What sets the U.S. Open apart from other golf tournaments is that it is not really a tournament at all. It is a nationwide street fair that draws thousands of dreamers like the 103 who played in the Long Island local qualifier Monday.
Nor is the Open just a major championship held for a week in June on one course, Pinehurst No. 2 this year. It is rooted in dozens of places such as the Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, which figured that hosting the qualifier was the perfect way to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
"We have been talking for the last handful of years about how to give back to the game and promote the golf course at the same time," said Bryan Pendrick, a member of the club's golf committee who was among those on the course Monday trying to play their way to Pinehurst.
He had a rough back nine and fell short of Nick Beddow, the Piping Rock assistant pro, and Matt Dobyns, the Fresh Meadow head pro, who had rounds of 3-under-par 69 and won two of six berths in the sectional qualifier, June 2 in Westchester. But it was worth the try for Pendrick, an amateur, as it always is for many. All told, more than 10,000 registered this year.
"It gives everybody a shot," said Beddow, the 2013 Long Island PGA champion who had lost to his buddy Tim Puetz in this year's LIPGA final last Friday. Puetz, an assistant pro at Huntington Country Club, also qualified with a 70 Monday and will be joining Beddow at Old Oaks and Century in what has been called golf's most exciting day (as will fellow Mill River qualifiers Abbe Valentine, a mini-tour veteran from Bayville; Sam Lyons, a pro from South Carolina; and Jonathan Lai, a Hong Kong native who plays for Yale).
"It's definitely a long, strenuous process, 36 holes in one day on two of the best courses in our section," Beddow said, adding that he has tried five or six times and this will be his first trip to the sectional. "Part of the reason I got in this business was that I want to play as much as I can and get to that next level. The challenge is going out and grinding it out after working all day."
Dobyns was back to work Tuesday, giving lessons. He will practice when he can in hopes of making the Open. Dobyns was the national club pro champion in 2012 and played in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. Having missed the cut, he left hungry for a second shot at a major. He took a major step on Monday.
As big a day as it was for the golfers who advanced, it was just as important to Mill River. Members and staffers were proud of how the course held up, yielding only four rounds under par. "I knew the layout was going to cause problems for people who don't know it," Pendrick said, mindful of the heavily contoured back nine. "If you always pull your driver out, you're going to get in trouble."
The Open qualifier was an opportunity to share the heritage of a club that opened on May 29, 1964, with former PGA champion Jim Turnesa as the pro. It was built on the former Appledore estate by William S. Roach with an idea that "private" still can mean "inclusive." Its diverse membership policy has been recognized by the National Conference of Christians and Jews and cited in the Congressional Record.
To mark a half-century, it showed an openness to the Open.
Glen Cove Senior Center's SAGE Foundation will hold its outing June 2 at Glen Cove Golf Club. Call 516-671-2280 . . . The Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame will hold its 15th Annual Golf Invitational June 3 at Rock Hill Golf & Country Club, Manorville. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine is the honoree. Call 631-758-7463.