Every year, thousands of amateur golfers tee it up across the nation to earn a coveted tournament roster spot for the U.S. Open in June. It is perhaps the one quality that separates golf from other sports: the chance for an amateur player to compete against professionals.
On Monday, June 3, nearly 1000 golfers will face the final obstacle between them and realizing their dream of playing in a major championship. This day has since been deemed The Longest Day in Golf.
Officially know as U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying, players across 10 states will spend their day playing 36 holes on some of the toughest courses not currently found on the PGA Tour schedule. Courses the likes of the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla, Old Warson Country Club in Rockville, Md and Lakewood Country Club in Dallas Tx are just a few tracks where players will either see their dreams realized or crushed in a matter of hours.
The scoring is simple: stroke play format spread over two 18-hole rounds in one day. Golfers who battled through the early local qualifying rounds at 111 different courses worldwide are now joined by players who were exempt from that stage. Finish high enough in your respective sectional qualifier, stamp your ticket to the U.S. Open later in the month.
Of course, even having the chance to compete in a local qualifier is an entirely different story, as Brent Kelley reports. Amateur or professional golfers with a handicap index at or below 1.4 submit their application to the USGA and wait for their assigned qualifier location. Even if you do get the chance to play in a local qualifier, you still run the risk of not meeting "good play" standards established by the USGA. These standards are established to weed out any golfers who may have been, well, "generous" with their handicap reporting prior to qualifying.
Golf's Longest Day is not without it's memorable storylines. In 2012, former PGA Tour player and controversial figure Casey Martin earned his way to the Open through sectional qualifying. Amateur golfer Dennis Miller was another feel good story last season, as writer Ryan Ballengee explained. After striking a perfect putt on his final hole -- a putt that Miller had to make to qualify for the Olympic Club in San Francisco -- his golf ball stopped on the edge of the cup. Seconds later, as Ballengee recalled, Miller's ball dropped and the crowd rejoiced.
On Monday, hundreds of Average Joe golfers will reach the end of their dream chase with disappointment and questions of what might have been. For a handful of others, the first tee at Merion Golf Club awaits.