Trevor Sluman was still learning his three Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic – when his uncle, Jeff, tied for 10th in the 1998 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club.
In fact, Trevor, 21, of Rochester, N.Y., was unaware of the accomplishment as he toured the five-time U.S. Open venue at this week’s inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
“I had a friend who was a member, so I asked him for advice,” said Trevor. “Maybe I should have asked [Jeff],”he continued with a laugh following a 3-under 67 on the Ocean Course with partner and University of Louisville teammate Gus Lundquist, 20, of Parker, Colo. He did know of Jeff’s runner-up in the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links, which came four years after winning the PGA Championship at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla., for his lone major title. Jeff, a six-time PGA Tour winner, now is a prominent member of the Champions Tour, where he also owns six victories.
Before Trevor arrived here for his first USGA championship, Jeff told his nephew to just be calm and play your game.
The side’s 5-under total of 135 easily qualified for match play, which begins Monday on the Lake Course. While Trevor and Lundquist don’t play four-ball often in college, the two do have chemistry on and off the course. Trevor said he’s the better ball-striker, while Lundquist’s strength is on the greens.
“We’re really good friends and spend a lot of time together at school,” said Trevor. “It’s worked out well this week.”
With the Four-Ball scheduled between the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and NCAA regionals, Sluman and Lundquist received their coach’s blessing to participate.
Now Trevor has the opportunity to achieve something his uncle didn’t: win a USGA championship at Olympic.
Answering The Call
Tom Brandes and Mike Haack are prime examples of why players who narrowly miss qualifying for a USGA championship fight hard to become the first alternates. Last August, the duo finished behind Christopher Hatch and Mark Strickland for the final qualifying spot at Gold Mountain Golf Course in Bremerton, Wash.
Hatch and Strickland are members of the Western Washington University men’s golf team, and the team qualified for the NCAA Division II regionals, which begin on May 4. So they informed the USGA last week they would be withdrawing from the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, leaving the door open for Brandes and Haack, both of Bellevue, Wash., to take their place.
The call came April 24 from the USGA and Brandes, 58, and Haack, 35, both rearranged their work schedules and booked last-minute flights from Seattle.
“I let my work know it was a possibility,” said Brandes, who is employed by a high safety products company. “They covered for me.”
Haack, the food and beverage manager at Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent, was to oversee a wedding on Saturday. “I have great help,” he said.
Neither golfer wanted to miss the chance to play in this inaugural championship. They made the most of their second chance, carding a 36-hole score of 4-under 136 to qualify for match play.
“He’s really good and I just go along for the ride,” said Haack. “Tom is very consistent out there. I tend to get erratic, but can play well too.”
Added Brandes: “He says I free him up.”
That was evident Sunday when Haack and Brandes recovered from a tough start to shoot even-par 70 on the Lake Course. Brandes chipped in for a birdie-3 on 14 when Haack had made a mess of the hole, and Haack birdied the par-5 17th.
The two became acquainted through Washington State Golf Association and Pacific Northwest Golf Association events. They represented the state at last year’s USGA Men’s State Team Championship at the French Lick (Ind.) Resort and are frequent partners in PNGA Cup Matches, a Ryder Cup-style competition against British Columbia Golf.
“He’s a mentor to me,” said Haack, competing in his seventh USGA championship. “We enjoy playing together.”
Brandes is also no stranger to USGA championships. The Four-Ball is his 13th and his portfolio includes four U.S. Senior Open starts.
“The more of these you play in, the easier they get,” said Brandes. “The first one, your eyes are wide open. It’s not routine … but you know what to expect.”
Union Jack Meets Florida
Of the many interesting sides at this week’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, the partnership of 17-year-old Floridians Jacob Huizinga and William Wrigley offers a fascinating tale. Both were born in England, but now live in the Orlando area. They first met through a mutual golf instructor, and now their fathers share in a business that offers boat tours of Lake Orlando.
Huizinga also works at West Orange Country Club, where Wrigley is a member.
“We see each other every day,” said Huizinga, who lives 15 minutes from his playing partner.
“Way too much,” interjected Wrigley.
But it was their dads who contacted each other about forming a four-ball side.
That decision thus far looks like a good one. Not only did they qualify for their first USGA championship, but Huizinga and Wrigley posted 1-under 139 to land a spot in Monday morning’s 8-for-3 playoff for the final match-play spots. They opened with a 66 on the Ocean Course and followed with a 3-over 73 Sunday on the Lake Course.
“We made some putts [on Saturday],” said Huizinga. “It was a little rough today. I was pretty much non-existent on the first eight holes and then played pretty solid. We should have been lower on the back nine. I had six birdie putts inside 15 feet and one was an eagle putt [on 17]. That was the only birdie we had all day.”
Before moving permanently to the U.S. seven years ago, Huizinga visited Florida often. The family had a second home and Huizinga began to hone his golf skills. He started playing with Sam Horsfield, who is now one of the country’s top juniors.
“I would shoot 150 and he would shoot 60-something,” said Huizinga, who became a U.S. citizen last August. “I don’t talk to him much now, but I met him when he was probably 8.”
Huizinga’s game has evolved nicely and he’ll take his talents to the University of West Florida in the fall.
Wrigley, meanwhile, moved from England to Spain at the age of 2. He became fluent in Spanish, but spoke English at home. Eight years later, his family bought a carpet cleaning business in Florida and moved to the Orlando suburb of Winter Garden. By then, Wrigley’s passion for golf increased. He, too, will graduate this spring, but college isn’t in his immediate plans.
“I’m taking a year off [from school] to focus on golf,” said Wrigley, who works with former PGA Tour player Chris Couch.
Neither Huizinga nor Wrigley has been back to England. Wrigley still follows his favorite soccer team, Manchester United, but that’s about his only allegiance to his native land. Wrigley and his parents both have Green Cards as resident aliens.
On the course, however, the only culture they worry about is golf.
Odds And Ends
Two of the nine teams featuring brothers advanced to match play. Ryan and Jason Higton, of Fresno, Calif., carded a 6-under 64 on the Ocean Course for a 36-hole total of 136, while Benjamin Day, of North Haven, Conn., and Daniel Day, of Clemson, S.C., posted 2-under 138 after a 68 on the Ocean Course…The father/son tandem of Andrew and John Sajevic, of Fremont, Neb., advanced to match play after a 2-under 68 on the Lake Course for a 36-hole score of 138. Last fall, both represented Nebraska at the USGA Men’s State Team Championship, marking the first time a father/son duo competed in that event…Former UCLA quarterback Drew Olson, of Piedmont, Calif., and partner David Reneker, of Santa Monica, Calif., shot 143 and missed the playoff for the final match-play spots by four strokes…Olympic Club members Ahmed Ali, of Palo Alto, Calif., and Jon Peterson, of Granite Bay, Calif., also failed to qualify for match play with their partners. Ali played with brother Hussain and Peterson teamed with Gary Dunn. Dunn and Peterson got into the field late last week as first alternates from the Sacramento, Calif., qualifying site.
David Shefter is a USGA senior staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.