You could say two tournaments broke out at the U.S. Open local qualifier Monday at The Home Course in Dupont.
There was the regulation 18 holes for 120 golfers, dominated by a pair of recent PGA Tour of Canada qualifiers in medalist Cheng-Tsung Pan, a University of Washington golfer who shot 5-under-par 67, and Lacey’s Cameron Peck, who had a 69.
And with the shadows of nightfall creeping in, there was a seven-golfers-for-two-spots playoff that took place over three extra holes.
James Lepp, the 2005 NCAA Division I men’s champion from UW, was the only golfer to make birdie at the par-5 10th hole, and grabbed the first spot.
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Then came the drama.
Kyle Cornett, a Seattle University golfer from Mill Creek, played in the first trio. He was fortunate just to have his golf ball located after an errant shot at the 10th hole – it was finally found in high grass by a troop of gallery members. He then got up and down to save par.
Cornett played the next playoff hole — No. 13, an uphill 466-yard par 4 — ideally. He hit his second shot 12 feet left of the hole and made an improbable birdie on arguably the most difficult hole on the course.
Sumner’s Brian Thornton, playing in the final trio behind, followed with a double-breaking 60-footer from the back of the green to extend the playoff.
“I saw the clapping in the group ahead, and I had an idea — they do not clap over pars,” said Thornton, the teaching pro at Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent. “I knew I had to do something special.”
The playoff ended at No. 14, a par 3 with a pond down the right side. Cornett hit first, and air-mailed his 6-iron tee shot to the center of the green, 25 feet away from the cup.
“I had a similar yardage (196 yards) on No. 11, and hit that 6-iron pin high,” Cornett said. “It was kind of nice to go first. You don’t get the advantage of knowing the wind, but you can put pressure on (Thornton).”
Also choosing a 6-iron, Thornton struck his tee shot and immediately hung his head. He knew it was headed toward a watery grave — and a fatal double bogey.
“I tried to hit a cut, which is usually my bread-and-butter shot,” Thornton said. “I just didn’t hit it.”
After tapping in his par putt, Cornett let out a huge sigh of relief.
“It feels like winning getting through this playoff,” Cornett said.
Pan, who became the winningest golfer in Huskies history this spring with his seventh victory, is preparing for this week’s NCAA West Regional at Gold Mountain Olympic Course near Bremerton.
It will be one of his final tournaments as an amateur. Immediately after the NCAA tournament, Pan will turn professional — and hopefully play in the U.S. Open with a chance of cashing a paycheck.
“This kind of gives me a good period of time to get ready for (a professional career),” said Pan, whose round was bogey-free Monday. “I know now I am playing for a living, and that is serious.”
Peck, a Timberline High School and Texas A&M graduate, has been a professional for nearly a year. He came through his own playoff at last week’s PGA Tour of Canada Qualifying School, earning the last berth to play on that tour.
He badly wants to earn a U.S. Open berth at Chambers Bay — a course he has fared well at, making match play at the 2010 U.S. Amateur, then winning the 2013 Washington State Amateur on the links-style layout.
“I’ve played that course a lot, so if I can make it, I think I’d do pretty well,” Peck said. “I have one more (qualifying) round to go.”
Joining Pan and Lepp in the UW parade is Huskies true freshman Spencer Weiss, who had been playing so poorly lately that he contemplated staying behind to take a midterm test Monday morning instead of playing golf.
Persuaded to give it a shot, Weiss birdied the finishing hole for a 71 to earn a spot in U.S. Open sectional qualifying.
“I had no expectations — which means you usually play better,” he said with a chuckle.
At least two U.S. Open berths will be available June 8 from the sectional qualifying site at Tumble Creek Club in Cle Elum. Many of the seven qualifiers from The Home Course said that is where they will go for sectionals.