(Update: Adding video, comment from competitors)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Sports have a way of showing us both the highest of highs and some of the lowest of lows.
Monday’s U.S. Open Final Qualifier at the Pronghorn Resort’s Nicklaus Course had no shortage of both, with some golfers even seeing both during the same day, as three secured spots in next week’s U.S Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Seventeen-year-old Max Herendeen was on top of his golf game, and the qualifier, for much of the day.
“I fought my hardest today and really couldn’t have asked for anything else,” the Bellevue, Washington native told NewsChannel 21. “I mean, putting yourself in contention in a field like this is all you can ask for pretty much.”
He led after the opening round of the 36-hole qualifier with a 5-under 67, tied for the lowest of the event. Working on a 2-under round going into the second nine, the Illinois commit looked good to nab one of the qualifying spots.
But his tee shot on the par-5 16th went awry. He tried to play conservative with a driving iron.
“The wind was pumping off the left, and it just kept fading,” the high school junior said. “I went into the right rocks.”
He carded a 7 on the hole, which played under par for the event, dropping him from 6-under to 4-under and outside the cutline.
In his first attempt at final qualifying for the U.S. Open, one would think Herendeen would have been upset, having just blown a chance to play in the national championship. It was quite the opposite.
“I’ve been playing great the last month or so, and the confidence is definitely there,” Herendeen said. “It’s super-helpful to kind of see that I can test myself against the field like this.”
Herendeen was one of 65 players playing in one of the smallest of the 11 final qualifiers, nine of which were held on Monday, earning the moniker, “Golf’s Longest Day.”
And as quickly Herendeen as fell, Chehalis, Washington’s Brady Calkins rose just as fast.
Calkins played the final 27 holes of event bogey-free, including a dramatic second-round eagle hole-out from 140 yards on the par-5 eighth hole (his 17th of the round) to solidify his position inside the cut.
“I was aiming in the middle of the green, and I pushed it a little bit, the wind brought it in and it landed just right next to the hole — and spun back right in the right in the cup,” Calkins said. “I freaked out. I lost my mind. And it was kind of hard to compose myself and play this last hole.”
The emotions of the moment got to Calkins. He pushed his tee shot on the ninth hole right, nearly coming to rest directly behind a tree. However, he caught a break and hit his next shot over another tree to 10 feet from the hole.
“I saw it end up on the green, and I started kind of counting my chickens before (they hatch),” the 27-year-old said.
He was clearly coming to grips with what he was on the cusp of doing, walking down the fairway with his face in his hands.
However, his caddie steadied him, saying, “We’re not done yet.”
“Just a couple of deep breaths, and walked up there and cozied the putt up there,” Calkins said. “I wish it wouldn’t have ended, but it works. It was awesome.”
A two-putt, and he became the first player to post 8-under and secure his first berth in a U.S. Open, eight years since turning professional.
Former Standford standout Isaiah Salinda matched Calkins at 8-under to share medalist honors in the next group. Salinda will also play in his first U.S. Open.
“I haven’t even thought about it yet,” said the San Francisco native, who flew in last Sunday night from a Mackenzie Tour event in Canada. “Like, what it’s going to be like? I’m just stoked to have to go out and to have gotten through.”
The final spot went to amateur Ben Lorenz, who defeated Ty Travis in a playoff after both players shot 6-under for the two rounds.
The post ‘Golf’s Longest Day:’ Trio grab U.S. Open spots at Pronghorn final qualifier appeared first on KTVZ.