The dream for any proficient golfer is to play in a big-time golf tournament on the PGA Tour. That isn't very feasible, but there is one tournament that is "open" to any scratch golfer.
The U.S. Open allows any professional or amateur with a handicap of 2 or less to enter the tournament and for the second straight year, more than 6,000 golfers have entered the U.S. Open. Of course the 6,063 golfers won't be playing in the 91st Open Championship June 13-16 at Hazeltine Golf Club in Minnesota.The field needs to be whittled down to 156 entries. And with 65 players already being exempt for various reasons, the chances of qualifying aren't great, about 1 in 70.
The first step in that process is this week when local qualifying rounds are being held at 81 locations around the country.
The Utah field of 42, which will play at the Salt Lake Country Club Wednesday and Thursday, will include 34 pros and eight amateurs. Four golfers will qualify and move on to one of 12 sectional qualifying sites.
Although the odds aren't good, Utah players have done pretty well over the past decade. Jimmy Blair and Mike Malaska have each made it to the Open a couple of times. Tom Costello and Bob Betley have both qualified. Just two years ago, Utah amateur Eric Hogg made it all the way to the Open.
No local players from the PGA Tour are exempt into this year's Open although several are exempt into the sectional qualifying. Jay Don Blake, Keith Clearwater, Rick Fehr, Dan Forsman and Mike Reid will be going up against fellow Tour pros and the dreamers who hope to make it to the big time just once. STUCK IN THE MUD: Weather problems have caused the opening of the new Westridge Golf Course back nine to be moved back nearly a month. But all the blame can't be laid on the lousy spring weather.
A couple of weeks ago some rowdy teenagers caused considerable damage by driving around on newly-laid sod and breaking a water line. They ruined parts of the 10th and 11th holes and caused $30,000 damage. The soggy weather hasn't allowed course officials to get the proper equipment out to repair the damage.
So instead of a May 17 opening, the Westridge back nine is scheduled to open June 1 with June 15 more likely.
At least the perpetrators were caught. It seems the vandals got stuck in deep mud and tried to get another vehicle to help, only to get it stuck too. So they called a tow truck, which, before towing the vehicles, called the police.
"Everybody who comes in here is mad at those kids," said assistant pro Devin Dehlin.
TOURNEY CORNER: Last week: Henry White won the Spanish Oaks Open with a 138 total. Tom Bashford and Shon Loveland won the Skyway Best Ball at Tremonton. Don Baughman (155) won the Canyonlands Amateur. Ron Seely and Kevin White teamed to win the Murray Parkway 2-Man Chicago. Gary Southern won the Millard County Amateur.
Next week: Monday-Tuesday - UGA Seniors at Logan; Wednesday-Thursday - U.S. Open Qualifying at The Country Club; Friday - Palisade 3-Man Scramble, Jeremy Ranch 2-Man Scramble, Rose Park Pro-Am, Moab Ladies Best Ball; Saturday - Rose Park Open, Green Spring Best Ball, Smithfield Best Ball at Birch Creek, Bountiful City Amateur, Moab Ladies Desert Duster; Saturday-Sunday - Kanab Kouples at Coral Cliffs, CFM Sun Desert Golf Academy at St. George. Also the Men's WAC Golf Championship will be Thursday through Saturday at Ft. Collins.STRAY SHOTS - In the Country Club 8-Man Team Matches in April, Ogden beat Riverside 23-13, Hidden Valley defeated Alpine 28.5 to 7.5, Willow Creek edged Logan 18.5 to 17.5 and Oakridge beat 21.5 to 14.5 . . . The Utah Section PGA will conduct two sessions of its annual Clubs For Kids Program. Golf City (1400 E. 5600 South) in Ogden will host the first Clubs For Kids day next Saturday. The second session will be May 25 at Nibley Park. For more information call Utah Section PGA (532-7421), Golf City (479-3410) or Nibley Park (483-5418) . . . The deadline for entering the Men's State Amateur is May 24 . . .