Dramatic birdie chip highlights U.S. Open local qualifier at Governors Club

acarter@newsobserver.comMay 16, 2014 

— When Matt Younts’ chip landed on the green and rolled into the hole for a birdie that was about 60 feet in the making, he didn’t know the significance. His dad, who was caddying, suspected it, though.

“When the ball went in, my dad jumped up and down and said, ‘Dude, I think you’re in,’ ” Younts said on Friday after that birdie on No. 18 gave him an even par 72 at a U.S. Open local qualifying tournament at the Governors Club. “And I was just – I was in shock. I was really in shock. Because I really didn’t think that it was good enough.”

It was. Younts’ 72 put him in a three-way tie for fourth place and it gave him the tournament’s final qualifying spot, which means he’s guaranteed a place in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier. Advance from there – a long shot for an amateur like him – and he’ll be playing in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

On Friday afternoon, though, Younts, who played golf at UNC Greensboro before graduating last year, was happy enough with his clutch chip. Younts was playing in the second-to-last threesome, and so his chip offered some late-day drama at the Governors Club.

He also chipped one in on No. 10. Those two shots were the difference between going home with some memories and continuing on with an unlikely dream still alive.

“I didn’t really think that I had a chance but I was like, you know, if you make (the chip on 18) you never know,” Younts said. “Just try to get back to even. And it just went in dead center.”

Younts, who works full time as a personal trainer, wasn’t the only one who was surprised that his score was good enough to make it out of local qualifying. Brien Davis, who lives in Charlotte, finished his round in the morning – after rain storms postponed the tournament on Thursday afternoon – with a 2-under 70.

Davis thought his score might be good enough to earn him a spot in a playoff, perhaps for the final alternate spot.

“You always want to be a little better,” said Davis, who plays on the PGA Tour Canada. “Because then you know you’re going to get in. But I think 70, if I had to guess, would be a playoff. It possibly could sneak in there.

“I’d be surprised if it’s not a playoff, but you never know.”

As it turned out, Davis’ 70 tied for the low score. Daniel Stanley, of Inman, S.C., also finished with a 70, and Jonathan McCurry, of Sanford, finished alone in third with a 1-under 71. Dustin Groves, of Keswick, Va., and Brandon Hartzell, a Minnesota native who lives in Charleston, S.C., also shot 72 to advance to sectional qualifying.

Andrew Sapp, the men’s golf coach at North Carolina, missed qualifying by a single stroke. Sapp finished with a 1-over 73, which tied him with Davis Richards, a rising senior at South Rowan High. Richards, an N.C. State golf commitment, defeated Sapp in a one-hole playoff to earn first alternate. Sapp is the second alternate.

Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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