Five Things to Know: Week 5 of U.S. Open Local Qualifying

By Brian DePasquale, USGA

| May 14, 2023 | Liberty Corner, N.J.

Five Things to Know: Week 5 of U.S. Open Local Qualifying

This is the fifth and final part in a weekly series on the path to the 123rd U.S. Open Championship at The Los Angeles (Calif.) Country Club’s North Course, June 15-18. The process begins with 18-hole local qualifying, conducted at 109 sites in 44 U.S. states and Canada. Those players who advance will join a group of locally exempt players in final qualifying, which will be conducted over 36 holes at 13 sites between May 16 and June 5.

During the four-week stretch of local qualifying (April 17-May 22), the USGA will preview some of the players and sites that lead to final qualifying, which will be staged in England (May 16), Japan (May 22) and Canada (June 5) as well as 10 U.S. sites, including one on May 22 and nine on June 5.

►The Club at Ruby Hill, in Pleasanton, Calif., will host local qualifying for the 14th time since 2009 and will feature Drew Olson, 40, of San Francisco, Calif., and Gregor Main, 33, of Danville, Calif. The UCLA alumni are hoping for a homecoming by qualifying to play at The Los Angeles Country Club as the Westwood campus is just over a mile from the club. Olson passed for more than 8,500 yards and 67 touchdowns as a Bruin quarterback and later played for three National Football League teams as an undrafted free agent. Main, an All-America and All-Pacific 10 Conference golfer for the Bruins, started his journey to qualifying for the 2016 U.S. Open at Ruby Hill. In 2022, Jaden Dumdumaya, 16, of Fairfield, Calif., advanced from this local site to final qualifying. Dumdumaya, a junior at De La Salle High School, became the youngest winner in the 98-year history of the California State Fair Amateur and won the Boys 14-15 Division of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship last year.

Brandon Sipe, who is self-taught and plays right-handed despite being left-handed, has no regard for age when it comes to golf. The 14-year-old from Yorktown, Va., will compete at Keswick Hall’s Full Cry Course in his home state on May 16. Sipe used to be a competitive tennis player before switching to golf after serving as a forecaddie for LPGA Tour player Kelly Tan. The homeschooled eighth grader has never taken a formal lesson and his father (Steve) says he is a visual learner who picks up tips watching videos and other players at practice ranges. In 2021, Sipe captured the Notah Begay III Junior National in the 13-and-under division by five strokes and last year he won the Scotty Robertson Memorial (14-under division) with a final-round 68. Sipe hopes U.S. Open qualifying is a springboard to a pair of other USGA championships as he is entered in qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur (June 13) and U.S. Amateur (July 10).

►Hot Springs (Ark.) Country Club will be the host site when 84 players, including some with U.S. Open experience, battle for the five available spots. Brad Elder, 48, of Dallas, Texas, has played in three U.S. Opens and qualified through both stages in 2015 when he recorded his best finish, a tie for 58th, at Chambers Bay. Braden Thornberry, like Elder, was a member of a winning Walker Cup team, helping the USA to a convincing decision at The Los Angeles Country Club in 2017. The 26-year-old from Olive Branch, Miss., played in the 2018 Open at Shinnecock Hills. Philip Barbaree, 24, of Shreveport, La., was also in the 2018 field with Thornberry. Three years earlier, he captured the U.S. Junior Amateur, rallying to beat Andrew Orischak in 37 holes at Colleton River Club. Brad Dalke, 25, of Edmond, Okla., was the runner-up to Curtis Luck in the 2016 U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills, which earned him a spot in the 2017 Open at Erin Hills. But not everyone in this field has qualified for a U.S. Open. Turk Petitt, 24, of Ruston, La., is still searching for his first. Two years ago, he won the NCAA Division I individual title while playing for Clemson University.

Bobby Leopold, who works for an insurance agency and has an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in economics, has taken on a new role this spring as head golf coach at Bishop Hendricken High School, in Warwick, R.I. The 38-year-old certainly can pass on his knowledge and experience of competing in 16 USGA championships to younger players. He has won three Rhode Island State Amateurs and advanced to the Round of 16 in both the 2011 and 2012 U.S. Amateurs. Originally from England, Leopold manages to juggle work and coaching schedule to stay competitive. Just before departing to compete in this year’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Kiawah Island (S.C.) Club, he will tee it up in the Lincoln, R.I., qualifier at Kirkbrae Country Club on May 16. Later this month, his Bishop Hendricken team will need his full attention when it competes for a state title following a runner-up finish in 2022.

►Palmer Golf Course, located 43 miles northeast of Anchorage, Alaska, will host the last of the 109 local qualifiers. Palmer is hosting for the seventh consecutive year in which qualifying has been contested. Jason Allred, 43, will make the trek from Gig Harbor, Wash. in the hopes of playing in his fifth U.S. Open. The 1997 U.S. Junior Amateur champion is a veteran of 70 PGA Tour events. While Allred is the oldest in this 16-player field, Shane Sundberg is the youngest. The 18-year-old from Sterling, Alaska, finished third in the 2022 state amateur and recorded a rare “1” on a 295-yard par 4 in last year’s state match play. Anchorage residents Adam Baxter, 41, and Sam Olson, 33, are also competing for the one available spot. Given the time of year, players often battle temperatures in the 50s. Baxter won the state amateur in 2013 and 2015, while Olson is a financial advisor and high school hockey coach.

NOTE: NBCUniversal’s Golf Channel will provide wall-to-wall coverage on Golf’s Longest Day, Monday, June 5.