Like its equivalent across the pond, the US Open holds a special place in the heart for many golf fans because, as the name suggests, it’s an open competition and all professionals or amateurs with a handicap of 1.4 or lower can enter. All you have to do is survive an 18-hole local qualifier and a 36-hole final qualifier, all the while pitting your wits against the best players in the region. Easy, right?
As a result, the US and Open Championship fields have a tendency to throw up a few interesting storylines with many participants dreaming of one big week that could literally prove life-altering. If you’ve had your fill of following the likes of McIlroy, Rahm, Scheffler, Spieth, Koepka et al, here are a few off the beaten track competitors who are hoping that they’ll hit it big in Hollywood this week.
Olin Browne Jr.
“Nobody beats Vitus Geralaitas 17 times in a row” were the iconic first words of the popular American tennis player after finally breaking his hoodoo against Jimmy Connors back in 1979. Well, US Open Qualifying did beat Olin Browne Jr., 17 times in a row, but he’d finally make it in at the 18th attempt. The son of 2011 Senior Open champion Olin Browne, after a brief stint on the Korn Ferry Tour, Peperdine University graduate Browne Jr. has bounced around the mini-tours for the last few years.
After shooting a 69 at his local qualifier, Browne Jr. headed to Columbus, Ohio for final qualifying, and with Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament held just the day before, there were a number of high-profile PGA Tour stars in attendance. Rounds of 66 and 67 saw Browne Jr. take medalist honours, while the likes of former champion Lucas Glover, Cameron Champ, Aaron Baddeley and Eric Van Rooyen all missed out.
If Olin Browne Jr.’s US Open debut is a long time coming, Berry Henson’s is significantly longer. Aged 43, the Southern Californian will make his major championship debut, 25 years after first attempting to qualify. Henson primarily plays on the Asian Tour, whilst making the odd appearance in Europe, and lives in Thailand.
But interestingly, when he returns to the United States, Henson moonlights as an Uber driver. He began taking fares whilst nursing a wrist injury back in 2016, but enjoyed it so much that he continues to do so. He’s tried and failed to navigate PGA Tour Q-School on seven occasions.
One of the dozen amateurs who’ll tee it up at L.A. Country Club, Morales is one of three who had to negotiate both qualifying stages to play his way in. The 20-year-old Mexican shot matching rounds of 65 at LA’s Hillcrest Golf Club to take top-qualifier honours ahead of the likes of Charley Hoffman, whilst Brenden Steele was among those who didn’t make the grade.
Morales is a junior at UCLA, with the campus an effective stone throw from the venue where the US Open is being staged, and with many of the top pros in the field seeing the course for the first time, Morales is something of a veteran having played the Herbert Fowler and George C. Thomas designed layout an estimated 25 times in the two years that he’s been a UCLA student.
Summerhays was the final man to play his way into the US Open at the Hillcrest qualifier, surviving a three-for-two playoff with Hoffman and Josh Anderson and will be the first of three Summerhays to compete on the USGA circuit this summer with sister Grace matching his feat in qualifying for the Women’s US Open at Pebble Beach, and uncle Joe competing the Senior US Open.
Golfing royalty, the Summerhays family’s exploits have seen Preston’s father, Boyd, become a four-time Junior All-American and graduate to the PGA Tour before a herniated disc ended his career after just 29 big tour starts. He is now a highly-rated instructor who counts Tony Finau among his clientele. Preston’s great-uncle Bruce is a three-time Champions Tour winner, and uncle Daniel won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Korn Ferry Tour (The Nationwide Tour as it was then known) as an amateur back in 2007.