Lake Merced Golf Club / Olympic Club (Ocean Course)
(110 golfers for 5 spots)
Longtime U.S. Open sectional qualifying host Lake Merced Golf Club returns this year, along with the Ocean Course at The Olympic Club. Lake Merced has hosted two USGA championships, most recently the 2012 U.S. Girls' Junior, and The Olympic Club's Lake Course has been the site of five U.S. Opens. The club will also host the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship in May 2015.
Two years ago was the first time the California sectional – it rotates between Northern and Southern California – utilized two courses for qualifying. In 2012, TPC Harding Park served as the companion qualifying venue with Lake Merced, which has hosted U.S. Open sectional qualifying every other year since 1984. The only time it didn’t during that span was 2010 when the greens were being renovated. Lake Merced also recently hosted the hosted the LPGA Tour’s Swinging Skirts event won by 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Lydia Ko.
The tree-lined course opened in 1923 and was originally designed by Willie Lock, although revisions have been made through the years.
The Ocean Course served as the companion stroke-play qualifying venue for the 2007 U.S. Amateur, won by Colt Knost. Next May, the Ocean Course will again be a companion qualifying course for the Four-Ball Championship, with the match-play portion being contested on the Lake Course.
Notables in the field: Web.com and PGA Tour winner Jason Gore (played in Sunday final pairing at 2005 U.S. Open/1997 USA Walker Cup competitor); four-time European Tour winner Alex Cejka; PGA Tour winner Kevin Sutherland; amateur Brandon Hagy (semifinalist at 2012 U.S. Amateur).
Other storylines: Pebble Beach caddie Casey Boyns (past California State Amateur champion); Champions Tour player Jeff Brehaut; pro John Chin (runner-up at 2008 U.S. Amateur Public Links); amateur Zecheng Dou, of China (quarterfinalist in 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur/made cut in European Tour event at 16 years of age); amateur Cory McElyea (qualified for 2013 U.S. Open); pro Todd Miller (son of 1973 U.S. Open champion/NBC lead golf analyst Johnny Miller/assistant men's and women's coach at Brigham Young University); pro Jack Newman (2008 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion); pro Derek Tolan (qualified for 2002 U.S. Open at 16 years of age); Canadian professional David Byrne (won Golf Channel's Big Break Indian Wells); amateur Brian Campbell (named 2014 Big Ten Conference player of the year); professional Mike Springer (has played in three U.S. Opens, the last in 1995); and Mike Miles (52-year-old pro has played in two U.S. Opens in 1987 & 2009).
Cejka Headed to U.S. Open as Medalist from California Qualifier
By James Raia | Photo: USGA/Jed Jacobsohn
DALY CITY, Calif. – Alex Cejka may have been the only player in the field hoping for cold and windy conditions. It was cold. It was windy. And it served the PGA Tour veteran well.
Seventeen years after playing in his first U.S. Open, Cejka, who was born in the Czech Republic but spent most of his childhood in Germany and now lives in Las Vegas, will return to the national championship for the seventh time after earning medalist honors in a 36-hole sectional qualifier by three shots over Steven Alker at Lake Merced Golf Club and the Olympic Club. The 114th U.S. Open will be contested June 12-15 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2 in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C.
After a 5-under 67 in the morning round at Lake Merced gave him a share of the lead with amateur Maverick McNealy, Cejka, 43, shot a 6-under 65 in his second round on the Ocean Course at the Olympic Club and finished at 11-under 132. The only 2014 U.S. Open sectional qualifier in California had a field of 110 and five U.S. Open spots up for grabs.
"I was kind of hoping for the bad weather," said Cejka. "Coming from Europe, I know that it eliminates a lot of players who don't like bad weather."
Cejka certainly showed his comfort level with the weather, as he played bogey-free golf for all 36 holes, making 11 birdies and 25 pars.
"It was challenging, especially in these conditions," said Cejka, who has played in 21 career majors and owns four wins on the European Tour. "I played great today. You don't have four days. It's one day. I figured I had to play aggressively. You just have to pick your line and trust it."
Cejka, who tied for eighth in the 2010 U.S. Open, also finished fourth in the 2003 PGA Championship.
Alker, 42, of New Zealand, tied Cejka for the day's low round with a bogey-free 65 at Lake Merced in his second 18 and finished at 8-under 135.
Cejka, who has 10 pro victories but is winless on the PGA Tour dating to 1996, and Alker will be be joined by PGA Tour veteran Kevin Sutherland and amateurs Brian Campbell and McNealy.
McNealy, 18, of Portola Valley, Calif., scrambled all day. The Stanford University golfer posted two eagles, seven birdies, 23 pars and four bogeys to finish at 7-under 136 after a second-round 69 at the Ocean Course.
Sutherland, of Sacramento, Calif., a winner on the PGA Tour who will be eligible for the Champions Tour in July, qualified for the U.S. Open for the 10th time. He carded a 67 on the Ocean Course and finished with Campbell at 6-under 137 after an incoming-nine 31.
Campbell, 21, a junior at the University of Illinois from Irvine, Calif., posted a second-round 70 at Lake Merced after a morning-round 67.
"Early on, I was just playing," said Sutherland, who first played in the U.S. Open in 1996 and finished 67th in the 2013 at Merion. "But on the 16th I said, 'Let's get two birdies and I think we're in.' But we were guessing. You just set a low goal for yourself. It will be fun and I am looking forward to it."
Jason Gore, 40, the 2005 84 Lumber Classic winner who played in the final grouping alongside Retief Goosen in the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, and PGA Tour veteran Craig Barlow, who last played in the U.S. Open in 2010, were among the notables who didn't qualify.
James Raia is a California-based writer who has previously covered U.S. Open sectional qualifying for the USGA.