Golf

He doesn’t miss the second time – Cameron Champ qualifies for U.S. Open

Golfers play in the U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills in 2011. Next week, the course will host the U.S. Open. Sacramento native Cameron Champ has qualified to play in the major.
Golfers play in the U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills in 2011. Next week, the course will host the U.S. Open. Sacramento native Cameron Champ has qualified to play in the major. Associated Press file

Some golfers buy mulligans in the name of charity. Some take them whenever it suits them.

Cameron Champ earned his with stellar play. And did he ever put it to good use.

After shooting an 8-under-par 63 in the first round of U.S. Open sectional qualifying Monday in Newport Beach, Champ struggled a bit in his afternoon round. Still, he faced a 5-foot par putt on the 36th and final hole to secure an Open berth.

He missed it.

“I knew where I stood,” he said. No excuses, no dwelling on what could have been.

Champ’s second-round 74 tied him for the sixth and final qualifying spot at 6-under 137 among 103 hopefuls playing one round each at Newport Beach and Big Canyon country clubs. A playoff ensued in the waning daylight.

On the first extra hole against fellow amateur Brandon Wu, Champ had a 30-foot birdie putt to get into the Open.

He drained it.

The clincher wasn’t a mulligan in the Regular Joe sense, but Champ hasn’t been a Regular Joe in a golf sense for a long time. And so the 21-year-old Sacramentan will play for a national championship next week at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.

Champ, a stoic sort, allowed himself an extra fist pump when the decisive putt fell. His caddie and proud father, Jeff, didn’t hold back.

“He was excited,” Champ said. “He was yelling louder than me.”

A total of 750 players teed it up at 10 U.S. sectional qualifying locations Monday. Champ, coming off a junior season at Texas A&M in which he was named first team All-Southeastern Conference and finished ranked 27th in the country, earned one of 53 spots. He is also qualified for the U.S. Amateur.

Champ is renown for his length off the tee, which was on display during his runner-up finish in the Memorial Amateur last week at Ancil Hoffman, so it’s surprising to hear he credits a more freewheeling approach with his driver for his recent success.

“I just get up there and hit it,” he said. “I used to care too much. Now I just play. I just think about where I want the ball to be and just swing hard. My accuracy has gone up tremendously. I’m hitting two-three more fairways a round this spring. I think that’s where my game has improved.”

No better place to put it to the test than the U.S. Open.

New women’s golf blog

Mary Stockdale and Leslie Cooper emailed a heads up: We used your name in an item in our new golf blog that gently laments the lack of media coverage for local women.

Response: How about a note on two women who took the initiative to ramp up coverage for and about area women’s golf and where to find it?

You Golf Girl (yougolfgirl.wordpress.com) has been online for two months with six women-centric course reviews, multiple entries on rating and slope and how they pertain to women and a Masters post on why women were pulling for Sergio Garcia when men were less inclined (he spit into the hole!).

Retired area high school teachers, Stockdale and Cooper have a deft writing touch and positive vibe. They also have golf chops as longtime single-digit handicappers who competed in the 1976 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Del Paso. And a desire to bring women together to better enjoy and understand the game they love.

Their passion overcame a lack of technical know-how.

“We had no idea what a blog was or how to do it,” Cooper said.

They intend to post often and include a a weekly course review. Best-case scenario, they said, You Golf Girl evolves into a vibrant forum for area golfers with a travel component.

Et cetera

▪ Tahoe Donner will open for the season Friday, making it the last Truckee/Tahoe area course to do so.

▪ Ben Geyer (Arbuckle) opened the 2017 PGA Tour Canada season with a tie for fourth in the Freedom 55 Financial Open in Vancouver.

Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526, @Steve_Pajak

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