OneAsia stalwart Anthony Summers found the form he’d been seeking all season to win the gruelling sectional qualifying in Chicago and make it into next week’s U.S. Open Championship at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Summers shone at the Village Links of Glen Ellyn, shooting rounds of 66 and 67 for an 11-under total of 133, a stroke better than U.S. PGA Tour veteran Tim Herron, who also qualified.
“I’m so excited,” said Summers, who was only talked into making the journey to qualify by his sponsor after missing the cut at the Volvo China Open earlier this year.
“I have never played in a Major before and it will be an awesome experience. I have a bunch of friends who will be over here on a U.S. Open trip, so will have plenty of support out there as a bonus.”
Summers, 42, who hails from New South Wales, is currently 36th on the OneAsia Order of Merit with earnings of U.S. $11,597.67 from four tournaments. His best finish on the circuit remains joint seventh in last year’s Nanshan China Masters.
The genial Summers turned pro at 18 but has sometimes struggled to make a living in the game — even resorting at one stage to taking a second job cleaning toilets at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
He chose Chicago to try for qualifying as he could save money by sleeping on the couch of a good friend who lives in the city.
“I hadn’t seen him in a while so it was a good chance to catch up,” he said.
Monday saw final sectional qualifying at 11 courses across the United States, with nearly 1,000 players vying for a remaining 62 places in the 112th edition of the tournament.
Two other sectional qualifiers were held in Japan and Britain last month, with 17 players making it through.
Only 77 of the 156-man U.S. Open field are exempt from qualifying, meaning dozens of the game’s great names — including Major winners such as Justin Leonard, David Duval, Davis Love III, Tom Kite and Todd Hamilton — have to battle it out for a place in the field for the year’s second Major.
Many current international stars fell by the wayside on Monday, including South African Rory Sabbatini — joint runner-up to Tiger Woods at The Memorial Tournament, which finished on Sunday.
“I played great right from the outset today and it was nice to finish the morning round off strongly and then come back out in the afternoon and pick up where I left off,” Summers said.
“My birdie on 17 this afternoon was the highlight. A 178-metre par three into the wind, I hit four iron to within six inches of the hole.”
Summers’ Facebook page was inundated with messages of support and congratulations from friends and fellow OneAsia players.
“Congrats mate what an amazing effort. I’m sure you will have the best time ever,” said Ryan Haller, who missed out on qualifying at the Japan sectionals last month.
“Mate!! Great playing. Can’t wait to see you at the top of the leaderboard again next week,” said Nick Cullen, who currently lies second on the OneAsia Order of Merit with U.S. $180, 686 after winning the Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open earlier this year.
Matthew Guyatt, who missed out on qualifying from a brutal field in Columbus, Ohio, that included scores of current PGA Tour members, wrote: “Boom, pumped for you mate.”
Summers has set modest goals for next week.
“I just plan to enjoy it,” he said.
“I wasn’t going to come over but had a quick car park chat with my sponsor one morning after the China Open where I had missed the cut by one and he convinced me to come over and have a crack.
“We had a Plan B option and that was to go with him and a few of his mates to Vegas next weekend if I didn’t qualify and then join them on their U.S. Open trip which included rounds at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay, but I guess neither of us will be doing that as he will caddy for me in the Open now as Plan A was always a better option.”