany; Chris Doak (139), of Scotland; Garth Mulroy (137), of South Africa; Shiv Kapur (139), of India; and Brooks Koepka (139), of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Storm was a member of the victorious 1999 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup Team.
Six players played off for the final four U.S. Open spots after finishing in a tie for 11th at 4-under 140. Oliver Fisher, of England, a member of the 2005 GB&I Walker Cup Team, Andrea Pavan, of Italy, and Lucas Bjerregaard, of Denmark, all made birdie on the first extra hole to claim the first three places, and the last to qualify was Tom Lewis, of England, courtesy of a 30-foot birdie putt, leaving Morten Madsen and Danny Willett as alternates. Lewis was a member of the victorious 2011 GB&I Walker Cup Team.
Doak also qualified for last year’s U.S. Open at Merion, and he said: “As a kid, you’d watch U.S. Opens, it’s a special thing. I’m really glad to be going back again. I continued the form I had at Wentworth. I shot four under this morning, so it was just a question of not doing anything silly this afternoon, hitting the middle of the greens and taking opportunities when they came along.”
Kieffer will be playing in his first major championship, and is looking forward to Pinehurst.
“Normally I play well on tough courses, so even though I haven’t been there yet, I think I can do well,” said Kieffer. “To make it to my first major is awesome. It’s going to be great for my game and you can only take positives from something like this.”
Kieffer’s compatriot, Siem, said: “It’s always been a dream of mine to play at Pinehurst. I’ve played it so many times on the PlayStation. I had a great week at Wentworth and I’ve just got to keep this going now.”
Storm outscored fellow competitor Padraig Harrington, the three-time major champion from Ireland, and he was delighted with his performance. Harrington was hoping to play in his 17th U.S. Open, but he shot rounds of 75-71 (146) to miss by six strokes.
“I played fantastic today and I had a great partner in Padraig,” said Storm
. “I’ve not had a great season so far, so hopefully this can kick-start the year and I can put in a good performance at a major. I’ve played in one major before but didn’t play very well. Hopefully this time I can play a lot better.”
Other notables who failed to qualify included 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Sihwan Kim (142), of Korea; two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal (146), of Spain; and 2009 U.S. Amateur champion Byeong-Hun An (73-WD), of Korea.
USGA senior staff writer David Shefter contributed to this report.