Janzen Earns Return Trip to U.S. Open While Three Others Earn First Trip

These four players earned U.S. Open spots in the Purchase, N.Y. qualifier. From left to right: Rich Berberian Jr., Jamie Lovemark, Pat Wilson, two-time champion Lee Janzen. (USGA/Michael Cohen)
These four players earned U.S. Open spots in the Purchase, N.Y. qualifier. From left to right: Rich Berberian Jr., Jamie Lovemark, Pat Wilson, two-time champion Lee Janzen. (USGA/Michael Cohen)

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As Lee Janzen reached the latter stages of a U.S. Open sectional qualifier on June 8, he tried to stay in the present and not project what score might get the job done.

That is how you win the U.S. Open, as Janzen did in 1993 and 1998. It is also how you earn the right to play in it again after a six-year absence.

Maintaining his focus as the long day came to a conclusion, Janzen shot a 2-under 68 in the afternoon round at Old Oaks Country Club. Combined with a 2-under 69 in the morning at neighboring Century Country Club, the 50-year-old finished at 4-under 137 to lead four qualifiers from a field of 71 into the 115th U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, June 18-21.

“You just keep going, one shot at a time, one hole at a time,” Janzen said. “There is going to be a time to overcome adversity. It’s not going to go perfect all day.”

While it will be the 20th U.S. Open for Janzen, the other three qualifiers will be playing in their first.

Jamie Lovemark, 27, a Web.com Tour member from Scottsdale, Ariz., finished second at 139. Rich Berberian Jr., 27, an assistant PGA professional from Derry, N.H., and Pat Wilson, a 24-year-old pro from Andover, N.J., tied for third place at 140.

Three players finished at even-par 141, one stroke behind Berberian and Wilson, setting up a playoff for the two alternate positions. Scott Harrington, of Scottsdale, Ariz., earned first-alternate status on the third playoff hole, while Fran Quinn, of Holden, Mass., beat out 17-year-old amateur Vinay Ramesh on the sixth extra hole to become the second alternate.

Janzen, who won one of his eight PGA Tour titles, the Buick Classic, at nearby Westchester Country Club in 1994 and finished fourth in the 1997 PGA Championship – his best major finish other than his two U.S. Open victories – at Winged Foot Golf Club, loves Northeast golf courses even though he is a longtime resident of Orlando, Fla.

In fact, Janzen, who turned 50 last August and earned his first Champions Tour victory at the Ace Group Classic earlier this year, got ready for the sectional by playing at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., site of his first Open triumph and where he became a member in 2013.

“I knew that was going to tune me up,” Janzen said of the heavy dose of friendly golf at Baltusrol. “We were going to play a lot of golf. For me, the more golf I play, the better off I am.”

Berberian, the son of a retired golf professional, could relate to Janzen’s thorough preparation. He played 36 holes on June 7 – 18 each at Old Oaks and Century before teeing it up the next day in competition. Seventy-two holes in about 36 hours turned out to be a successful, if tiring, equation.

“I played really good, the best I played in a while,” Berberian said. “I hung in there all day when I hit a couple of bad ones. It’s just a battle all day.”

Berberian was looking forward to telling his father, Rich Sr., about his accomplishment. “He taught me everything I know,” Rich Jr. said. “I’m sure I’ll shed a few tears when I call my dad.”

Lovemark had a loved one alongside for his second round of the qualifier, his fiancee, Tiva Duff, who caddied for the first time after finishing a nursing school exam in the area during the morning. Lovemark played the final round of a Web.com Tour event in Texas Sunday, then flew to New York, arriving at LaGuardia Airport at 10:30 p.m. and not getting to bed until past midnight.

Although it turned out that he had a stroke to spare on a day that went from cool and rainy in the morning to breezy and partly sunny in the afternoon, Lovemark executed a deft up-and-down on his 36th hole with a 30-yard pitch followed by a fast, curling par putt.

“It was an 8-footer that broke about two feet,” Lovemark said. “Toughest putt you could have. I like places that you don’t have to shoot a bunch under. It requires good golf shots and good touch around the greens.”

Last year, Lovemark was the second alternate out of this qualifying site, losing out in a six-hole playoff to Cameron Wilson, who ended up getting into the Open field at Pinehurst as the first alternate.

Like Lovemark, Wilson had endured back problems early in his career. Prior to the second stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School late last year, he suffered a herniated disk playing basketball.

“I was playing with my brother,” Wilson said. “I took a jump shot and landed, and my back felt like an accordion compressing.”

After Wilson missed a 10-footer for birdie on his 36th hole, he thought he might have lost another opportunity to reach the game’s highest level. But the wind picked up, and the former St. John’s University golfer earned a major opportunity in his fourth trip to U.S. Open sectional qualifying.

“This is a big step, and hopefully one of many,” Wilson said.

For Janzen, a return trip to the U.S. Open comes 30 years after his first Open at Oakland Hills when he was a 20-year-old rising senior at Florida Southern. Then he didn’t miss one from 1991 through 2008, although his game began to tail off when he was in his 40s.

“There were times when I thought maybe there is something better to do, but I couldn’t find anything better to do,” Janzen said. “So, it turns out I’m a golfer.”

A golfer who is psyched but realistic about Chambers Bay. “I’m not going out there with wild, crazy thoughts that I’m suddenly going to start hitting it 320 and I can compete for the win,” Janzen said. “Now if there is a way I can hit it the distance I hit and find a way to compete, that would be great. I’m not going to worry about. It’ll just be fun to play.

Stirring some echoes would be fun, but so was simply getting there.