Russell Henley’s busy Summer just got a little busier.
Henley added the U.S. Open to his schedule, earning a spot in the event for the second straight year in a Sectional qualifier at Hawk’s Ridge in Ball Ground.
The recent University of Georgia graduate was one of four players from the qualifier to advance to the U.S. Open, including the loser of a sudden death playoff that Henley won.
PGA Tour player Jason Dufner, who tied Henley for the third qualifying position, lost to Henley on the fourth playoff hole and was the first alternate at the time. However, when Tiger Woods and Anders Hansen withdrew due to injuries, Dufner was one of two alternates from Sectional qualifiers around the country to be added to the field.
Henley shot 68-65 for an 11-under 133 total at Hawks Ridge, one stroke behind co-medalists Ryan Nelson and Brett Patterson. Nelson is a mini-tour player, with Patterson a member of the golf team at Middle Tennessee State. Dufner tied Henley for third at 133, shooting a 64 in the afternoon round.
It took Henley four holes to win what turned out to be an unnecessary playoff. There was also a playoff for the second alternate position, with Georgia Tech golf team member Ollie Schniederjans of Powder Springs winning over Forsyth mini-tour player Jay McLuen.
Both Schniederjans and McLuen shot 10-under 134, with Schniederjans posting scores of 66-68 and McLuen firing a pair of 67s. Schniederjans recovered from a double bogey on the second hole of his afternoon round, but seven birdies on his last 16 holes were not enough to earn him a spot in the Open field.
Henley’s opening 68 featured no bogeys on his scorecard, and he offset two bogeys in the afternoon with nine birdies.
It was a quick turnaround for Henley, who played his final match for the Bulldogs the day before in Stillwater, Okla., in the championship match of the NCAA tournament.
Although the Bulldogs lost 3-2 to defending NCAA champion Augusta State, Henley closed out his college career with three impressive match play victories, ending all three at the 16th hole.
Henley’s showing in the NCAA Championship came less than a month after his victory in the Nationwide Tour Stadion Classic, played at the UGA course in Athens. Henley has the option of turning pro and being a member of the Nationwide Tour for the remainder of the year, but has elected to remain an amateur though the Walker Cup in mid-September.
After a relatively disappointing senior season for the Bulldogs, Henley responded with an outstanding showing in match play in the NCAA Championship, and has likely wrapped up a spot on the Walker Cup squad.
Following his successful effort at qualifying for the U.S. Open, Henley headed to Connecticut to compete in the Palmer Cup, an annual competition between top collegiate players from the U.S. and Europe. Among the European players are Augusta State’s Henrik Norlander, who lost to Henley in the championship match, and Kennesaw State’s Jeff Karlsson.
Henley will play a heavy amateur schedule this Summer, including the Dogwood Invitational at Druid Hills GC, but the U.S. Open will apparently be his only start in a professional event.
As a first team All-American in 2010, Henley received an invitation to compete in the Nationwide Tour’s flagship event in Columbus, Ohio, but despite his recent win in Athens, was not invited this year, as he was not a first team All-American as a senior.
The U.S. Open makes a more than adequate substitute for the Nationwide Tour event, which is scheduled for one of Henley’s very few off weeks this Summer. Henley competed at Pebble Beach last year and tied for 16th, tying 2010 NCAA individual champion Scott Langley of Illinois for low amateur.
The two met in the quarterfinals of the recent NCAA Championship, with Henley winning 4&2 after being 2-down early in the match.
This year’s U.S. Open will be played June 16-19 at Congressional CC in suburban Washington, D.C.
The only players with Georgia ties other than Henley to qualify for the U.S. Open in a sectional qualifier were several golfers who competed at state colleges.
Ex-Georgia Bulldog Christo Greyling qualified in Rockville, Md., with fellow Florida resident Michael Barbosa, who played at Georgia Tech, qualifying in Vero Beach. Fla. Recent Clayton State golfer Will Wilcox, who has played his way onto the Nationwide Tour, also advanced from the D.C. area qualifier, with Briny Baird (Georgia Tech and Valdosta State) making it through the Memphis qualifier.
Augusta native Charles Howell missed by a shot in Columbus, Ohio, with ex-Tech golfer and Atlanta area resident Troy Matteson coming up two shots short.
In the Hawks Ridge qualifier, former Columbus State golfer Andrew Giorgiou placed 8th at 136, with Duluth mini-tour player Brent Witcher tying for 9th at 137 after playing his first four holes in 3-over par. Witcher came back to shoot 71-66. Also tying for 9th was Georgia Tech golfer J.T. Griffin (69-68).
PGA Tour player and Georgia resident Blake Adams shot 6-under 138 but missed qualifying by five strokes.