Farmingdale, N.Y. – It was the shot heard 'round College Station - a wedge approach to a couple of feet at Inverness Club’s 18th hole that clinched the NCAA Division I title for Texas A&M.
And now Bronson Burgoon’s club, which carried the Aggies to their first national championship, is enshrined at Inverness along with another sand wedge used to win a major title on the 18th hole.
Bob Tway holed out a bunker shot at the 72nd hole of the 1986 PGA Championship for a birdie to beat Greg Norman.
“[Inverness] wanted it,” said Burgoon during a Monday news conference at this week’s U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, where he is one of 15 amateurs in the field.
After handing over the wedge to the venerable Toledo, Ohio, club, Burgoon had to put a new set of wedges into his bag for U.S. Open qualifying on June 8 and the championship proper.
Not that he minds too much.
After all, he’s now part of history.
For an amateur to be eligible to compete in the U.S. Open, the player must have an official USGA Handicap Index no higher than 1.4.
But a quick look at the 15 amateurs competing this week at Bethpage State Park indicated that the highest Index was 0.0 (Tyson Alexander) and the lowest was Rickie Fowler, at +5.2.
Every year, the USGA has a little fun with the groupings and starting times for the U.S. Open. The traditional grouping has the reigning U.S. and British Open champions playing with the current U.S. Amateur champion, but last year's Amateur winner, Danny Lee, turned pro after the Masters and then failed to qualify for Bethpage.
So 2008 U.S. Open champion Tiger Woods and British Open winner Padraig Harrington are instead playing with 2009 Masters champion Angel Cabrera.
This year, the USGA has an all Oklahoma State grouping (Casey Wittenberg, Bo Van Pelt and amateur Rickie Fowler), as well as an all Clemson grouping (D. J. Trahan, Lucas Glover and amateur Kyle Stanley).
But the Association could have grouped golfers from the University of Arizona (Nathan Tyler, Jim Furyk, Rory Sabbatini and Ricky Barnes); the University of Florida (Camilo Villegas, Brian Gay, Tyson Alexander); Arizona State (Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey, Matt Jones) and Georgia Tech (Stewart Cink, amateur Cameron Tringale, David Duval and Matt Kuchar) and UNLV (Chad Campbell, Adam Scott and Ryan Moore).
One thing 2008 U.S. Amateur runner-up Drew Kittleson learned from his Masters experience in April was to pace himself. Most college players aren’t used to playing three or four practice rounds before a tournament, so when Kittleson played several practice rounds at Augusta National, he was exhausted by the time the tournament started on Thursday. He missed the cut, but not before he recorded a pair of second-nine eagles in round two.
Nevertheless, the Scottsdale, Ariz., resident is reminding himself not to get ahead of himself as he prepares for his first U.S. Open.
“I learned a lot about how my body reacts,” said Kittleson, a rising junior at Florida State. “I was pretty tired during Masters week.”
A total of 40 players in this year’s field competed at Bethpage in 2002, including champion Tiger Woods and runner-up Phil Mickelson. Among the notables to miss the cut in ’02 were Retief Goosen, who entered as the defending champion, Jim Furyk, Stephen Ames and David Duval.
Craig Bowden is the only player to have made it through local and sectional qualifying for both the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens. The Indiana native, who plays the Nationwide Tour, made the cut in '02, the only time he has played the weekend in four previous Open appearances.
When he tees off on Thursday, fans can serenade him with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” since he turns 40 on the first day of the Open.
A few other players are celebrating birthdays this week, including four-time U.S. Open runner-up and sentimental favorite Phil Mickelson, who turned 39 on Tuesday. Mickelson was to arrive Tuesday after returning to California following the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., to see his wife, Amy, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last month.
Also celebrating a birthday on Tuesday was England’s Simon Khan, who turned 27. Fred Funk turned 53 on Sunday and 1992 U.S. Amateur champion Justin Leonard turned 37 on Monday. Anthony Kim turns 24 on Friday and 1997 U.S. Amateur champion Matt Kucher will be 31 this Sunday, which is also Father’s Day.
A total of 21 countries are represented this week with England leading the way with 11 players, followed by Australia (nine) and South Africa (seven). Spain is fourth with five.
This year 29 players made it through both local and sectional qualifying. A record total of 9,086 entries were accepted and just 63 were fully exempt at the April 29 deadline. Twelve more became exempt on May 25 through current-year money lists and the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, leaving 81 qualifying spots from a pool of 9,011 golfers.
David Shefter is a USGA Digital Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.