People say the U.S. Open is the ultimate grind for golfers who must fully focus on every shot. The Open's 18-hole local qualifying event Thursday at Waynesborough Country Club provided that same model with breezy conditions, tall rough, and slick greens.
On a day when the average score was an obscene 80.26, Oliver White of Lower Gwynedd and Mikel Martinson of Charlotte, N.C., found the conditions at the Paoli layout to their liking and shared medalist honors with scores of even-par 71.
White, 21, who just completed his junior year at Allegheny College, posted four birdies on the back nine, where he shot the day's lowest score, 33 - one of only two subpar scores on the nine. Martinson, 28, who plays professionally on the eGolf Tour, had three birdies but lost his chance to be the only contestant to break par with bogeys on the final two holes.
The field of 122 players was competing for seven spots in the final qualifying round, a 36-hole sectional contest on June 3 that will determine the majority of the field for the U.S. Open, beginning June 13 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore.
Braden Shattuck of Aston, who just completed his freshman year at Delaware, stood at 3-under par through 13 holes but bogeyed four of his last six holes for a 72 that still advanced him to the next stage.
Jeff Osberg of Philadelphia, who has qualified for three of the last four U.S. Amateurs, and former Penn State star Travis Howe of Osceola, Pa., also were at 72, a shot ahead of Philadelphia Country Club assistant pro Mark Summerville.
Chris Gallagher of West Chester, who like Martinson and Howe plays on the eGolf Tour, picked up the seventh and final spot in a seven-man playoff by sinking a 10-foot birdie putt on the first sudden-death hole.
White, who plays out of Manufacturers Golf and Country Club in Oreland, rebounded from three 3-putt greens on the front side with birdies at 10, 11, 12, and 15.
"I couldn't make anything on the front," he said. "But on the back, I started making putts and kind of caught fire and I held it together. It was kind of nerve-racking at the end. I tried not to pay attention to the score, and I tried to put the nerves aside and just play."
Martinson was a first-time visitor to Waynesborough. He wanted to compete in Maryland with his two roommates, but that site was full, and he found the local course appealing because he is attending a friend's bachelor party this weekend in Atlantic City.
The choice worked out.
"I saw the course for the first time" Wednesday, Martinson said. "I've been starting to swing really good, and I just trusted myself. I had a lot of good yardages and hit a lot of really good putts."
Mikel Martinson, Charlotte, N.C. 33-38-71
a-Oliver White, Lower Gwynedd 38-33-71
a-Jeff Osberg, Philadelphia 36-36-72
a-Braden Shattuck, Aston 38-34-72
Travis Howe, Osceola, Pa. 35-37-72
Mark Summerville, Jupiter, Fla. 37-36-73
*-Chris Gallagher, West Chester 37-37-74
*a-Christopher Ault, Yardley 36-38-74
*a-Michael Kania, Haverford 35-39-74
*-Decided in playoff