Cauley on verge of joining very exclusive company

By Doug FergusonOctober 11, 2011, 9:39 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Bill Cauley was a diver in the U.S. Navy who didn’t know much about golf except for the little he played on base at Mayport Naval Station. And he knew enough to realize that his little boy had a big appetite for the game.

Bud Cauley got his first set of golf clubs when he was about 5, and it doesn’t seem as though he ever put them down. Father and son used to spend hours at twilight on the putting green of a public course, chipping and putting until the pro shop closed and they could sneak over to the first tee and play until dark.

“We knew how to make a dollar stretch,” Bill Cauley said Tuesday.

It has paid off in a big way.

Cauley is on the verge of joining a distinguished group on the PGA Tour. The 21-year-old shot a 66 in the final round of the Open to finish alone in third and make $340,000. He has earned $671,150 in seven tournaments, the equivalent of being No. 114 on the money list.

If he can stay among the top 125, then Cauley would become only the sixth player to turn pro and get his PGA Tour card without having to go to Q-school. With two tournaments left - Cauley is playing at Sea Island this week in the McGladrey Classic - that appears to be a safe beat.

The others to do that - Ryan Moore, Tiger Woods, Justin Leonard, Phil Mickelson and Gary Hallberg.

Cauley wouldn’t allow himself to think that far ahead. It was only about four months ago that he left Alabama after his junior season to turn pro, driving from the NCAA Championship in Stillwater, Okla., to a U.S. Open qualifier in Mississippi. He made his pro debut in Congressional, tying for 63rd in the U.S. Open. Since then, he has played 22 rounds on the PGA Tour shot in the 60s all but five times.

Cauley is one of several college kids who have stood out this year.

Patrick Cantlay, now a sophomore at UCLA, is getting most of the attention. One week after he was low amateur at the U.S. Open, Cantlay shot 60 in the second round of the Travelers Championship, and then tied for ninth at the Canadian Open. Two college players from Georgia, Harris English and Russell Henley, won Nationwide Tour events.

Ultimately, the most impressive mark might belong to Cauley because of the elite company he is about to keep.

It’s one thing to have a good round, or a good week. Cauley said he turned pro because he knew he could compete with anyone, and then he has spent three months proving it.

He tied for 24th in the Travelers Championship (same as Cantlay), and tied for fourth in the Viking Classic, with a small purse because it is opposite the British Open. That got him into the Canadian Open, where he tied for 13th. The only cut he missed was in the Reno-Tahoe Open.

Perhaps even more impressive is that of the list of guys skipping school, only Woods and Mickelson earned cards with fewer chances than Cauley. Mickelson won as an amateur in 1991, giving him a two-year exemption when he turned pro a year later. Woods won in his fifth start.

Moore played in 10 tournaments before he earned enough money to get his card, while Leonard played 13 times and Hallberg got his card in his 14th start the summer of 1980. It could be that Cauley only needs seven chances.

“Getting starts out there and playing is really the most difficult thing,” Cauley said.

Getting noticed hasn’t always been easy this year, if not from tournament directors than from the guys he’s trying to beat. Cauley played the third round at CordeValle with Ernie Els. Cauley is only about 5-foot-7 with a slight build, and to see him walk down the fairway with the 6-foot-4 Big Easy, they looked like Andy and Opie headed to Mayberry’s best fishing hole.

Small wonder, then, that Els turned to Cauley that Saturday and innocently asked, “When are you going to turn pro?”

“I think by the back nine, he knew I was a professional,” Cauley said.

“That was my fault,” Els said with a sheepish grin. “Great guy, great kid. Met his father on the range. I wouldn’t mess with him ever. I hear he was in the military, in the Navy. Nice man. And he’s got a great son, a great future. He will be a great player.”

Cauley is not there yet, although it’s a first step worth noting because it is based on results over three months.

A tweet from Cauley as he left CordeValle shows how much he appreciates how far he has come.

“Thanks for all the support! Looking forward to next week. Very appreciative for the sacrifices my family has made to put me in this position.”

What sacrifices?

His father retired after 20 years in 2010 in the Navy. His mother is a reading coach at an elementary school who educated Bud at home so he could practice during the day. It’s not cheap to groom a golfer. Bill Cauley started a diving business on the side in which he would clean the bottom of luxury boats.

“I used to bring Bud along and let the gnats feed on him while I was diving and cleaning the boats,” his father said. “He saw what it takes to provide. And I think he saw what a strong work ethic can do.”

Another tweet showed how good life is treating him these days. During a practice round Tuesday on the Seaside Course at Sea Island, he made a hole-in-one.

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USGA receives more than 9,000 U.S. Open entries

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 4:31 pm

The field of contestants for golf's most democratic major has been set.

The USGA announced that it received 9,049 entries for this year's U.S. Open, with the deadline for entry expiring at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. That total includes 515 applications on the final day, 115 in the final hour and a buzzer-beater from Drew Caudill, a 32-year-old pro from Mount Vernon, Ohio, who beat the entry deadline by only 23 seconds.

This marks the seventh straight year that the USGA has received more than 9,000 entries, but the total marks the second straight year of a decline in applications. At least 9,860 players entered each year from 2013-16, topping out in 2014 when 10,127 applications were received. But last year there were 9,485 entries for Erin Hills, and this year's return to Shinnecock yielded only one more application than the USGA got in 2005.

For the vast majority of entrants, the next step is a spot in 18-hole local qualifying which begins April 30 and runs through May 17. The fortunate few advance from there to 36-hole sectional qualifiers, played May 21 in Japan and June 4 across 11 other sites in the U.S. and England.

A total of 54 players are already exempt into the 156-man field, including 12 former winners. The only remaining ways to earn an exemption from qualifying are to win either The Players or BMW PGA Championship next month, or be ranked inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The U.S. Open will be played June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., which is hosting the event for the first time since 2004.

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Report: Houston Open may move to Memorial Park in '19

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 3:48 pm

Still without a permanent spot on the PGA Tour schedule, the Houston Open appears to be on the move.

According to a report from the Houston Business Journal, there is a proposal in place to shift the tournament downtown in 2019, returning to Memorial Park Golf Course which previously hosted the event from 1951-1963.

While formal relocation plans have not been announced, the tournament officially reached the end of an era this week when the Golf Club of Houston, which has hosted the event since 2003, informed the Houston Golf Association that it would no longer serve as tournament host moving forward.

"We received notice this week from the Golf Club of Houston regarding the club's decision to no longer host a PGA Tour event," read an HGA statement obtained by "Currently, the HGA's focus is on securing a long-term title sponsor. The Golf Club of Houston has been a great venue for the Houston Open dating back to 2003 and we look forward to maintaining a great relationship with the club."

Such a move would be a win for Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, who has expressed an interest in returning the tournament within city limits. The Golf Club of Houston is located in Humble, a suburb 20 miles northeast of downtown.

"This move would place the tournament on center stage in downtown Houston, creating a central location for the city to rally around," read marketing materials cited in the Business Journal report. "Houston Proud Partners of the Houston Open would have the opportunity to collaborate with the Houston Golf Association on this historic move and make a lasting statement that would be seen for generations."

The Houston Open's lineage dates back to 1946, but its future remains in question. Shell Oil ended its 26-year sponsorship of the event in 2017, and this year it was played without a title sponsor and financed in part by the HGA.

The tournament has also carved out a niche with its pre-Masters slot on the schedule, where it has been played every year but once since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. But next year that coveted position will go to the Valero Texas Open, leaving Houston's place on a revamped 2019 schedule in question.

The Houston Open remains one of only two tournaments on the current Tour calendar without a title sponsor. Earlier this week Charles Schwab signed a four-year deal to sponsor the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019, and a report this week indicates the other unsponsored event, The National, may be on the verge of moving from the Washington, D.C. area to Detroit.

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With baby on the way, Piller WDs from Zurich

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

AVONDALE, La. – With wife Gerina set to give birth to their first child, Martin Piller figured he’d need to check his phone every few holes at the Zurich Classic.

He didn’t even make it that far.

Piller withdrew before the start of the first round Thursday.

Piller’s partner, Joel Dahmen, who only got into the field because of Piller’s status as the team’s A player, was allowed to remain in the event.

Piller was replaced in the field by Denny McCarthy. The new team of McCarthy-Dahmen will tee off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

The format change at the Zurich should make things easier for the new teammates. The first round is now best ball, not alternate shot.

The only event that Gerina, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cupper, has played this season was the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. The couple’s baby was due May 3, and she said that she plans to take off the entire year.

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China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.