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Len Ziehm On Golf

Donald, Pope, four Illini alums qualify for U.S. Open at Pebble Beach

The Monday of U.S. Open sectional qualifiers has been billed “golf’s longest day,’’ and for good reason. This week the final nine of twelve 36-hole qualifiers started with 927 players. Late Monday night the final 68 players were determined for the U.S. Open proper, coming up June 13-16 in Pebble Beach, Calif.

The list of sectional survivors included four University of Illinois alums – Nick Hardy, Thomas Pieters, Charlie Danielson and Luke Guthrie – plus Glen Ellyn’s Andy Pope. Northbrook’s Hardy, in his first season as a professional, qualified for the third time and Pope made it for the fourth time in five years.

Chicago’s two best touring pros – former world No. 1 Luke Donald and PGA Tour veteran Kevin Streelman — went through a weird scenario in the Columbus, Ohio, sectional. As usual it drew the strongest sectional field, one dominated by players competing in the nearby PGA Tour’s Memorial tournament, which concluded on Sunday.

Donald, on the comeback trail after battling injuries for two years, jumped into contention at the Memorial on Saturday by shooting a third-round 65. He soared to an 80 on Sunday, however, and dropped 42 places on the leaderboard to finish in a tie for 57th.

Streelman, meanwhile, had a hot Sunday round – a 66 that got him a fourth-place finish and his biggest check of the season $436,800.

A day later, in the 36-hole sectional played at the Brookside and Scioto courses, their magic shifted. Donald was a steady 68-71 and qualified for his 14th U.S. Open, and his first in three years. Streelman shot 75 in the morning round and withdrew.

Guthrie, a Web.com Tour player whose game has improved dramatically in the last three weeks, was the most impressive of the local qualifiers. He was low man in the loaded 121-man field at Columbus, shooting 64-67 after finishing sixth in a Web.com Tour stop in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday.

“After getting into Columbus at midnight and getting four hours of sleep I didn’t know what to expect,’’ said Guthrie, “but I have been playing well and guess it just carried over.’’

Playing in the U.S. Open will be a treat, but perhaps a costly one.

“I told my wife that it might cost $1,000 a night, but that doesn’t matter because it’s Pebble Beach and the U.S. Open,’’ Guthrie said.

Of the area’s near-missers Wheaton’s Tee-K Kelly had the most heart-breaking experience while competing in Rockville, Md. He made double bogey on the last hole of regulation play, then was odd-man out in a three-way playoff for two spots at Pebble Beach. As the first alternate in his sectional, he’ll have to hope for late withdrawals to make the field.

Flavin’s first pro win

Highwood’s Patrick Flavin enjoyed a remarkable amateur career, becoming the first player in 37 years to win the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open in the same year in 2017. Now he’s a champion on the pro level as well.

Flavin completed the first half of his rookie season on the PGA’s Latinoamerica Tour with a victory in the Bupa Match Play Championship in Mexico on Sunday. That boosted him into the No. 9 spot in the circuit’s Order of Merit with winnings of $36,326. His season, though, was filled with ups and downs.

He started by leading a Latinoamerica qualifying tournament in Brazil, then had two top-20 finishes in the first three tournaments. After that steady start he missed the cut in four straight events before getting his big win. Flavin was 4-up on Brazil’s Rodrigo Lee after 12 holes but had to hang on for a 1-up victory.

“I’m proud how I hung in there,’’ said Flavin. “Winning the last event of the first half leaves a different taste in my mouth. Now I have to work hard in the second half and earn my Web.com Tour card.’’

Here and there

Medinah teaching pro Rich Dukelow earned a place in the U.S. Senior Open, coming up June 27-30 at the Warren course in South Bend. Dukelow led a qualifying session at Inverness, shooting a 3-under-par 69.

Bloomington’s Todd Mitchell is now a USGA champion. A two-time Illinois State Amateur champion and five-time winner of the Illinois State Mid-Am, Mitchell teamed with Scott Harvey, of Kernersville, N.C., to win the U.S. Amateur Four-ball title in Bandon, Ore.

Northwestern’s Stephanie Lau and Cole Hammer, who won last year’s Western Amateur at Sunset Ridge in Northfield are part of the U.S. team that will compete against an international squad of collegiate starts in the Arnold Palmer Cup matches. They begin a three-day run on Friday at The Alotian Club in Arkansas.