For 364 days out of the year, the golf world focuses on the biggest names in the sport: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson. Those are the names that matter. But for one day in June, guys like Alastair Presnell, Cameron Wilson, Jim Herman and Dennis Miller take center stage.
You likely have no clue who any of them are, but these up-and-coming youngsters and tour journeymen are a lot like you and me. They have a dream -- to one day play in the U.S. Open. They give $150 to the USGA and hope their game holds up through Local and Sectional qualifying. And if it does, maybe, just maybe they'll be able to tee it up and tell their kids about the time they hit balls on the range with Tiger Woods at Olympic Club.
That's what U.S. Open qualifying is all about. It's about the incredible storylines that make the tournament one of the greatest events in sports.
On Monday, golfers from all walks of life hopped in their cars and headed to Sectional qualifying sites around the country for what's known as "Golf's longest day," a grueling 36-hole test of wills.
But at the beginning of Monday's Sectional at Scioto Country Club, it looked like Dennis Miller wouldn't even get a chance to make a run at his dream. The 42-year-old pro from Youngstown, Ohio, who was the third alternate in the field, was on the outside looking in when he showed up.
Even worse? Even if he did make the field, his site was loaded with pros who had just played in the Memorial. Needless to say, the odds were incredibly slim, but Miller made the most of the opportunity, getting into the field and shooting 71-70 to make a four-man playoff for three spots.
After rolling in putts of 6 feet and 15 feet on the second and third playoff holes to stay alive, Miller found himself with a putt to punch his ticket on the fourth playoff hole: a 25-footer from just off the green. As the putt tracked towards the hole it looked to be perfect, but for some reason it lost steam at the last second, stopping right on the edge of the cup.
The crowd groaned and Miller looked away. It wasn't meant to be ... or so everyone thought. As Miller looked away in disgust, something incredible happened: The ball suddenly disappeared into the cup for an improbable birdie.
"I didn't even see it go in," Miller said after his round.
Miller's officially in the U.S. Open field, and after learning a little more about the guy, it looks like the modern-day Tin Cup will be at Olympic Club. The 42-year-old Miller doesn't play professionally for a living; he's actually the director of golf for Mill Creek Golf Course in Ohio. Not only that, this was actually his 12th attempt to qualify for the Open.
Now that's what you call a great storyline, folks. Casey Martin may be the headliner from Sectionals, but Miller's incredible qualification has to be a close second. It's just another reason why this has to be the most underrated day in golf.
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