This explains the lure of the U.S. Open as much as anything does: Jimmy Hazen of Coram has given up chasing the pro tour life to get married, settle in Coram and take a full-time job. He had not played one hole of golf in more than a month. But there he was on Wednesday, in the rain, trying to qualify for Shinnecock Hills next month.
“I always say, with the U.S. Open, I’m never going to stop giving it a shot. I was able to find a day that I could get off from work,” the 36-year-old two-time Long Island Open champion and former PGA Latin American Tour player said at Cherry Valley Club in Garden City.
That the Open is on Long Island this year made it even more appealing to someone who grew up in Miller Place. “Being able to play at home, it would be amazing,” he said. “But just the Open in general. Let’s face it, they could put it on Mars and I’d try to go.”
He will not have to go that far just yet. Hazen is on the way to Summit, New Jersey, for the 36-hole final qualifier because he did so well in the local phase Wednesday. Despite a lack of dress rehearsal — he did not bring his clubs on his honeymoon in Aruba three weeks ago — he shot 4-under-par 68 to lead a group of eight golfers who advanced.
Former NCAA champion Cameron Wilson, who has played in two U.S. Opens, also made it at 2 under.
“It’s one of the pinnacles of our sport so being there is a great experience, no matter who you are or where you are up to in golf,” he said.
Tam O’Shanter head pro Mark Brown and Glen Oaks assistant Scott Ford advanced at 1 under. So did Corey Birch, Brian Hughes, Thomas Curtis and Arthur Zelmati.
Hazen began his round on the back nine, when it was still just cloudy, and birdied the 11th and 12th holes, then saved par from a greenside bunker on No. 13. “That settled me in,” said the golfer who maintained his momentum after the day grew raw and wet.
“I actually wasn’t upset to see it raining a little bit because I wasn’t real sharp and with the rain, nobody else would be real sharp, either,” he said. “I thought it would keep me using my feel and my imagination a little bit.”
After he won the Long Island Open two years ago, he had no trouble imagining himself on the PGA Tour. He had played with and beaten pros who had made the show. But he ultimately decided that his now-wife Melissa had waited long enough for the couple to start a life together.
“It was time,” he said. “I’d had 10 years of competitive golf, playing and traveling. I had some really good experiences, a lot of highs, some lows. But it was time.”
So, he took the job as manager of the Coram location of Saf-T-Swim, the water safety instruction business that his parents have run since he was a toddler. “It’s a really rewarding business, teaching kids a lifesaving skill,” he said, adding that lately he has gotten up early so he could go to St. George’s Club and hit balls for an hour-and-a-half before work.
Golf is for fun now. It is not work. “Just driving here this morning, I said whatever happens, happens,” he said. “I was just excited to be out there, to be out of the office for a day and just competing again.”
AN ENGAGING ROUND
Cherry Valley assistant pro Matt Livolsi did not qualify but had a day he won’t forget. Right off the 18th green he knelt and proposed to Jennifer Herdemian. The golfer said, “This is a second home and I wanted to do this at a place that I love for a woman I love.”
The Bridge For Peace Golf Outing, supporting medical missions to Africa and South America, will be May 22 at The Vineyards, Riverhead. Visit bridgeforpeace.org . . . The 30th Annual Hofstra Pride Golf Classic will be June 25 at Garden City Country Club. Call (516) 463-4919.
Peter Zuckerberg, Engineers CC, 14th hole, 105 yards, 9-iron
Joe Rosenberg, Old Westbury G&CC Overlook, eighth hole, 164 yards, 7-iron
Matt Skidell, Old Westbury G&CC Woods, eighth hole, 150 yards, 8-iron
Peter Kelly, Bethpage Green, 11th hole, 170 yards, 8-iron
John Hoyt, Brookville CC, 16th hole, 185 yards, 3-wood
Sean Wiener, Lawrence Y&CC, ninth hole, 175 yards, 5-iron
Brian Cooper, Lawrence Y&CC, ninth hole, 205 yards, 3-hybrid
George Jackson, Swan Lake GC, 16th hole, 125 yards, pitching wedge
Rob Kenneally, Sumpwams Creek GC, second hole, 105 yards, pitching wedge