The Bell Tolans for Thee
Whether a promising professional or an aged amateur, a club pro or a local legend, a major champion or veteran journeyman, a dream can be corralled at the U.S. Open.
Many players are living a weeklong fantasy this week at Bethpage State Park, including an unassuming 16-year-old from Colorado.
Derek Tolan chipped in from 50 feet last week at the Columbine Country Club in Denver to earn a spot in the 156-man U.S. Open field. He did so on the first playoff hole, besting former PGA Tour winner Mike Reid and PGA club professional Mike Zaremba in the process.
At first it was confusing. It hasn't hit me that I'm playing in probably the biggest golf event in the world, the 6-foot bespectacled Tolan said.
Without a hint of nervousness in his voice, Tolan calmly addressed the media Tuesday. His composure was another reassurance that todays youth is overly prepared for things once thought impossible - or at least improbable.
While most high schoolers are spending the summer enjoying the sun or saving money, Tolan is playing golf. In fact, the sport controls the majority of his interests.
Im not a very good student. I dont have any good subjects, he said, adding, I have a hard time focusing on two things at one timeI put most of my effort into one thing.
Therefore, golf trumps academics.
To me, I just feel like golf can get me further (in life) than (academics), he philosophized.
Where his single-mindedness takes him in the future is in doubt, but for now hes playing alongside the game's greatest.
Monday, he played a practice round with Steve Jones; Tuesday, Bob Tway, Scott Verplank and Justin Leonard; Wednesday it will be Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn and one of his idols, David Duval.
Thats probably the most exciting part, Tolan said of his getting to play with golfing luminaries. Theyve been great. Yesterday, Paul Stankowski came and shook my hand and told me, 'Congratulations.' I dont think he knows how much that helped me settle down.
Obviously, Dereks game is still under construction. He said he gained length over the winter ' partly due to a change in his swing and partly due to the course of nature ' that will allow him to contest the 7,214-yard par-70 Black Course.
Experience is still an attribute he is trying to possess. He qualified last year, at the age of 15, for both the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur championships, and won this years Arizona Junior Classic.
Playing in the U.S. Amateur helped me tremendously, he said. I walked up to players like (defending champion) Jeff Quinney and I felt intimidated. I felt like I didnt belong.
Now I know theres no need to be intimidated. I earned my spot here.
Though hes the youngest competitor in the field this week, hes not quite the youngest to participate in a U.S. Open. That distinction belongs to Tyrell Garth, who at 14, was too young to defend his country in 1941, but not too young to vie for a national title.
Should Tolan feel frisky this week, he can check the record books to see that John McDermott, at 19 years, 10 months and 14 days, is the most nubile Open champion.
Of course, Tolans mind ' congested as it is ' is focused on just enjoying the experience ' and maybe making the cut.
I just want to play well. I want to see what its like and get experience, he said. Well see where it takes me.
The benefits of competing in a national open are immense ' and often immeasurable. But there was one tangible perk that Tolan received once his unconscionable chip shot rolled into the bottom of the cup. Dereks father, John, who is the head pro at the South Suburban Family Sports Center, promised him a car if he qualified.
We always set little bets like that; not in golf but in everything, said Derek, who mentioned he was playing poorly at the time he and his dad made the bet. It was more of a pride thing.
The keys to the car were in doubt during the most part of the 36-hole qualifier. As one of 35 players vying for two spots, he was 1-under-par through 10 holes when he triple-bogeyed the 11th. However, by the time he again reached No. 11 in the afternoon, he had played some of the best golf of my live to reach 7-under. He finished with rounds of 70-69 to make the playoff.
Someone chipping in crossed my mind a little bit, but I didnt think I would be the one to do it, Derek said of the playoff-ending shot.
But he did, and now hes here. And his friends have one request: Get autographs.
I think they have enough to worry about without me bugging them, he said. Thats one thing I will not be able to bring back for those guys.
Tolan, however, will bring back plenty of more important things upon his return.
I just want to take in all of the experiences and take advantage of all the hospitality and stuff there is here.
This is incredible.
Full coverage of the 102nd U.S. Open
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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.
Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”
The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.
“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18
Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf
Well, this is a one new one.
According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:
“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”
Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.
“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.
The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.
“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”
The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.
Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.
Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.