When he arrives at the U.S Open next week, 17-year-old qualifier Will Grimmer plans to approach PGA star Bubba Watson for a practice round.
Heck, the way the Cincinnati high school senior blistered Pinehurst last year the pros may seek him out.
Grimmer fired a 5-under 135 (70-65) at Springfield Country Club on Monday to become one of the youngest qualifiers for the U.S. Open golf championship, which starts June 12 on Pinehurst No. 2. A year ago Grimmer’s 11-under 59 set social media ablaze with his course record on Pinehurst No. 1 in the North and South Amateur Championship.
“That got a lot of attention,” Grimmer said, “but (qualifying for the U.S. Open) in my opinion will go down as a much bigger accomplishment. Being able to handle the nerves of the U.S. Open and getting there.”
Brian Stuard of Jackson, Mich., beat out 63 golfers to repeat as sectional qualifier medalist with an 11-under 129. Chris Thompson (137) of Lawrence, Kan., earned the final spot after sinking a 3-foot par putt to beat West Chester’s Andrew Dorn by a stroke.
“I was trying not to watch,” said Dorn, a first alternate for the Open. “You really don’t want to see a guy bogey No. 18. It’s kind of hard to root for a guy to do that.”
Grimmer, meanwhile, picked up more followers after his round of 70-65 in the 36-hole qualifier. His day included seven birdies and two bogies. The 5-foot-11, 127-pound Grimmer said consistency keeping the ball straight in Monday’s wind — and a few 300-yard drives — contributed to his chance to mingle with golf’s greats.
“Maybe I’ll talk to Phil or Bubba, try to get a practice round,” Grimmer said with a sly grin. “I know that’s what (then 14-year-old U.S. Open qualifier) Andy Zhang did a couple years ago. You never know. I just might try to seek them down or go join in a group. It’ll be fun being down there and soaking the atmosphere of the U.S. Open. It’s a dream come true.”
“That’s pretty crazy,” said Dorn, 21. “I couldn’t even imagine if I’d made it to the U.S. Open at 17 years old. When I was 17 I was trying to figure out if my car would start in the morning.”
Stuard’s 64 gave him a two-stroke lead over Thompson after the first 18 holes. His 65 cemented the win that featured 11 birdies and no bogeys.
Stuard could have played in any of the 10 sectional sites across the country. Winning the qualifier at Springfield CC in 2013 made it an easy decision. He was also just up the road in Columbus playing in the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Course, where he missed the cut.
“I choose (Springfield) because I played well here last year. This is my third time coming here now. I feel I know the course well,” said Stuard, who shot an identical 65-64—129 last year. “Why go learn two new courses when you know this one?”
Dorn just missed qualifying for a course he knows well. He won the prestigious North and South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2013 and was looking forward to returning. Now he’ll root for fellow Ohioan Grimmer.
“To finish with a birdie and to come up one shot short, you can look at as I missed by one shot or you can look at it as I shot 3-under for 36 holes,” Dorn said. “I really don’t want to beat myself up too much about it, even though I can look through my 36 holes and pick up a shot or two. But every round of golf is like that.”