Brennen Walsh was beginning to wonder if it was time to choose another course. Whether it was his eight or his 10th attempt at the US Open Qualifiers – he didn’t remember – previous attempts at Maketewah Country Club had only ended previously in frustration.
“I was definitely letting it get to my head,” Walsh said.
But then Monday happened.
On this attempt, everything went smoothly. And if there was a potential mistake, it was corrected with the next shot.
By the end of his round, which began in the morning, he finished with a six-under-par 65. At 8:30 p.m., he still held a commanding four-stroke lead that will be enough for the 23-year-old to advance to section qualifying for the first time in his career.
“Oh my gosh, it’s relieving,” Walsh said in a phone interview. “I was confident. I knew a score like that was comforting and good enough to not have to wait around.”
For the former University of Cincinnati golfer, his round consisted of six birdies and a dozen pars.
“It obviously went very well,” he said. “I didn’t make any mistakes. And when I potentially did, they were in the right spots on the course so it went really smoothly.”
After he finished his collegiate career, Walsh said he contemplated trying to play professionally or on tours in southern states. Instead, he opted to play as an amateur.
Now that he’s the winner at Maketewah, he’ll be one of 10 golfers from Monday to qualify for the US Open sectional qualifiers. He said he’s expecting to compete at Springfield Country Club on June 4, where he’s played once before in an Ohio amateur tournament.
If he plays well again, it could mean a spot in the US Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York, from June 11-17.
“It would mean the world to me and it’s something I’ve dreamed about,” Walsh said of playing at the U.S. Open. “To think I could this time is eye-opening.”
Playing the waiting game
Others awaiting their fate weren’t as lucky.
Due to a slow start and the large playing field, rounds went longer than expected. For those who finished close to potentially making the cut, officials suggested at 8 p.m. that they go hit practice balls for a playoff.
Some golfers were still finishing their rounds. Other golfers who finished close to the projected cut, which is a par 71, sat under a shelter and waited to learn if their long day would continue. Coping methods varied.
Hays Moreland finished with a two-under 69. Knowing that was enough to qualify, his post-round celebration was sitting in a lawn chair under a tree at the 18th hole. He said he was waiting for his friend to finish.
Chris Muse sat beneath a shelter for over an hour, waiting to see if he would participate in the playoff. He called the wait painful, especially after a double-bogey on his final hole to par the course.
“It’s a little nerve-racking, but at the same time, I’ve been able to keep my cool all day,” Muse said. “I doubled the last hole to shoot a 71, so I’m definitely thinking about that.”
Current Xavier golfer Garrett Wood, who just finished his freshman year at Xavier University, finished earlier in the evening with a 72. He waited under the same tree as Moreland, but earlier.
“There’s definitely shots you leave out there, but you can’t dwell on them,” Wood said.
He said he enjoyed the one-day format, saying it’s more beneficial than playing against other golfers who could might have the endurance of a two-round qualifying tournament. Wood uses Maketewah Country Club as his practice facility during his college season with Xavier.
Wood said he was pleased with his round.
A total of 168 golfers competed in the qualifier Monday, which was the largest competition in the country. The 10 qualifying spots is the largest amount of openings as well.
There’s also two alternate spots open for competitors, but the future fate for who would advance will be determined in a playoff. With sunset expected at 8:42, the final qualifying spots will likely be decided on Tuesday morning.
As of 8:30 p.m., the final group of golfers were finishing the 18th hole as the sun began to dip below the tree line on the horizon.
Nine golfers finished even and had a playoff to decide five qualifying spots. After one hole Monday night, there are three spots remaining and two alternate spots left for five golfers, who will tee off at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Final qualifiers and alternates
While the final slots were decided Tuesday morning in a playoff, below is the full list of the 10 qualified golfers and the two alternates.
1. Brennan Walsh (-6)
T2. Chad Howard (-2)
T2. Moreland Hays (-2)
T2. Andrew Dorn (-2)
T2. Will Grimmer (-2)
T6. Alex Ebel (E)
T6. Rob Chappell (E)
T6. Nicolas Paxson (E)
T6. Joe McCarthy (E)
T6. Caleb Wolters (E)
First alternate – Stephen Stallings Jr. (E)
Second alternate – Thomas Lilly (E)