Countdown to the 2006 U.S. Open

By Peter Aviles
Updated: June 3, 2006

Michelle Wie

Michelle Wie

NEW JERSEY — The dates are set for the 106th U.S. Open Golf tournament; what is not set is the field. Heading into the open pre-week, there are still 799 contestants competing at 14 different venues from around the world for 73 spots.

The sectional qualifiers are taking place starting June 5th at diverse venues like the Lake Merced golf club in Dale City, California where 67 golfers are competing for 4 spots to the Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell, Oregon where 25 hopefuls are vying for one spot.

Notables from the Dale City location are Korean-born Sihwan Kim, the 2004 U.S. Junior champion hoping to qualify for his first open, and Spencer Levin, who tied for 13th two years ago as an amateur at Shinnecock Hills. His claim to fame is that he made a hole in one on the 17th hole during the first round.

International venues of interest vary from the Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England, where 71 golfers compete for 8 spots to the Poipu Bay Golf Course in Koloa, Hawaii where 10 golfers compete for one spot.

Most interesting from this locale is Tadd Fujikawa, all of 15 years old; he is the youngest to advance from local qualifying.

However, the venues drawing the most attention are the Brookside Golf and Country club/Lakes Golf and Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, and the Canoe Brook Country Club that is virtually in my backyard and located in Summit, New Jersey.

From Brookside, some of the names seeking to find their way to Winged Foot Country Club in Mamaroneck, New York are John Daly, two-time major winner who is hoping to participate in his 14th Open, to Jason Gore, who emerged from the Nationwide tour last year to win the 84 Lumber classic, and who also was in the final pairing with New Zealander and eventual 2005 U.S. Open winner Michael Campbell, before coming apart with a final round of 84.

Other hopefuls of interest are Colombian hot shot Camilo Villegas, and Trip Kuehne, who was runner–up to Tiger Woods at the 1994 U.S. Amateur.

Probably, the venue that will draw the most attention and will be widely watched and monitored is Canoe Brook. While this locale will host Mark O’Meara, two time major winner and a best friend of Tiger Woods, Brazilian native Fernando Mechereffe and Zambian native and Canadian tour player Madalitso Muthiya, all eyes will be on 16-year old Hawaiian native, Michelle Wie.

She is attempting to become the first female to ever play in the U.S. Open, much to the dismay and discomfort of some of her fellow professional golfers.

Some of the female professionals have openly questioned what she is trying to prove by trying to play in the U.S. Open.

She should be playing on the ladies tour and competing in the Shoprite LPGA Classic against the likes of Annika Sorenstam (who herself competed in a male tournament several years agofailing to make the cut) and other female contemporaries like Lorena Ochoa of Mexico.

Defending champion Michael Campbell, strongly voiced his displeasure with Wie. “She’s got to prove herself that she can win on the women’s tour before she can even have a chance on the men’s tour.” For the record, it should be noted that Michelle has already made a cut in a men’s event though the event did take place against a less than stellar field in South Korea.

Either way, the 2006 sectional qualifiers for the U.S. Open will shape up to be a very interesting and compelling tournament.

One with an international flavor with participants from the globe from countries like Colombia, England, Ireland, Korea, Australia, Spain, Venezuela, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand, and Canada to name a few, all vying for America’s championship, the U.S. Open Championship.