Golf

Amateurs with Texas ties among long list of U.S. Open hopefuls

Sam Saunders, right, a grandson of 1960 Open champ Arnold Palmer, left, used borrowed clubs at a qualifier to earn a spot in this year’s field.
Sam Saunders, right, a grandson of 1960 Open champ Arnold Palmer, left, used borrowed clubs at a qualifier to earn a spot in this year’s field. AP

The biggest names in professional golf have assembled to compete in this week’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, Washington.

So, too, have the biggest long shots.

Nearly half of the 156 competitors who will tee up in Thursday’s opening round earned their spots through a global qualifying process available to professional and amateur golfers who meet the handicap requirement specified by the USGA (1.4 or better).

Typically, the 36-hole sectional qualifiers that produce the final participants in the Open field favor players from the PGA Tour or Web.com Tour.

But that is not always the case. Every year, some under-the-radar dreamers squeeze into the field with hopes of taking down Tiger, Phil or Rory in a final-round showdown.

They draw inspiration from Frances Ouimet, the 20-year-old amateur winner of the 1913 U.S. Open who once caddied at the course where he claimed his title (The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.).

They point to eight other amateurs who have hoisted the tournament trophy, most recently Johnny Goodman in 1933. Struggling pros can revel in the success of recent qualifiers-turned-champions such as Steve Jones (1996), Michael Campbell (2005) and Lucas Glover (2009).

Below is a look at five qualifiers who bring notable stories, as well as underappreciated golf games, to this year’s event:

Bryson DeChambeau

The SMU golfer followed his individual victory at the 2015 NCAA Championship with an 11-under-par effort over 36 holes at the Columbus, Ohio, qualifier to earn his spot in the Open field.

DeChambeau, 21, will compete as an amateur at Chambers Bay and has one season of eligibility remaining at SMU. DeChambeau started quickly at the qualifier, reaching 5 under through six holes, and said he built on that confidence throughout the event.

After participating in four U.S. Amateurs and two U.S. Amateur Public Links Championships, he is excited to make his U.S. Open debut.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed about for a long time,” DeChambeau said.

Cole Hammer

The 15-year-old from Houston will be the youngest player at the Open and third-youngest in tournament history.

Hammer, who just completed his freshman year at the Kincaid School, finished second at the Dallas qualifier with rounds of 64-68 to post an 8-under total at Northwood Club.

Hammer (5-foot-9, 125 pounds) will not turn 16 until Aug. 28 and trails only Andy Zhang (14 years, 6 months in 2012) and Tadd Fujikawa (15 years, 5 months, 7 days in 2006) on the list of youngest qualifiers in tournament history. He said he entered the qualifier to gauge his game against professionals and wound up with a pleasant surprise.

“This means the world to me,” Hammer said after securing his spot at Chambers Bay. “I never would have imagined this would happen. I was a bit of a long shot, but why not give it a shot?”

Beau Hossler

The Texas golfer, 20, returns to the event where he made a name for himself in 2012 by grabbing a solo lead in the second round as a 17-year-old en route to a tie for 29th.

Hossler, still an amateur, will be playing for the third time at the Open (2011, 2012, 2015) and the first time since joining the Longhorns’ golf program. Hossler, a native of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., fired a 7-under total at the qualifier in Newport Beach, Calif., to secure his return to the event for the first time in three years.

Sam Saunders

A Champions’ Choice invitee to the 2015 Colonial tournament, Saunders will bring two unique characteristics to the first tee Thursday.

He is the only player in the field who is the grandson of golf legend Arnold Palmer, the 1960 Open champ. And he’s the only golfer who earned his spot by using borrowed clubs at his qualifier.

Saunders, 27, ditched his irons after missing the cut at the Memorial Tournament with rounds of 76-80 and replaced them with a set owned by his caddie, Travis McAlister.

The PGA Tour rookie fired rounds of 66-66 to share medalist honors at the Columbus, Ohio, qualifier and has no intention of returning the clubs to McAlister ... yet.

“I also made a good swing adjustment over the weekend,” said Saunders, who gave the borrowed irons to McAlister as a gift. “I hit it well.”

Lee Janzen

A two-time U.S. Open champion (1993, 1998), Janzen became the oldest qualifier in this year’s event by posting a 4-under total to claim medalist honors in Purchase, N.Y.

Janzen, 50, had been 0 for 6 in qualifiers since his exemption as a past champion expired after the 2008 event.

A rookie on the Champions Tour, Janzen’s last PGA Tour triumph came at the 1998 U.S. Open. He has not cracked the top three at a tour event since 2006.

But he’s got a tee time at Chambers Bay, one of three consecutive majors on Janzen’s summer tournament schedule: two on the Champions Tour, plus this one.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

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