By Jon Levy
Every year around this time I get a little sad.
It’s our nation’s golf championship – the U.S. Open – after all, and while I LOVE watching every minute of the action possible on the flat screen, this tournament, more than any other, elicits memories of my own professional golf career and I start missing my former life of never-quite-got-there player on the mini tours.
Never mind there’s a reason I hung ‘em up years ago – lack of money and an overabundance of stress to name two, actually – but the fact that the U.S. Open is a major championship I can still make my way into in as a “retiree,” I still get the feeling that I’m missing the party of the century to which I never got invited.
Let’s also note I’ve qualified out of U.S. Open Local Qualifying into the Sectional Qualifier on three different occasions, all since after my days as a full-time player. One of those I missed by just three shots (damn putter on the final nine), so coming that close to tasting major championship “glory” firsthand only furthers the sentimental feeling.
Yes, every year around this time I get a little sad. But, just a little, because as a diehard fan of golf more than anything else, our national championship embodies everything great about the game, and there’s a lot more to this week than meets the simple eye.
The year I finished three shots out from earning a spot in the U.S. Open was 2003. I played my Sectional Qualifier practice round with a 16-year-old kid named Tom Glissmeyer, and it was he who finished threeshots ahead of me to earn a spot at Olympia Fields.
Guys, or kids, in this case, like him are exactly why the U.S. Open epitomizes the greatness of golf and its uniqueness on a competitive level. If you’re a golfer and carry a USGA-recognized handicap index of 1.4 or below, you’re eligible to enter Local Qualifying and can truly make The Greatest Game Ever Played a reality. GolfTEC’s Nick Miller recently wrote on his experience at U.S. Open Local Qualifying in May.
My favorite part?
In terms of Thursday’s first round (at a minimum), the real-life version of the Shia LaBeouf movie often does play out, as there always seems to be an amateur or never-before-heard-of pro near the top of the leaderboard. Be sure to keep an eye on this at Oakmont.
The U.S. Open is often explained as the fairest and most challenging test in golf.
Many think the USGA just likes to see the players struggle and often purposely set up their venues unfairly, but to truly provide the ultimate test for the best players in the world, you’ve got to take it to the edge and sometimes you just plain fall over. So I think this stigma comes from the USGA’s occasional course setup miscue than anything else, but from early reports at Oakmont this week, guess we’ll see how they handle the course’s immense difficulty this time around.
In any case, the U.S. Open not only tests every player’s game completely from tee to green, but their mental strength, above all, which is the truly the intangible setting it apart from any other golf event in the world. Since Oakmont is primed to play as one of the tougher venues in recent years to boot, this week’s winner will no doubt prove this idea true.
The best part of the U.S. Open, even with the aforementioned explained, is that this championship generally falls on Father’s Day weekend.
If you enjoy the game of golf with your family like I do, there’s nothing quite like watching Sunday’s final round with Dad. It’s a great reminder that golf is a game made for families, and that lifelong memories are created around it.
Yes, for one week in the middle of June around a very special holiday, on an extremely challenging golf course with 156 of the world’s best golfers creating some amazing rags-to-riches stories, the perfect storm of everything right about the game of golf forms at the U.S. Open.
In reality, the only thing I’m sad about is that this week only rolls around once a year, so enjoy the fantastic championship to come with the 116th U.S. Open at Oakmont.