U.S. Open hopefuls from across the United States, Austria, China, France, Ireland and Japan converged on Lakewood Golf Club this week with ambitions of reaching the national championship through the qualifying process.
This year's championship will be held at the famed Olympic Club in San Francisco which previously hosted the championship in 1955, 1966, 1987 and 1998.
The course conditions at Lakewood were superb with perfect greens and no wind. One of the early starters, Andrew Noto the reigning Mackel New Orleans Amateur Champion, birdied his first four holes en route to a 67. He knows the course well , "67 is not going to make it in these conditions." He was right.
And low they went, with the competitive course record falling to Tyler Neal of Tucson, AZ. His 63 featured a 28 on the front nine to go with his cooled-down 35 on the incoming nine. Neal credited this historic round to his work on the greens: "I made miles of putts."
In fact, Lakewood Golf Course Superintendent Ryan Campbell, GCSAA was on hand and received a personal thanks from Neal, "The greens could not have been better," Neal noted.
Four golfers advance to the final stage of qualifying. You had a score of 66 and five 67s not making it, this could have very easily been the best competitive golf played in America on this day.
* won spot on playoff with eagle on No. 10, the first playoff hole.
Patrick Reed came in as a favorite having just finished strong in the last three weeks (T 35 at Valero Texas Open, T24 at the Zurich Classic and T32 at the Wells Fargo Championship). He managed this run with an exemption in Texas followed by success in Monday qualifying for both the Zurich and Wells Fargo.
Reed, originally from Baton Rouge, attended University High School and was a member of the 2010 and 2011 NCAA Championship team Augusta State. On his first hole, he double-bogied the par-5 and played the next 17 holes in 7-under par despite a three-putt bogey on 17. He was solid with that 67 but as he said, "I am tired and going home to Houston to rest." Keep an eye on this up-and-comer.
On the international scene, a 13-year old, Tian Lang Guan of China, fired a 71.
Participants of local interest:
- Two Louisiana Amateur Champions competed – 2009 winner Andrew Loupe carded a 68 while 2010 champion Ken Looper (former UNO and LSU golfer) qualified with a 64.
- Matt Hungerman, the 2010 Mackel New Orleans Amateur Champion (his last amateur championship), qualified with a 65.
- Casey Crain – Lacombe, LA – 67
- Austin Gutgsell – Mandeville, LA - 69
- Neal Ajubita – Metairie, LA – 70
Lakewood Golf Club which hosted the New Orleans PGA Tour event from 1963 to 1988 has returned to the prominence as a leader in promoting and growing golf in New Orleans. After closing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Lakewood underwent a major renovation and reopened in 2009, celebrating 50 years in 2011. Lakewood under the guidance of PGA Director of Golf Brad Weaver is the permanent home of The Mackel – The New Orleans Amateur Golf Championship presented by Cox and the Allstate Sugar Bowl Tommy Moore Memorial Junior Championship.
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