Five Georgia residents – four of whom live on St. Simons Island – qualified for the U.S. Open at three different sites Monday.
A fifth St. Simons resident missed by one shot of getting into a playoff for a possible U.S. Open berth, but is still alive for a spot in the field after finishing as first alternate.
Four Georgians who are PGA Tour members qualified at the two sites where most of the tour players competed – Columbus, Ohio, and Memphis. The fifth Georgian was among a trio of Web.com Tour players who qualified in the Washington, D.C., area.
Dru Love, the son of veteran PGA Tour player Davis Love III, placed third in the sectional qualifier at Hawk’s Ridge in Ball Ground, and is the first alternate. The USGA has allowed six spots for players who move into the top 60 in the World Rankings after this week’s tournaments, and the players who finished as first alternates in the 12 sectional qualifiers will get any remaining spots, plus Phil Mickelson’s spot if he decides not to play next week.
St. Simons’ J.T. Poston, a rookie on the PGA Tour, was the medalist in Columbus with a 12-under 132 total to finish just ahead of a host of fellow PGA Tour members. Jason Kokrak and Bud Cauley were next at 133, with Duluth’s Stewart Cink tying for fourth at 134 with Martin Laird, Jamie Lovemark and Keegan Bradley, who won the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club.
With six holes to play in the second round of Monday’s 36-hole qualifier in Columbus, Cink was 5-under par for the day, three shots outside what turned out to be the number needed to get into a 4-way playoff for the final three qualifying spots.
Cink played those six holes in 5-under with an eagle and three birdies to avoid a playoff with an afternoon score of 66.
Ollie Schniederjans, who grew up in Powder Springs before playing in college at Georgia Tech, missed getting into the playoff in Columbus by one shot. Schniederjans, who is enjoying an excellent rookie season on the PGA Tour, was 4-under on his second round and 9-under for the day with three holes to play, but made two bogeys down the stretch to just miss the playoff.
Fellow PGA Tour member Luke List, who grew up in north Georgia, was 7-under for the day with five holes to play, but was 1-over on that stretch to miss by two.
Qualifying in Memphis was former UGA standout Harris English and fellow St. Simons resident Trey Mullinax. English, a two-time PGA Tour winner, tied for second at 9-under 133, one shot behind 50-year-old medalist Steve Stricker.
Mullinax, a PGA Tour rookie, shot 134 to place seventh and avoid a multi-player playoff for the final two spots.
Augusta native Scott Brown was part of a 5-players-for-2 spots playoff, but was eliminated after the first extra hole. Three other PGA Tour players with Georgia ties missed the playoff by two shots each.
Former UGA golfer Brendon Todd, who has moved from the Atlanta area to Athens, came to the final hole of his afternoon round needing to birdie the par-5 18th, but made bogey. Also missing by two was St. Simons resident Rick Lamb and former Clayton State golfer Willy Wilcox.
St, Simons’ Ben Kohles, who is playing on the Web.com Tour this season, shot 6-under 138 in Rockville, Md., to get the third and final spot in the qualifier, playing his final 18 holes without a bogey.
Out-of-state players got the two qualifying spots at Hawk’s Ridge, with Web.com player Stephan Jaeger sharing medalist honors with amateur Alex Smalley, a member of the golf team at Duke, at 7-under 137.
Love began his day with five birdies on his front nine and finished with a 67. He shot 70 in the afternoon, chipping in for eagle on par-5 18th at Hawk’s Ridge. Placing fourth at 138 was former Georgia Tech golfer J.T. Griffin, who shot 72 in the afternoon after a 66 in his morning round.
Also making a run at earning one of the two qualifying spots was former UGA golfer Nicholas Reach and Duluth’s Benjamin Shipp, who recently completed his freshman season on the golf team at North Carolina State.
Reach shot 5-under 31 on his first nine in the second round to get to 6-under for the day, but was 1-over on the back nine without a birdie for a 68 and a 139 total. Shipp was also 6-under after shooting 32 on his first nine in the final round, but bogeyed his 10th and 11th holes and parred in for a 70 and a 140 total.
Georgia’s five qualifiers will join nine players with ties to the state who were exempt into next week’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.
The exempt players are two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, 2015 British Open champion Zach Johnson, 2016 U.S. Senior Open champion Gene Sauers, 2016 Tour Championship qualifiers Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner and Roberto Castro, and former UGA teammates and Georgia natives Russell Henley and Brian Harman, who both moved into the top 60 in the World Rankings after recent PGA Tour victories.