PINEHURST, N.C. – The U.S. Open attracts schemers and dreamers from all over the world, but Will Grimmer’s journey might be the most unlikely.
The 17-year-old made national headlines last summer when he shot 59 on Pinehurst No. 1 in the North & South Junior. The course played to about 6,200 yards, and Grimmer said that if “you weren’t shooting 65 out there, you were losing ground.” He eventually finished fourth in that event.
Returning to Pinehurst for the Open seemed like a pipe dream, a tournament he was still years away from even considering, but 12 months later he became one of 24 players who advanced through both qualifiers to get here.
Grimmer needed to complete high school exams in Cincinnati before making the trip to Pinehurst. In the past few weeks, tiny Mariemont High School – with about 100 students per grade – has honored the back-to-back state champions in lacrosse, a player who was selected in the MLB draft and now Grimmer, who has given a verbal commitment to Ohio State to begin in fall 2015. He is No. 53 in the Golfweek/Sagarin junior rankings.
“I’m just starting to feel comfortable around here,” he said Wednesday as he made the turn with his best friend, Michael Misleh, on the bag for his U.S. Open practice round. “It’s pretty incredible to be here.”
This is Grimmer’s eighth trip to this golf mecca in the North Carolina sandhills, though, as he said with a smile, “It’s my first time in the members’ locker room.”
Grimmer is one of 12 amateurs in the field, and though he’s the youngest in this week’s U.S. Open, he’s not the youngest in tournament history – that would be Andy Zhang, who was 14 when he played the 2012 Open at Olympic Club.
At least three amateurs have made the cut in five of the past six years, with a player finishing 21st or better in the past four editions.
So, who are the best bets to make the weekend at Pinehurst? Start with NCAA champion Cameron Wilson and U.S. Amateur winner Matt Fitzpatrick, who are playing their final events as amateurs. Other ams who could play a role this week: former Alabama star Cory Whitsett, Tennessee junior (and U.S. Amateur runner-up) Oliver Goss, Illinois senior Brian Campbell and Alabama sophomore Robby Shelton.