No fewer than 11 golfers with ties to the Greater Cedar Rapids Open will battle Monday, June 3 for a spot in the U. S. Open.
Coined "golf's longest day" by the Golf Channel, a total of 835 golfers from around the world will compete in 11 sectionals eyeing a berth in the U. S. Open, to be held June 13-16 at historic Merion Golf Club in Armore, Pa.
Ten golfers who have competed in the GCRO and one who has entered to play this year will be looking for the final spots in the Open field after surviving Local qualifying late last month. The Sectionals consist of 36 holes of stroke play in one day, thus the phrase "golf's longest day."
Leading the way for those with GCRO ties is defending champion Garrett Jones of Rewey, Wis. Jones, who won the 2012 GCRO title and $20,000 with a tournament-record total of 19-under par, won a Local qualifier in Erin Hills, Wis., and will tee it up in the Columbus, Ohio Sectional. Jones is paired with PGA Tour pros Tommy "Two-Gloves" Gainey and Charles Howell. Also in the Columbus field is PGA Tour pro Georg McNeill of Fort Myers, Fla. McNeill, who tied for second in the 2005 GCRO and finished fourth in 2006, is a two-time winner on the Tour and has made in excess of $7 million in his career.
Gary Christian, the 2004 GCRO champion, will compete in the Rockville, Md., Sectional. The St. Louis Sectional, to be held at Old Warson Country Club, has the largest representation of GCRO golfers with five.
Jonathan Feldick, a local favorite out of Coralville, is among those playing in St. Louis. Feldick tied for 20th in last year's GCRO and was 60th in 2011. He missed the cut in 2010.
Perennial GCRO contender Chris Thompson of Lawrence, Kansas., is also in the St. Louis field. Thompson led the GCRO after one round last year in the 54-hole event in Marion before faltering to a tie for 16th. He tied for second at Hunters Ridge in 2011 and tied for 14th in 2010 after being tied for the lead with 18 holes to play.
Former University of Iowa standout golfer Brad Hopfinger also is in St. Louis. The Lake Forest, Ill. native tied for 39th last year in the GCRO. Judd Cornell, who tied for fourth in the GCRO in 2011, is also among the competitors along with Bloomington, Ill. amateur Casey Pyne, who has not played in the GCRO but has entered the 2013 event.
Eric Steger of Noblesville, Ind., who tied for eighth last year in the GCRO, tied for first in a Local qualifier and will play in the Purchase, N.Y. Sectional.
Andy Winings, the 2010 GCRO champ and always a contender here, will play in the Springfield, Ohio Sectional. Winings made a run at Jones last year for the GCRO title but settled for a tie for fourth. He also finished tied for second in 2009 and 12th in 2011.
Ryan Blaum, the defending Waterloo Open champ who finished in a tie for 10th last year at Hunters, won the Orlando, Fla. Local qualifier and will compete in the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club Sectional in Bradenton, Fla.
Coverage of "Golf's Longest Day" will be provided all day by Golf Channel or follow the results on the U.S. Open website.
Don Wojciechowski resides in the Hunters Ridge Golf Course community and plays the course on a regular basis. He's a former sports editor for a suburban Chicago daily newspaper and an avid golf fan.