There probably isn’t an amateur golfer in the country who doesn’t dream of competing in the US Open or the US Women’s Open. I certainly harbor that secret longing. Only occasionally, however, does an amateur win the Open, regarded by players and fans alike as golf’s ultimate mental and physical challenge. Francis Ouimet did it in 1913. Jerome Travers did it in 1915. Chick Evans did it in 1916. Bobby Jones did it in 1923, 1926, 1929, and 1930. And Catherine Lacoste did it in 1967. Can Michael Kim do it this year?
The amateurs who qualify to play against golf’s Goliaths face an uphill climb at the Open, which is as much a test of mental stamina as it is a contest of technical skill. Just getting to the Open entails an endurance test.
This year 10 amateurs qualified to enter the field by advancing from one of 111 18-hole stroke play, local qualifiers to one of 13 sectional qualifiers — 36 holes of stroke play in a single day — and paying the $150 entry fee. Of the 10 who teed off Thursday, four survived the cut and will play the final round on Sunday.
Going in to the final round, where do the amateurs stand?
Michael Kim (USA), a junior at the University of California, the recipient of the Jack Nicklaus Award and Pac-12 Player of the Year, has the best shot of passing Phil Mickelson on Sunday. Kim made the cut at +3 for the tournament. Through 15 in the 3rd round he was at -3 for the round and enjoying what he described as “an incredible feeling” when he saw his name keeping company with Mickelson, Luke Donalds, and Charl Schwartzel near the top of the leaderboard. His stay was brief. A bogey on 16, a double on 17, and another bogey on 18 sent Kim plummeting down to 11th place going in to the final round.
Chen-Tsung Pan (Chinese Tiapei) is a junior at the University of Washington and is #5 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. At the end of the 2nd round, Pan was at +2 for the tournament and, like Kim, easily made the cut. Then Pan carded +5 for 3rd round test. Going into the final round Pan, at +9, is locked in a tie for 31st, along with Padraig Harrington and Tiger Woods. No doubt about it. Pan would thoroughly enjoy finishing up Sunday afternoon ahead of both.
Michael Weaver (USA), also a University of California junior and Kim’s team mate on the Cal golf team, squeaked by the cut at +8, as did Kevan Phelan (Ireland) the 4th amateur to make the cut. Weaver and Phelan both carded a +8 for the third round and are sharing 65th place on the leaderboard.
Merion has proved to be a cruel mistress. Demanding greens, unforgiving rough, narrowed fairways, and weather have challenged golf’s finest players. Can Kim make up the 5 strokes he needs to pull even with Mickelson? What will Sunday bring?