Quail Valley Golf Club
(55 golfers for 4 spots)
Quail Valley Golf Club is serving as a U.S. Open sectional qualifying site for the second time. It last hosted qualifying in 2011. This will be the second USGA sectional held at the club in four days as the last of 24 U.S. Women's Open sectional qualifiers will be conducted on May 30.
Notables in the field: Past PGA Tour winners Brian Gay and Fredrik Jacobsen, along with lefty Nick O'Hern who has won twice on the PGA Tour of Australasia and currently competes on the PGA Tour. Amateur Sam Horsfield, who shot a 61 in a U.S. Amateur Public Links qualifier last year, also in the field.
Other storylines: Tyson Alexander (son of 1986 U.S. Amateur champion/recently retired University of Florida golf coach Buddy Alexander); brothers Andres and Nicholas Echavarria from Colombia (Nicholas was semifinalist at 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur); amateur Chase Koepka (brother Brooks qualified on May 26 in Surrey, England); Matthew Richardson (2005 GB&I Walker Cup Team member); amateur Scott Smyers (father Steve is a golf course architect and past USGA Executive Committee member); Tom Stankowski (former PGA Tour pro whose brother Paul also played on PGA Tour); amateur Curtis Thompson (sister Lexi won 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship and 2008 U.S. Girls' Junior and older brother Nicholas is PGA Tour member trying to qualify today in Columbus, Ohio); Lee Williams (2002 U.S. Amateur Public Links runner-up to Ryan Moore); Matt Ceravalo (won 2008 Florida Junior Boys Championship/father, Joe, played basketball at Southern Methodist University from 1977-80); amateur Hank Lebioda (Florida State sophomore diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 2012 and had a portion of his small intestine removed); brothers Jack and M.J. Maguire (Jack, who plays at Florida State, was locally exempt for being in Top 50 of World Amateur Golf Ranking, while M.J. plays at North Florida); and professional Justin Smith (Stuart, Fla., resident won Golf Channel's inaugural Big Break competition).
Berger, Three Others Earn U.S. Open Spots at Quail Valley
By Lisa D. Mickey | Photo: USGA/Scott A. Miller
VERO BEACH, Fla. – Daniel Berger, of Jupiter, Fla., played steady amid windy conditions to earn medalist honors in 2014 U.S. Open Championship sectional qualifying conducted at Quail Valley Golf Club on June 2.
Berger carded rounds of 66-68 to finish at 10-under 134, three shots clear of Nicholas Lindheim (71), of Satellite Beach, Fla.
Andres Echavarria, of Colombia, carded a second-round 71 to earn the third spot in the Open at 141, while Aron Price, of Australia, posted back-to-back 71s to claim the fourth and final spot.
“It feels great and it’s going to be my first U.S. Open,” said Berger, 21, a former All-American at Florida State University and a rookie on the Web.com Tour.
Berger credited a recent putter change that enabled him to finish as the only player in the field to post two rounds in the 60s on the par-72, 7,460-yard course.
“I made a lot of putts today and that was the key,” said Berger, who grew up playing with PGA Tour professionals at The Dye Preserve in Jupiter.
Currently No. 11 on the Web.com Tour money list, Berger won that tour’s first stage of qualifying at Quail Valley last year.
“That’s why I chose to play here,” said Berger. “I have some good history here and it’s worked out well for me.”
Lindheim matched Berger’s 66 in the opening round, but wrestled his way through the second 18 holes with five birdies and four bogeys.
“To be playing in the U.S. Open, it’s really unbelievable,” said Lindheim, who has labored on the mini-tours for the last eight years. “I hope it’s the beginning.”
Despite his opening-round cushion, Lindheim said he knew he still had to go out and play determined golf in the afternoon.
“I knew I couldn’t just coast,” said Lindheim, who didn’t start playing golf until age 17. “It wasn’t easy, but I made a 15-footer for birdie on my 16th hole and a 10-footer on the last hole for par.”
Lindheim learned between his first and second rounds today that he is the first alternate in the Web.com Tour’s Cleveland Open this week, so he also had to shut down his brain from making travel plans while trying to earn a spot in the U.S. Open.
“It’s just awesome because I am a kind of out-of-nowhere guy who grew up skateboarding, hanging out at the beach and playing baseball,” Lindheim said. “And here I am, going to the Open.”
Echavarria encountered the same shot from nearly the exact same spot behind the 18th green at Quail Valley that eliminated him from a playoff at the 2011 U.S. Open sectional qualifier. This time, he used a high-lofting, soft-stopping 62-degree wedge shot out of the deep rough to within 5 feet of the hole. He made the putt to earn entry into the Open.
“Coming back and getting the up and down for par in exactly the same spot I missed that playoff three years ago is so satisfying,” said Echavarria, 26, whose caddie was fellow former University of Florida golfer Isabelle Lendl, who finished as first alternate in the U.S. Women’s Open sectional qualifier last week. “I can’t put it into words, but my short game was phenomenal today.”
None of the qualifiers have played in the U.S. Open.
British amateur Sam Horsfield, who lives in Orlando, Fla., matched a score of 3-under 69 with Sebastian Maclean, of Bolivia, to force a playoff for the two alternate spots. Tied at 1-under 143, both players made bogey on No. 18, but Horsfield birdied the second playoff hole, No. 4, with a birdie to secure the first alternate spot. Maclean took the second alternate spot.
While a handful of players celebrated earning entry into the U.S. Open, Landon Michelson, of Miami, Fla., was distraught after being disqualified for signing an incorrect score card. The amateur wandered out into the 10th fairway alone and cried with a towel over his head for about 30 minutes until his caddie located him.
Earlier in the day, Michelson had filled the spot vacated by Swedish professional Fredrik Jacobson, who did not show for his tee time. Michelson, a recent Rice University graduate, carded a 1-under 71 in the first round and had moved into a tie for third at three under when he signed his scorecard.
The problem happened when Michelson erroneously signed for a four on the 11th hole instead of a five. Michelson had three-putted the par-4 hole for bogey.
“It’s just so frustrating,” said Michelson, still visibly shaken. “I realized I had made a mistake when I was talking to Andres Echavarria and he said, ‘Oh, you shot 70?’ And I thought I was one under. My caddie, Chris, and I went back over my score and we were like, ‘Yeah, it was 71, not 70.”
When asked if it softened the blow that he still would have had to play off at 142 for a spot into the Open, Michelson shook his head.
“No, I would have had a chance to get into the Open against one other person and I’m playing really, really well right now,” he said. “Everything would have been so much easier if I was going to the U.S. Open.”
Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.