Ansley Golf Club (Settindown Creek Course)
(31 golfers vying for 2 spots)
Ansley Golf Club's Settindown Creek Course is hosting U.S. Open sectional qualifying for a fifth time. The club hosted the 2005 U.S. Women's Amateur, won by Morgan Pressel. PGA Tour winner Russell Hendley qualified for the 2010 U.S. Open as an amateur at the course and went on to share low-amateur honors with Scott Langley.
Notables in the field: Doug Hanzel (reigning U.S. Senior Amateur champion); Georgia Tech All-American Oliver Schniederjans (runner-up at 2014 NCAA Division I Championship.
Other storylines in field: Caddie/pro Brandon Hartzell (brother is goalie in American Hockey League; father played on 1979 NCAA championship team at University of Minnesota coached by Herb Brooks); pro Adam Mitchell (2009 USA Walker Cup Team); club pro Sean Moore (assistant at Pinehurst Resort); Canadian amateur Garrett Rank (runner-up at 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur); pro Henrik Norlander (led Augusta State to NCAA title); and amateur Andrew Orischak (15-year-old from Hilton Head Island, S.C., youngest in sectional qualifying and was runner-up in 3A high school state championship).
Help From a Friend Punches Norlander’s Ticket to Pinehurst
By Stan Awtrey | Photo: USGA/Tami Chappell
ROSWELL, Ga. – Henrik Norlander got a little help from a friend and wound up qualifying for his first U.S. Open Championship.
Norlander, of Augusta, Ga., learned that his former Augusta State University teammate Carter Newman was going to be in the Atlanta area on June 2. So he arranged for Newman to be his caddie at the sectional qualifier at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek Course. The pairing was magical, as Norlander shot a 4-under-par 140 to earn medalist honors and book his trip to the U.S. Open June 12-15 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2 in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C.
Newman, now a sporting goods rep in South Texas, was able to keep Norlander loose and focused for the entire day. Norlander struggled at the start and was two over through five holes, but found his footing and shot four under on the incoming nine for a 70 in the morning round. He matched that with a drama-free 70 in the afternoon and finished two shots better than amateur Smylie Kaufman of Vestavia, Ala.
“Starting out, I knew I would have to play smart golf and make some putts,” Norlander said. “I’ve been playing well all year and have been aggressive, but if you’re aggressive out here, you’re going to shoot 80.”
Norlander, a native of Sweden, was always considered a clutch player at Augusta State, where he teamed up with PGA Tour winner Patrick Reed and Newman to help the Jaguars win back-to-back NCAA Division I championships in 2010 and 2011. Newman no longer plays much competitive golf, but was happy to help his friend.
Norlander spent 2013 on the PGA Tour, but wasn’t able to retain his card. He made the cut in 13 of 22 tournaments, including three top-25 finishes, but finished 159th on the FedEx Cup points list. This season, he’s fully exempt on the Web.com Tour and has made the cut in five of nine events. His best finish was a tie for third in the Chile Classic in early March. He’s fallen into a pattern of making a cut and missing a cut, most recently missing the cut at the Rex Hospital Open.
“I’ve been playing well and not getting anything out of it,” he said.
Norlander has never played at Pinehurst, but he’s watched the highlight reel of the 1999 U.S. Open “about 50 times.” He’s yet to develop a game plan, but admitted it would likely be similar to the one he used to get there.
“I’m going to go there and enjoy my week,” he said.
He’ll likely do it with his regular caddie instead of his old teammate. Newman and his wife had already made plans for a vacation in Mexico. “We’ll have a discussion, but I’m sure it will be a short one,” Newman said, laughing.
Kaufman, who posted rounds of 67 and 75 to finish 2-under 142, claimed the second of two available U.S. Open spots. The 67 was the low round of the day and one of only two rounds in the 60s.
“If you had told me in December or January that I was going to qualify for the U.S. Open, I would have laughed in your face,” Kaufman said. “But the last couple of months, I’ve been playing the best golf of my life.”
Kaufman just finished his senior season at Louisiana State University, where he tied for second at the Southeastern Conference Championships and tied for 19th at the NCAA Championships. He helped the Tigers reach match play and advance to the second round. Kaufman won the 2012 Alabama Amateur.
Kaufman began his morning round on the incoming nine and caught fire on the eighth hole. He birdied the final two holes to finish at even-par 36 halfway through. Kaufman carried the momentum over to the outgoing nine and made a birdie on five of the first seven holes, including four consecutive on Nos. 2-5, to shoot 31. The 5-under round was three shots better than anyone else after the first round and provided a cushion for the afternoon.
“Everything clicked today,” Kaufman said. “My ball-striking was great and I knew if I could get some looks on the green that I could compete.”
The first alternate spot went to Trevor Cone, an amateur from Concord, N.C., who posted rounds of 72-71 for a 1-under 143. Cone just finished his junior season at Virginia Tech, winning two tournaments. He is ranked No. 105 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Professional Michael Hebert, of Auburn, Ala., earned the second alternate spot with rounds of 74-70.
One of the most surprising performances of the day was that of Oliver Schniederjans, of Powder Springs, Ga., the No. 4-ranked amateur in the world. The rising senior at Georgia Tech, who last week lost a playoff for medalist honors at the NCAA championships, carded rounds of 83 and 76 and finished 24th out of 31 competitors. Schniederjans, a finalist for the Ben Hogan Award and Jack Nicklaus Award, had a quadruple bogey in each round and incurred a penalty for playing the wrong ball.
“I had great expectations to do well,” Schniederjans said. “I just didn’t have the grind in me today. I was mentally worn out and didn’t grind like I could. I was two over through four and I didn’t feel it. It was uphill all day.”
Stan Awtrey is the editor of Golf Georgia, the official magazine of the Georgia State Golf Association.