Five Top Storylines From 2024 U.S. Open Local Qualifying

By David Shefter, USGA

| May 16, 2024 | Liberty Corner, N.J.

Five Top Storylines From 2024 U.S. Open Local Qualifying

After thousands of hopefuls competed in 109 local qualifiers across the country and Canada, the list of those trying to get a tee time in the 124th U.S. Open Championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2 has been significantly trimmed. The next step is 36-hole final qualifying at 10 U.S. and three international sites on May 20 and June 3. We combed through the list of 530 local qualifying survivors from the starting field of 9,522 to find five interesting storylines.

Back to the Future

Fifteen years ago, Jason Preeo was the head golf coach at Valor Christian High in suburban Denver, where reigning U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark first emerged as a junior/amateur phenom. During Preeo’s nine seasons at Valor Christian, the school won five state 4A titles.

Clark won a pair of state individual titles and a 4A team title in 2009 while being named Colorado’s 2011 player of the year.  

During that time, Preeo survived local and final qualifying to earn a spot in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he made the cut and finished tied for 82nd. Weekend rounds of 82-84 left a sour taste, despite the remarkable achievement.

“Not many guys have their high school coaches make it to a U.S. Open,” said Clark, “and then he took it a step further and made the cut…It’s amazing when someone so close to you does something so amazing. It really gave him a lot of credibility when he was trying to tell [the team] stuff. I remember that.”

Now 45 and still teaching at MetGa Golf Learning Center in Englewood, Colo., Preeo is hoping for one last shot at glory, and getting the chance to do it with Clark in the field would be the cherry on top. 

On April 30, Preeo posted a 2-under-par 70 at Collindale Golf Course in Fort Collins to share medalist honors with two others, including Jake Staiano, who was a Valor Christian freshman when Clark was a senior. That leaves Preeo 36 holes shy of getting a return trip to the U.S. Open. He’ll make that attempt at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., on June 3.

“I’ve been to enough [final qualifiers] now to know there’s still a long way to go, but it’s nice to have another shot at it again,” said Preeo.  As cool as it was to play at Pebble and make the cut, the really poor weekend left a bit of a sour taste overall, so I’d obviously love another crack at it. Unfortunately, time’s not exactly on my side anymore.”

Added Clark: “It would be pretty awesome if he made it here [to Pinehurst]. When I was in high school, he would have been the one to give me tips, so if he gets here maybe I’ll give him some tips.”

These days, Preeo stays up with Clark through Wyndham’s father, Randall, who comes to him for golf instruction. Otherwise, he sees what everyone else does on television. 

Last summer, Brad Lanning, who was Preeo’s assistant coach at Valor Christian while Clark was on the team, qualified for the U.S. Senior Open and had the chance to reunite with several ex-Stanford University teammates, including Notah Begay III. 

Will it be Preeo’s turn in 2014? 

A newspaper clipping from 2009 when Jason Preeo coached future U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark to a Colorado state high school title. (Jason Preeo)

A newspaper clipping from 2009 when Jason Preeo coached future U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark to a Colorado state high school title. (Jason Preeo)

Age Just a Number for Rudolph

Don’t tell Harry Rudolph III he’s too old to be qualifying for a U.S. Open. He might be 54, but he’s displaying the skills of someone half his age. A former junior/amateur/college standout from La Jolla, Calif., Rudolph shared medalist honors with Andrew Yun at Crystalaire Country Club in Llano, Calif., posting a 6-under-par 66.

For all his exploits, which includes an NCAA team championship at the University of Arizona in 1992 , a quarterfinal showing in the 1987 U.S. Junior Amateur and the 1991 California Amateur title, Rudolph has never qualified for a U.S. Open. In high school, he advanced to the Round of 16 of the 1987 U.S. Amateur and often battled fellow San Diego-area phenom Phil Mickelson.

But after an All-American career at Arizona, where his teammates were two-time U.S. Amateur Public Links champion David Berganio, two-time U.S. Amateur runner-up Manny Zerman and future U.S. Open/U.S. Senior Open champion Jim Furyk, Rudolph never match his amateur exploits in the play-for-pay ranks. He later retired from pro golf, got married, started a family and went to work at his family’s restaurant, Harry’s Coffee Shop.

When he turned 50, Rudolph set his sights on the PGA Tour Champions and has managed to get into 14 events since 2020. He’s also qualified for the last three U.S. Senior Opens; a tie for 34th at Omaha (Neb.) Country Club in 2021 is his best finish.

To play at Pinehurst, Rudolph will have the tough task of playing in the Columbus, Ohio, final qualifier at Kinsale Golf & Country Club and the Scarlet Course at the Ohio State University Golf Club against some of the best PGA Tour players and amateurs not already exempt into the field.

Harry Rudolph, seen here playing a U.S. Senior Open practice round in 2022 with ex-Arizona teammate and two-time USGA champion Jim Furyk, is looking to qualify for his first U.S. Open at age 54. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Harry Rudolph, seen here playing a U.S. Senior Open practice round in 2022 with ex-Arizona teammate and two-time USGA champion Jim Furyk, is looking to qualify for his first U.S. Open at age 54. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Family Affair

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler will have his share of supporters at Pinehurst No. 2. But he also could have a few more “friendly” competitors inside the ropes. Brother-in-law Andrew Paysse, who is married to Scheffler’s older sister, Callie, and his younger brother, William, each posted 3-under-par 68s on May 6 at Escondido Golf & Lake Club in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, to earn a spot in final qualifying.

Both players have selected Dallas Athletic Club as their No. 1 site for final qualifying. That could change, depending on the number of locally exempt players assigned to the site and where they fit in the pecking order among those who picked DAC. That 36-hole qualifier will be conducted May 20 and feature a number of PGA Tour players.

Andrew, 28, played at Texas A&M at the same time Callie did, and two years ago he advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Erin Hills. He’s currently an account executive for his family’s insurance company. 

William, 24, also followed his brother to College Station and enjoyed a celebrated career for the Aggies. But the two-time U.S. Amateur qualifier chose to join the play-for-pay ranks after graduating from Texas A&M but has yet to earn status on any major tour.

They weren’t the only brother combination to advance. Omaha, Neb., professionals Carson, 29, and Alex, 26, Schaake each posted 4-under-par 67s at Omaha Country Club on May 8. Both have chosen Springfield (Ohio) Country Club as their No. 1 final qualifying site. Each has already qualified for one U.S. Open: Alex last year at The Los Angeles Country Club (missed cut) and Carson in 2021 at Torrey Pines (missed cut).

Married to Scottie Scheffler's older sister, Callie, Andrew Paysse (pictured), and his younger brother, William, have a chance to compete alongside the world No. 1 at Pinehurst No. 2 next month. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Married to Scottie Scheffler's older sister, Callie, Andrew Paysse (pictured), and his younger brother, William, have a chance to compete alongside the world No. 1 at Pinehurst No. 2 next month. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Hometown Kid!

No person is more synonymous with the Pinehurst area than Peggy Kirk Bell. She and her husband, Warren "Bullet" Bell, purchased the Pine Needles Resort & Lodge and turned it into a world-class facility that has now hosted four U.S. Women's Opens Presented by Ally and a U.S. Senior Women's Open. Bell, a World Golf Hall of Fame inductee and former USA Curtis Cup player, was the recipient of the 1990 Bob Jones Award, the highest honor awarded by the USGA.

She also has quite a golf family. Her daughter, Bonnie, played at the University of North Carolina and later married 1978 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Pat McGowan. McGowan qualified for four U.S. Opens, making the cut each time. His best finish was a share of 13th in 1983 at Oakmont Country Club.

Now McGowan's son and the late Kirk Bell's grandson has a rare chance to play a U.S. Open in his backyard. Michael McGowan carded a 3-under 68 in a U.S. Open local qualifier at Hillendale Country Club in Phoenix, Md., on May 14. The former University of North Carolina golfer and now 33-year-old professional has chosen to play his 36-hole final qualifier this Monday in Dallas, Texas.

If he manages to get through against a heavy field of PGA Tour/Korn Ferry Tour pros, he'd be the toast of Pinehurst, and certainly at nearby Pine Needles where his uncle, Kelly Miller, now runs the resort. Miller has been a longtime fixture on the amateur golf scene and competed in a number of USGA championships, including the 1996 U.S. Amateur when he lost to eventual runner-up Steve Scott in the Round of 16. He's married to Peggy Ann Bell, whom he met at the University of Alabama.

"Playing and competing in Pinehurst would absolutely be a dream-come-true," McGowan said. "I actually played out there in March during the solar eclipse with my cousin, Walker Bell. It was neat seeing all the stands going up and getting the inside-the-ropes feel as you will. A feeling I wanted to make come to fruition a mere three months later. Thankfully, I have been fortunate enough to play Pinehurst No. 2 numerous times over the years with all the different junior and amateur tournaments held there." 

This past December, McGowan reunited with performance coach Veronica Karaman to talk 2024 goalws. The first thing that came to his mind was qualifying for the 124th U.S. Open just down the road from his childhood home. 

"It’s nice to see the time we put in and the things we’ve discussed really start to pay off," said McGowan. "[My] game has been trending for a while now and hopefully it continues to do so. That said, the work is not done until that final putt is holed this upcoming week. 

"It would be a very special time with all my family and friends there supporting me and I’m excited to give it my best. With grandma being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame [that is now housed at Pinehurst] and dad playing a good fifteen years on Tour, I have always felt I’ve underachieved to a certain point when it comes to golf. However, that’s the beauty with this game, you never know when the switch can flip." 

Blast from the Past

The 1913 U.S. Open triumph by underdog 20-year-old amateur Francis Ouimet is often considered the starting point for American golf history. Ouimet, a former caddie at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., took down British stalwarts Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a memorable 18-hole playoff. Vardon, a six-time British Open champion, had won the 1900 U.S. Open, and Ray would win it in 1920. Ouimet would also register a pair of U.S. Amateur victories and become an ambassador for the game.

Fast forward 111 years and another Ouimet could be teeing it up in the National Open. Arthur Ouimet V, of Manchester, Conn., carded a 1-under-par 71 in a U.S. Open local qualifier at the Country Club of Darien (Conn.) on May 13. He is scheduled to play at Canoe Brook C.C in final qualifying on June 3.

Ouimet said in an email that he “believes” he is a distant descendant of the legendary champion.

Arthur’s family lived in Massachusetts about 35-40 minutes from Boston, and Francis grew up across the street from The Country Club, and his father’s name was Arthur. Arthur also has an uncle named Francis, so the connection seems plausible.

And if Ouimet does make the field at Pinehurst, certainly a few people will be digging through ancestry registries for information. 

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.