Five times Andy Pope had made it through to Sectional Qualifying for the US Open. Like each prior year, it all starts in May when Andy, along with 9,800 other men, would take another run at playing their way into one of the world's most prestigious golf tournaments. After getting through Local Qualifying, players must compete in a one day 36 hole event which is called the "longest day in golf".
On this day stories were unfolding at record pace. In Dallas, 15 year old Cole Hammer was stunning the world as he became the 3rd youngest to qualify for the US Open. In Florida, Andy Pope was part of another drama where 6 men were neck and neck competing for just 4 spots. In the end, a second round 67 would prove be good enough for a T1 finish (along with Luke Donald), and just one shot away from having to compete in a playoff. After the round Andy reflected on what it meant to qualify for the US Open.
"I knew it was something special but really it was just a sense of relief that all of the hard work over the years had paid off."
In the days leading up the US Open, Andy would play two practice rounds at Chambers Bay. Like nearly every other player, Pope had no experience at this controversial course. For players like Andy who are not regulars on the PGA Tour, the course was just one of many things that would be new. Whether it be the massive media coverage, player amenities or the spectacular life-changing opportunity, the US Open provided Andy with an overwhelming sensory overload. Getting into the US Open is a fantastic accomplishment, but the reality is that without making a cut, players essentially will have played three tournaments for exactly zero payout. In other words, making the cut is the only path to an actual paycheck. Asked about his expectations, Pope had this to say.
"Just like any tournament, I wanted to make the cut and try to put myself in a position to contend on Sunday."
Pope's first round was not exceptional with only one birdie, but without any double bogies, Andy's 74 would keep the cutline in sight and give him hope that a solid Friday morning round could put him into the weekend.
Unfortunately, Andy's 2nd round did not start well with back to back bogeys. Then, on the driveable par 4 #12, Andy hit his tee ball to 12 feet and sunk his eagle putt. Followed up by a birdie, Pope had a little momentum and a real chance to shoot even par which would likely keep him inside the cutline. Easier said than done, Pope would trade a few bogeys and birdies (including a critical birdie on his last hole) to finish plus five and tied for 98th place.
"We figured even par or better would get us through to the weekend so when I made a late bogey to go plus two for the day I knew I had to find a way to get a stroke back on the last two holes. Fortunaty, I made a great swing on the last hole and was able to convert a 7 foot birdie putt."
What transpired over the next 5 hours would be a steady rise on the leaderboard as players struggled in the afternoon and fell out of contention. At one point late in the day, Andy was T63 with only a handful of players left on the course. Since only the top 60 players would make the cut, Pope's future would ultimately come down to how well an amateur by the name of Nick Hardy played the par 3 ninth hole. Par and Andy Pope goes home, bogey, he and 14 other players stay the weekend.
"Making the cut was great, but really once you are inside the ropes it's just like any other week. Right now my ball striking is really sharp so I had a lot of confidence. Unfortunately my putting was a bit off and I just was not able to post the type of scores I think I should have."
With the weekend secured, Pope now could focus on trying to climb the leaderboard, gain experience and enjoy participating in one of the most watched golf tournaments of the year.
While Andy would ultimately finish T70, he did have a number of highlights including a 60 foot birdie putt on Sunday. However, in the case of many non-PGA players, it was the experience that may end up being the most valuable. Having endured the torturous Chambers Bay for four days against the best players in the world will surely pay dividends in the future.
QED Style is proud to be the apparel sponsor for Andy Pope and we look forward to watching him build on his success at the US Open. Wondering what Andy Pope wore during the US Open?
Andy Popes US Open apparel script