And then there were three.
860 golfers endured one of the toughest examinations in golf on Monday – the 36-hole United States Open Sectional Qualifying. They were all seeking the 74 spots in the field left available for the 118th U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, starting June 11 and concluding on June 18.
Among the aspirants were some 30 Canadians, all looking to represent their home national alongside Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, British Columbia, who is already exempt into the championship.
Ultimately there were some close calls on Monday but only two more Canadians were able to secure a position in the field. Others (Corey Conners and Mark Hoffman) earned alternates spots but will need to wait out the time until the major begins to see if they were receive an invite.
Both Canadian qualifiers are from Ontario and are familiar names for those in golf circles.
Amateur Garrett Rank, a three-time Canadian Mid-Amateur Champion will likely draw some attention from the media leading into his Shinnecock appearance with his unique life story.
Now 30, the Golf Canada National Team graduate has embraced the role of a life-long amateur, combining his work as a National Hockey League (NHL) referee with a schedule filled in with elite level amateur tournaments.
Rank, a University of Waterloo Business Finance graduate as well as a cancer survivor, is no stranger to USGA championships. He has competed in 15 of them but this will be his first United States Open Championship. He was the runner-up in the 2012 United States Mid-Amateur and he has reached the semi-finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball twice. He has played in six United States Amateur Championships.
“I’ve been at this amateur game a long time. To play with the world’s best at the U.S. Open…it’s really humbling. I’m really proud, and really honored,” he told the USGA.
Rank played in the U.S. Open Sectional in Roswell, Georgia where his rounds of 71, 71 made him the co-medalist at a site with just three spots available.
Joining Rank at Shinnecock Hills, (and literally since they may play some practice rounds together) will be Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ontario.
Hughes, a former two-time Canadian Amateur winner and now a full-time member of the PGA TOUR where he has one victory, qualified in Memphis, Tennessee where he is preparing to play this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.
In the qualifier Hughes turned in scores of 66 and 67 for a ten under par total to finish second to medalist Sam Burns. At the same site his fellow Canadian, David Hearn, lost out in an 11 for 3 playoff for a pass to the U.S. Open field.
By earning a spot into the U.S. Open for the second time (he also qualified in 2013) Hughes is looking to spark a year that has been lacking in highlights. In 19 starts on the PGA TOUR the 27 year-old has made just five cuts and earned less that $100,000. The U.S. Open offers a first prize of more than (USD) $2 million, as well as a place in golf history for the winner.