Dennis Dachtler and Kyle Davies each qualified for their first national golf championship earlier this month.
Their accomplishment elicited disparate reactions that show what a stretch, or even a round, of great golf can do to a player.
After 26 unsuccessful United States Golf Association qualifying attempts, Dachtler, 58, played his way into next month’s U.S. Senior Open.
“I’ve only been thinking about this for 40 years,” the amateur from Folsom said. “I’ve gone from giddy and just about crying to, ‘Oh (shoot), I’ve got to go play.’ ”
Davies, 25, qualified for next month’s U.S. Amateur in just his second USGA qualifying foray.
Said Davies, who was set to attend grad school in the fall and had his career path orchestrated to a tee: “I’m turning pro. I know it’s a gamble. A full and complete gamble on myself.”
After graduating from Woodland High School in 1976, Dachtler played collegiately at Oregon for three years, getting whipped in the Pacific-10 Conference by “Corey Pavin, Jay Don Blake and a bunch of other guys who are still playing on TV,” he said.
Dachtler knew he wasn’t good enough to pursue golf professionally, so he set about building a career as a financial planner. He married and helped raise two daughters. He essentially put his clubs away for 20 years, playing recreationally about every other month.
Then the bug resurfaced 15 years ago. Dachtler joined Rancho Murieta. He worked on his game and fitness and became a regular on Northern California Golf Association senior-event leaderboards. He didn’t win anything outside of his club championship, but he kept putting himself in the mix.
On July 11, Dachtler parlayed home-course (Rancho Murieta North) knowledge to a medalist-winning 2-under-par 70 to earn one of two Senior Open qualifying spots in the field of 65. He was in one of the first groups, so he had to wait nearly three hours after he completed his round to see if his score would stand. After 40 years of dreaming, those three hours seemed like an eternity.
“You have to play in qualifying tournaments to ultimately qualify for something,” Dachtler said of his perseverance. “I was 0 for 26. Now I’m 1 for 27.”
Dachtler already has one game set up. Scott McCarron, a former Rancho Murieta member who is a hotshot on the Champions Tour, texted his congratulations and a practice-round invitation for the Tuesday before the Open, Aug. 11-14 at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio.
Davies’ rise into the USGA ranks makes Dachtler’s look conventional.
Davies was a low-on-the-ladder afterthought on his high school golf team in Larkspur. He said a lack of power was one of the reasons: “I was a sophomore hitting my really strong 3-iron 155 yards.”
Not surprisingly, there wasn’t interest in Davies as a college golfer. He attended UC Davis, where he majored in biological sciences with an emphasis in neurology, physiology and behavior.
He got stronger and longer and made one run at the Aggies’ golf team, finishing second among 20 walk-on hopefuls during a tournament his junior year.
Then, it was back to his studies. Gaining technical expertise was Part I of the plan to do investment finance for a biotech company. Part II called for Davies to attend the University of Iowa’s prestigious Tippie College of Business this fall on a merit-based full scholarship.
As recently as last month, even after advancing through U.S. Open local qualifying by winning a five-players-for-one-spot playoff, Davies insisted pro golf wasn’t in his future.
On July 11, he finished second among 55 players in U.S. Amateur qualifying at Peach Tree in Marysville, shooting 6-under 134 over 36 holes. He could resist the song of the golf siren no longer, even if he is several years behind the typical curve.
Davies, who now lives in Sacramento, said he will give himself one year as a pro and then re-evaluate. Tippie will hold his scholarship, but Davies said he would have opted to pursue pro golf even if the school hadn’t been so accommodating.
“I would have chosen golf,” he said. “It’s now or never.”
The U.S. Amateur is Aug. 15-21 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Illinois-bound Bryan Baumgarten of Granite Bay is also in the field.
Et cetera – The Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship, considered a major on the annual junior circuit, is Aug. 1-4 at Del Paso. The 48th renewal features 150 of the best girls and boys from across the country. Folsom’s Emilee Hoffman and Elk Grove’s David Laskin head the local contingent. Admission is free.
▪ Alex Lee of Carmichael won the Sacramento County at Ancil Hoffman. Sabrina Iqbal of San Jose won the women’s title.
▪ Momin Choudry of Rancho Cordova won the Sacramento City Junior at Haggin Oaks. Alice Duan of Reno won the girls title.
Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526.
U.S. Senior Open
▪ When: Aug. 11-14
▪ Where: Scioto Country Club, Columbus, Ohio.
▪ When: Aug. 15-21
▪ Where: Oakland Hills Country Club, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.