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Len Ziehm On Golf

Blakeman is back in U.S. Open

Just qualifying for the U.S. Open is a big deal. This year 8,300 tried, and only 156 will tee off in the first round on Thursday at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.
One of them will be Bennett Blakeman, who isn’t exactly a household name in golf circles yet — but he is a U.S. Open veteran. He made it to last year’s U.S. Open as well but finished dead last among those 156 who qualified to play at Pebble Beach in California.
On both occasions Blakeman, a former Illinois Wesleyan golfer who lives in Burr Ridge, survived the rugged local and sectional eliminations to get to the big show. This time, though, it’ll be a wiser and more experienced Blakeman who tees off Congressional’s No. 10 tee at 2:41 p.m.
Last year Blakeman was an amateur finishing up coursework at Loyola University for a master’s degree in business and health care management. For this U.S. Open Blakeman, 24, is a golf professional with a new caddie, a new swing instructor and more preparation time. After finishing up at Loyola he moved into his family’s vacation home in Scottsdale, Ariz., and spent the winter playing on the Gateway Tour, a long-time proving ground for PGA Tour hopefuls.
“The Gateway left a lot to be desired,’’ said Blakeman, “but I also made a rather significant swing change and wanted to make a strong effort to keep things in perspective. It’s all part of a process.’’
Dale Abraham became his swing coach in Arizona. Ryan Dorner, a former teammate at Illinois Wesleyan, will become his caddie.
“I’ll also have him for (PGA) Tour School and hopefully beyond,’’ said Blakeman, whose brother Brenten was on his bag at Pebble Beach and his father Brad handled that job during this year’s Open qualifiers.
Blakeman arrived at Congressional on Sunday, a day earlier than he checked in at Pebble Beach.
“I felt I was a little late last year. This year I wanted to take care of all the administrative stuff right away,’’ said Blakeman. “Last year I got a good taste of (the Open). Now I’ll know a lot more in terms of the circus atmosphere surrounding it.’’
In addition to PGA Tour regulars Kevin Streelman, Mark Wilson and D.A. Points, other Illinois qualifiers in the field at Congressional include amateur Brad Benjamin, the former U.S. Amateur Public LInks champion from Rockford and University of Illinois golfer Chris DeForest.

Category: Features