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Three rounds from Shinnecock: Watch two GOLF.com writers take on U.S. Open local qualifying

May 15, 2018

Every May, close to 10,000 competitors enter U.S. Open qualifying with this knowledge: they’re only three good rounds from competing in a major championship.

It was with that same dream (delusion?) that I got up at 5 a.m. on Monday, May 7 and threw my clubs in the trunk of my colleague/caddie Sean Zak’s rental car, departing New York City for West Orange, N.J. I’d entered U.S. Open local qualifying at Essex County Country Club, where eight of 144 competitors would advance to sectional qualifying, and Sean had fully committed to his half of the venture, donning a white caddie jumpsuit. We were both relatively cheery for the early start: Shinnecock Hills was calling!

These days, I spend most of my days at a desk in our lower Manhattan office or out watching other, far better golfers do their thing. Playing golf from New York City is a bit of an ordeal. But it wasn’t always that way: I spent a couple of years after college chasing the pro golf dream — which you can read about extensively on this very website — before ultimately decided my efforts would be better directed toward serving you, our GOLF.com readers.

I’ve played some, but not many, rounds of golf since failing to advance through Q-school in October 2016, and so I came out with some trepidation, afraid I’d be unable to make a two-footer and end up shooting 93. But part of me was certainly hoping I’d recapture some magic and that no expectations and no swing thoughts may actually be the best way to play. Plus, I’d acquitted myself respectably in previous attempts at local qualifying; I made it through in 2015 and missed by two shots the next two years. Watch below to see how our day unfolded.

A 77 is sort of an interesting score; tour pros will occasionally shoot 77 and so, on occasion, will 10 handicappers. In my mind I’m still closer to the former than the latter, although scorecards and time may prove me wrong. Let’s hope not. Either way, I’ll be back out there. Ten thousand others likely will be, too.

At Essex County, it took one-under 70 to advance to sectional qualifying, while my 77 put me in a share of 74th, squarely in the middle of the field.

I asked Sean for his appraisal of the day. “I was happy to be judged not by the resulting score but by my effort, hustle, and wit,” he wrote back. Let’s stick with that. Trying and failing is one of sport’s most interesting qualities. The tiny chance at success? That’s even better. I tried hard. Maybe next year.