With temperatures in the mid-90s, and thousands of cicadas striving to simulate the noise level of the loudest jet engine, the U.S. Open final qualifying event in Rockville, Md., was not only a test of a player’s talent but his patience and focus over nine to 10 grueling hours.
However, amid the long odds of 74 players competing Monday over 36 holes at Woodmont Country Club for four spots in the national championship, Chris Crawford stayed steady and captured a ticket to his third U.S. Open.
Crawford, 27, a three-time first-team All-CAA player at Drexel, fired rounds of 70 and 69 for a 5-under-par 139 total to qualify for the championship beginning June 17 at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. Crawford competed in the 2016 Open at Oakmont near Pittsburgh and in the 2017 Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.
“It’s fantastic,” the Bensalem native said Tuesday over the telephone. “Honestly, I was getting nervous, but I was trying to remind myself that it was fun. I always say that the U.S. Open sectional day is some of the most fun you can have as a competitive golfer, whether an amateur or pro, just the fact you get to wake up in the morning and have 36 holes for the chance to qualify for a major.
“It’s a very satisfying feeling when you kind of give it all on a day like that and are able to play well. You just feel so mentally and emotionally drained when it’s over but in a good way, a satisfying way.”
Crawford, who turned professional in October 2017, was well-prepared for the heat with the help of his caddie, Drexel coach Ben Feld, packing food and Gatorade in his bag with plenty of bottled water available on the course.
Crawford carded three straight birdies on the front nine of his afternoon round to get to 6-under and in the middle of the fight for an Open invitation. His only blemish on his last 10 holes was a 3-putt bogey at the par-3 16th, but he hung on with a two-foot par save at No. 17 and a two-putt from “50 to 60 feet” at 18 to secure his spot.
“I was really nervous down the stretch there, especially when it was only a two-footer at the end,” he said. “But of course, you’re shaking a little bit over something like that, and the lag putt, too. You’re just trying to stay as present as possible and keep running through the routine and trust yourself.”
His first introduction to the cicadas was about two weeks ago when he played a practice round at Woodmont. The bugs ramped up the annoyance level Monday by flying into Crawford and the other contestants.
“They kind of dive bomb into you, so I was picking cicadas off my shirt and my legs all day basically,” he said. “It’s so loud in some spots on the golf course that you can’t hear anything else. But when you spend all day out there, it kind of becomes white noise in the background.”
Crawford, who plays mostly mini-tour events, has missed the 36-hole cut in his two Opens but hopes to recall the good memories from those appearances when he arrives next week at Torrey Pines. That same plan Monday helped him get there.
“I played better this time, much more solid and more polished of a round,” he said. “There’s no doubt the experience is a huge help.”