2016 U.S. Open qualifying: The five best stories ahead of Oakmont
A winemaker, the son of a sportswriter and a recent college grad with a clutch flat stick will all play in our nation's championship
The U.S. Open is always rife with feel-good stories like players with 1.4 handicaps who qualified via local and sectional qualifiers and beat out pros at their own game to get to the nation's championship. These are folks the whole family can root for and the whole country can get behind.
Who can forget then-17-year-old Beau Hossler holding the 2012 U.S. Open hostage behind his braces and languid swing? Oakmont, site of this year's Open, has its own rich history with unlikely heroes. In the eight U.S. Opens that have been held at this course, only one was won by a relative nobody. That would be Sam Parks Jr. -- a local to Pittsburgh and a man with a knack for knowing Oakmont better than anyone else in the field.
That was in 1935, though, when it was easier for those kinds of stories to emerge because, frankly, there were fewer pros at the highest level entering tournaments like this.
This time around it's tougher to make it past all the PGA Tour players who drop in on the 12 sectional qualifiers. Here are five guys who did it and their respective stories.
Mike Van Sickle (age 29): A mini tour player and the son of Golf.com golf writer Gary Van Sickle is playing in his first U.S. Open. He grew up and graduated high school just 20 minutes from this course. Now he's playing it for his nation's loftiest prize, and his father gets to write about it. Can you even imagine?
Chris Crawford (age 22): The Drexel grad drained a 40-foot putt to make it to Oakmont. "As 40-footers go, it wasn't that tough; it was just a little outside the right edge," he told Golfweek. "Fortunately, that ended up being the proper read. I hit a decent-enough putt, and it just caught the left lip and went down."
Crawford added: "This is a dream come true. It's the U.S. Open. It's an unbelievable moment." Crawford won six times in college.
Matt Marshall (age 31): The winemaker from Portland was pretty much done with golf before qualifying in Washington last week. He played seven years on mini tours before moving back to Oregon to help with the family wine business. "For a little over a month, I haven't really been playing," Marshall told Golfweek. "All of a sudden, here I am going to the U.S. Open."
Wes Short Jr. (age 52): It's the first time for Short as well, and he doubles as the oldest player in the field. Short actually quit playing in his early 20s before picking it back up and making it all the way back to the PGA Tour in his 40s. "I didn't want to be one of those people at 50 years old who said, 'Hey, I could have made it on the tour,' which most of the time is a bunch of B.S.," he told the AP. "I wanted to go prove it, so that at least when I turned 50, I wasn't going to be one of them. I would know."
Ryan Stachler (age 19): One of three 19-year-olds in the field is also possibly the most unlikely. Stachler played just four (!) tournaments for South Carolina this past season and averaged a score of 75 in his freshman year. Now he's headed to Oakmont.
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