June 6, 2016
The Road to Oakmont has been paved for four players with Northern California ties.
Professionals Gregor Main of Danville, Tyler Raber of Davis and Brandon Harkins and San Jose amateur Justin Suh each punched their tickets to this year’s U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club at a 36-hole Sectional qualifier held Monday at par-72 Lake Merced Golf Club and par-71 The Olympic Club (Ocean Course) in Daly City.
Main, who has conditional status on the Mackenzie Tour -PGA Tour Canada, moved on with a score of 9-under 134. Suh also came in at 134, while Raber moved on at 136.
Medalist was Asian Tour member Miguel Luis Tabuena, who shot 11-under 132 thanks to a blazing start at Lake Merced.
Main, a 26-year-old former three-time All-American at UCLA, started his day with a 6-under 66 at Olympic Club and later added a 68 at Lake Merced. His worst score of the long day was a bogey on Lake Merced’s par-4 5th.
“I hit my driver really well all day,” said Main, who played in a U.S. Open Sectional in 2010 but missed the cut. “The fairways on both courses are narrow. I was getting emotional coming up that last fairway.”
Despite being a member at Olympic Club, Main wasn’t all that familiar with the Ocean Course. He’d in part lean on his caddie for the day—fellow Olympic Club member and record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag.
The two got to know another when they competed together at the 2011 U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills. During the stroke play qualifying portion of the championship, Main would tie a record by going 10-under.
“I told him that I was expecting another 10-under out of him today,” Haag said.
Suh, the only male player to win Junior Tour of Northern California Player of the Year honors twice (2013, 2015), had back-to-back rounds of 67.
Having recently completed his freshman season at USC, Suh, who won the 2015 San Francisco City Championship, was the lone amateur to advance.
A week ago, Suh, who’ll turn 19 on Sunday, held the lead after the second round of the NCAA Championship. He’d finish T-10.
“It feels really good. I’m sort of speechless,” Suh said. “I’m going to Oakmont. I can’t put it to words.”
Raber, who won the 2013 Pacific Coast Amateur, made his big move of the day by carding birdies on the 17th and 18th holes on the Ocean Course in the afternoon.
Now a mini-tour player, Raber, 26, had stumbled with a bogey on the 15th. As he approached the 17th tee, his younger brother Scott, who won the 2015 NCGA Four-Ball Championship, got in his ear.
“My brother asked me, ‘How many times have you finished a round by going birdie-birdie?’ I told him I’d done it thousands of times. Scott then told me, ‘Well, just do it again,’” Tyler said.
Tabuena, who turned pro in his native Philippines at age 16, had the opening everyone wished for. Starting on the back-nine at Lake Merced, he’d go 6-under through his first seven holes en route to a front-nine 29.
Over his first three par-5’s at Lake Merced, Tabuena went 5-under with two eagles and a birdie. He’d wrap up his round with a par on the 9th.
“I told myself that Lake Merced would be the easier course and I needed to go low there,” Tabuena said. “I’m still in shock. This will be my first major.”
Also advancing at 134 was former SCGA standout and current PGA Tour Latinoamerica member Mark Anguiano.
The sixth and final spot came down to a playoff between three pros—David Gazzolo of Riverside, Hawaii’s Hunter Larson and Lafayette native Brandon Harkins–tied at 137. Harkins, a former winner of the Monterey Open, advanced after making birdie on the par-4 10th.