Lakeside Country Club
(56 players for 3 spots)
Designed by Ralph Plummer, Lakeside Country Club opened for play in 1952, a year after the club was founded. Ron Pritchard returned in 1990 to do some revisions to the course, which can play as long as 7,254 yards from the back tees. The actual property dates to 1861 when the State of Texas sold it to Christiana Williams for the sum of $2,000. The property changed hands several times before Charles Mooers sold it to charter member Ralph Rupley in 1946. The Rupley family occupied the mansion, which had been constructed 12 years earlier and now is part of the clubhouse, until 1951, the year the club was founded, when they moved to a more convenient section of the city.
Notables in the field: Todd Hamilton (2004 British Open champion); PGA Tour winner Scott Verplank (1984 U.S. Amateur champion); PGA Tour winner Duffy Waldorf (1985 USA Walker Cup Team); and amateur/Houston native Cory Whitsett (2007 U.S. Junior Amateur champion/2013 USA Walker Cup Team). Whitsett grew up at Lakeside C.C. and should have plenty of course knowledge.
Other storylines to watch: Zack Fischer (pro survived 12-hole playoff last year with Ryan Palmer to garner spot in 2013 U.S. Open); Kelly Kraft (2011 U.S. Amateur champion/2011 USA Walker Cup Team); Texas native Bronson Burgoon (led Texas A&M to 2009 NCAA title with dramatic hole-out from fairway in deciding match); PGA Tour/Web.com Tour player Kris Blanks; professional Matt Weibring (son of PGA Tour winner D.A. Weibring); amatuer Eli Cole (2013 Canadian Amateur champion); Thomas Birdsey (Wake Forest senior won 2012 Texas State Amateur/father, Don, had a 40.4 average as a punter at Kansas State from 1977-80); pro Zach Fullerton (worked as an electrician before getting back into golf/went to a junior college and New Mexico State and now competes on Web.com Tour); amateur Brandon Smith (T-11 at Texas 4A state high school tournament/father, Bruce, is teaching pro at Black Belt Golf Academy and qualified for two PGA Championships); Will Kropp (Edmond, Okla., native played at University of Oklahoma and now competes on PGA Tour Latinoamerica/father, Brad, is a urologist who will try to qualify for this year's U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National).
Amateur Whitsett Takes Route 66 to Pinehurst
By David Shefter, USGA | Photo: USGA/Darren Carroll
HOUSTON – Cory Whitsett might never have to buy another meal or beverage at Lakeside Country Club. Not after the performance the 22-year-old Houston native delivered for a few hundred close friends and members on his home course during 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifying.
Putting aside all the expectations that come with playing on his home course, Whitsett, the 2007 U.S. Junior Amateur champion and victorious 2013 USA Walker Cup Team competitor, put his local knowledge to use. He carded a pair of 6-under 66s – just three shots off his course record – on the 7,205-yard, par-72 layout to earn medalist honors by five strokes.
Bobby Gates, 28, of Magnolia, Texas, who was grouped with Whitsett for both rounds, shot 137 (70-67) for the second spot, while Anthony Broussard, 28, of Addison, Texas, holed a 3-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole, the par-4 17th, to edge William Kropp, of Edmond, Okla., for the final qualifying spot among the 56-player field. Both players shot 5-under 139.
Kropp is the first alternate, with Bronson Burgoon (140), of The Woodlands, Texas, the second alternate.
The U.S. Open will be conducted June 12-15 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2 in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C. Whitsett and Broussard, a former University of North Texas player, are making their first U.S. Open appearances, while Gates, a 2008 Texas A&M graduate, tied for 40th in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links.
Lakeside was ripe for good scoring after the area was besieged with 11 inches of rain the past week, softening greens and leaving a few puddles of standing water. Seventeen golfers finished under par.
But nobody could match Whitsett, who stole the show with a 14-birdie, two-bogey effort. As the day progressed and his low scores were posted online, more members and friends flocked to Lakeside to see the left-hander, who last week helped the University of Alabama defend its NCAA Division I title at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.
Looking relaxed and confident, Whitsett kept giving his gallery something to cheer about. When he birdied the par-4 ninth in the morning, a loud cheer went up. A bigger roar emanated through the property when he confidently holed a 15-foot birdie at the par-5 18th in the afternoon round to post a 4-under 32. Only a bogey on the par-4 ninth – his last of the day – halted what was a nearly flawless round.
After rolling in a short bogey putt on No. 9, Whitsett turned to his caddie, Lakeside assistant professional Ronnie Fletcher, and had a Christmas-morning grin. Everyone around the green saluted him with an applause fit for royalty.
In a sense, Whitsett was the king of Lakeside.
“I’m just glad I could get people off of work on a Monday afternoon,” said Whitsett. “I am everyone’s best friend tonight.”
Knowing one of the 10 United States-based sectionals was set for Lakeside, Whitsett decided to delay turning professional until after the U.S. Open and use his local exemption based on last year’s Walker Cup appearance and being ranked among the top 50 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™. He knew that if he went through a local qualifier – a must if he wanted to play the U.S. Open as a professional – there was no guarantee he would advance.
“It’s a track meet,” said Whitsett of local qualifying. “You have a couple of bad holes and you’re way on the outside looking in. That wasn’t the risk I wanted to take. It looks like a pretty good decision in hindsight.”
Gates, who shot a 2-under 70 in the morning, fed off Whitsett’s momentum, especially once the gallery got larger after lunch. On the par-3 10th, he stuffed a pitching wedge to four feet and made the putt to kick-start an inward-nine 6-under-par 30, two better than Whitsett. It got to the point where Gates and Whitsett could have charged admission for the birdie-fest they were producing. Through the first 15 holes, they were a combined 15 under par. A double-bogey 6 on No. 7 – his 16th of the round – and another bogey at the par-3 eighth dropped Gates back to seven under on the day.
“They were here for him,” said Gates of the gallery. “It’s his home course. I just got to ride along and enjoy it. We had fun.”
Gates will go to Pinehurst with U.S. Open experience and some knowledge of Pinehurst. He was the runner-up in the 2006 North & South Amateur to Brady Schnell.
“I’d like to say I’ll be less nervous, but that tee shot on 10 the first round at the U.S. Open at Pebble [Beach], I don’t know if there will ever be anything to compare to that,” said Gates. “But I played well at Pinehurst. It’s a ball-striker’s paradise and you have to have a ton of imagination around the greens. It’s going to be a pure version of golf. I think the USGA is going to set it up great and I think they’re going to have a really awesome champion. I just hope I’m able to contend.”
With hole-by-hole scoring for the afternoon round, Broussard had an idea that five under par would be the number. Sitting at three under with two holes left, he birdied them both – a 25-footer from off the green at No. 17 and a three-footer at the par-5 18th after nearly holing a long eagle chip – to secure a spot in the playoff. Kropp then pulled a five-foot birdie putt on the par-3 10th – the first playoff hole – to give Broussard new life.
“I don’t have control over what anyone else is doing,” said Broussard.
And on the par-4 17th, he controlled his own destiny. He stuffed his short approach to three feet after Kropp’s approach stopped 10 feet shy of the flagstick. Kropp missed his birdie putt and rolled in a 3 1/2-footer for par. Broussard, after backing away from the birdie putt once, then calmly converted for the spot in the U.S. Open.
“This is awesome,” said Broussard, who has bounced around several mini-tours since turning pro in 2009. “I’ve played really well this year.”
NOTES: A couple of notables failed to qualify, including 2004 British Open champion Todd Hamilton (144); 2011 U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft (146); 1984 U.S. Amateur champion Scott Verplank (147); Champions Tour player/1985 USA Walker Cup competitor Duffy Waldorf (143); and mini-tour player Zack Fischer (141), who survived a 12-hole playoff at last year’s sectional in Dallas over Ryan Palmer for the final spot … Verplank and Waldorf will compete in next month’s U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla. Verplank turns 50 two days prior to the championship … Dylan Frittelli flew 20 hours from his home in South Africa to compete in Houston. Frittelli, who helped the University of Texas win the NCAA title in 2012, shot 146 … Professional Kris Blanks, of Jupiter, Fla., withdrew after shooting a first-round 74.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.