The calendar has flipped to May and the month certainly will bring plenty of major-championship golf. The PGA Championship will be contested in May at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y., along with the 2nd U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Pine Needles Resort & Lodge and the 74th U.S. Women’s Open Championship at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.)
Last Wednesday, the USGA crowned its first champions of 2019 as future Duke University teammates Megan Furtney and Erica Shepherd claimed the 5th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla.
Local qualifying also began for the 119th U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links at the first 18 of 110 sites, while qualifying for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open concluded on April 30. The final U.S. Women’s Open 36-hole sectional qualifiers are scheduled for this week.
Here are three things to know about what happened last week and what’s in store in the coming days.
Nicklaus, Rank Continue Open Dreams
Two names familiar to those who follow golf managed to navigate the first stage of U.S. Open local qualifying last week.
Gary Nicklaus, the son of four-time U.S. Open champion Jack Nicklaus, moved closer to playing at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links for a second consecutive year. Last August, the younger Nicklaus qualified for the 118th U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach, where his father won the 1961 championship (Jack attended the 2018 Amateur). Now Gary, 50, has a chance to return to the iconic layout on the Monterey Peninsula where his dad won the third of his record-tying four Opens in 1972. Gary earned one of the five available spots at The Club at Admiral’s Cove in Jupiter, Fla., carding a 1-under 70 last Friday.
He’ll play in 36-hole sectional qualifying on June 3 in Columbus, Ohio at Scioto Country Club and Brookside Golf & Country Club. Scioto is where Jack honed his skills as a junior.
Alfie Plant, of England, who competed for Great Britain and Ireland’s Walker Cup side last September and is now a professional, also advanced with a 1-under 70.
A day earlier, full-time NHL referee Garrett Rank, of Canada, advanced from a local qualifier at Mission Inn Club & Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., the same layout where he qualified in 2018. Last year, Rank qualified for the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, but missed the cut.
Rank, who just completed his third full season an NHL referee, served as a stand-by official for the first round of this year’s playoffs. But he was not assigned any games for the conference semifinals, giving him a chance to prepare for the local qualifier.
Rank, the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up, carded a 3-under 69 on the El Campeon Course to earn one of the four available spots. He has signed up for the 36-hole sectional at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., on June 3.
“I putted extremely well, the best putting round I have had in a while,” said Rank. “[My] speed was good. I made a lot of mid-range putts which is not usual for me.”
Another intriguing local qualifier is 57-year-old Greg Condon, of Monte Vista, Colo., who advanced from the Albuquerque, N.M., site. Condon was the co-medalist in the 2018 U.S. Senior Amateur at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club.
Patrick Cover, a pro from Cornelius, N.C., flirted with a 59 at River Landing in Wallace, N.C., carding a course-record 61 to earn medalist honors by eight strokes.
Sixty-three more local qualifiers are scheduled this week, including nine in California and eight in Florida.
Kupcho’s Gamble Pays Off
Jennifer Kupcho, a member of the victorious 2018 USA Curtis Cup Team and the reigning NCAA Division I champion, had a spot secured in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, thanks to a pair of exemptions. She won the Mark H. McCormack Medal last fall for being the leading player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ and she also claimed the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April. But both exemption categories would have required Kupcho to remain an amateur.
Given that she locked up LPGA Tour playing privileges last December at Q-School and she will graduate this month from Wake Forest, Kupcho made the decision to turn professional after the NCAA Women’s Championship later this month. Therefore, she forfeited her U.S. Women’s Open exemptions. So last week, the Colorado native competed in a 36-hole sectional qualifier at Starmount Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., where she earned one of the two available spots as well as medalist honors at 3-under 141.
Kupcho, who qualified for two previous Women’s Opens as an amateur – will make her professional debut at the Country Club of Charleston.
Also making her first pro start in the U.S. Women’s Open is Maria Fassi, of Mexico, the player Kupcho outdueled at Augusta National. Fassi, an All-America player at the University of Arkansas, earned medalist honors at the Country Club of Ocala (Fla.) sectional, carding 5-under 139. The second spot went to 2016 USA Curtis Cup competitor and 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up Sierra Brooks, who is finishing her junior year at the University of Florida.
This week, the final 13 sectional qualifiers will take place, including one at Marin Country Club in Novato, Calif., where reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Yealimi Noh and Lucy Li, a semifinalist in both the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior last year, will be vying for the two available spots. Like Kupcho, Noh earned an exemption into the field via her Girls’ Junior win last July, but she forfeited the spot when she turned professional earlier this year.
Two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kristen Gillman also eschewed her exemption by turning pro in December after successfully navigating LPGA Tour Q-School. The former University of Alabama All-American will be vying for one of six available spots on Wednesday at Coyote Ridge Golf Club in Kingwood, Texas. Gillman, of Austin, Texas, tied for sixth in the year’s first women’s major championship, the ANA Inspiration.
Last Chance at Senior Glory
Entries for the 40th U.S. Senior Open Championship, to be conducted on The Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., June 27-30, close on Wednesday at 5 p.m. EDT.
Hall of Fame pitcher and current Fox baseball lead analyst John Smoltz is among the notables trying to qualify for the 156-player field. Smoltz qualified for his first U.S. Senior Open – and first USGA championship – last year, missing the cut at The Broadmoor. He has received three sponsor’s exemptions on the PGA Tour Champions this year.
Other notables trying to qualify include former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien, current Florida Panthers general manager and former No. 1 NHL draft pick Dale Tallon (who played in 2010 at Sahalee C.C.), former NHL player Dan Quinn and former big-league pitcher Shane Rawley.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.