Like many others, Sumner’s Brian Thornton has an extreme love-hate relationship with the Tumble Creek Course at Suncadia Resort in Roslyn.
And lately, it has been more lovey-dovey.
That is what happens when you start making putts on Tumble Creek’s curvy greens – which the Meridian Valley Country Club teaching professional did late in his U.S. Open local qualifying round Wednesday.
Needing a flurry of birdies, Thornton made five in a six-hole stretch on the back nine to earn one of the seven berths to U.S. Open sectional qualifying.
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Thornton shot a 1-under-par 69, and tied for third out of the 121-golfer field.
Next stop: A fourth attempt at sectional qualifying June 6 at Royal Oaks Country Club in Vancouver, Washington, – with a few spots to the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club at stake.
For now, Thornton can breathe a huge sigh of relief over what he accomplished Wednesday: Making a string of birdies on a championship layout that does not yield very many of them.
He got into trouble early in his round at the third hole when his drive went into the thick brush on the right side. He tried advancing his golf ball, ended up taking an unplayable-lie drop – and walked off with a triple bogey-7.
Thornton was 4-over through seven holes.
“It was an incredible mental battle,” Thornton said. “I went through the seven stages of grief.”
But he canned a 25-foot putt for birdie at No. 8, saved par on the next hole, and felt like he had something going heading into the back nine.
“I gave myself a little self-talk,” he said.
It focused on making birdies – and he started to on No. 11, making back-to-back birdies.
The key hole was No. 15, a 476-yard, par-4 that plays into the wind.
On the green, he faced a long triple-breaking putt down a sideslope. Fortunately, he had seen the putt before in a practice round.
And he coaxed the 35-footer into the back of the cup.
At the 16th hole, his pitching wedge approach stopped, and he made a 5-footer for birdie to get under-par.
That is where he finished, narrowly avoiding a sudden-death playoff at even-par. Former University of Oregon golfer Daniel Miernicki was the medalist after a 3-under 67.