As soon as Aaron Wise watched his 50-foot birdie putt disappear in the back of the cup early in his final round of U.S. Open sectional qualifying, he gave a little fist pump.
He had made plenty of those putts in winning the NCAA Division I men’s golf championship last week at Eugene Country Club for the Oregon Ducks.
But this week, he has turned professional. And when he looked up to see what kind of reaction that putt would get, it was met by silent stares.
“If I made that putt in Eugene, everyone would have been going nuts,” Wise said.
Wise continued his scorching month-long stretch of play by winning the U.S. Open sectional qualifier Monday at Royal Oaks Country Club.
His 9-under-par 135 total was two strokes better than Mackenzie Tour professional Travis Howe (137).
Wise, 19, will now make his next start at the biggest championship of all — next week’s U.S. Open at famed Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“I hear Oakmont is an impossible test,” Wise said. “I better go practice up.”
All this of course, after he catches his breath.
Wise was 1-over through his first nine holes Monday, then made seven birdies to finish the final nine holes at 6-under 30 to jump into a share of the lead.
And he just kept building on it. He broke the tie with a 15-footer at No. 1 — or his 10th hole of the second and final round.
On the next hole, after hitting his drive into the trees right, he laid up at the par 5, and knocked his wedge approach 6 feet below the hole, and rolled in the putt for another birdie.
“The putter got hot,” Wise said.
On his final hole, he curled in a 25-footer from the right fringe for a finishing birdie.
Wise becomes the fourth NCAA champion in a row to qualify for the U.S. Open the following week. None of the previous three have made the cut.
“I have bigger plans than just making the cut,” Wise said. “To be somewhere near the hunt would be absolutely awesome.”
Howe will also be a first-timer at the U.S. Open. In fact, this one has special significance — he grew up 3 1/2 hours from Oakmont in a town called Osceola.
The Penn State graduate has been bouncing between the Web.com Tour and Mackenzie Tour, formerly the Canadian Tour. Last weekend, he played the tour stop in Victoria, B.C., then arrived in Washington state late Sunday night.
He showed up to Royal Oaks on Monday with no practice round under his belt, or yardage back. But he did have his girlfriend, Christie, with him.
“I had heard somebody say it wasn’t tricky,” Howe said. “Basically I was looking at the hole signs (to study each hole), and took a guess on how far some of the bunkers were out there.”
Olympia’s Gonzales qualifies in Memphis
In 2011, Olympia’s Andres Gonzales was a PGA Tour rookie when he earned a spot at his first U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club.
“It was my first major, and I was fairly nervous,” the Capital High School and UNLV product said.
He now will play in a second U.S. Open. At sectional qualifying in Memphis, Tennessee, Gonzales fired rounds of 64 at Germantown Country Club, and 68 at Ridgeway Country Club to share medalist honors (11-under 131) with D.J. Trahan.
“I am excited to go back now that I am more seasoned,” he said.
Gonzales made three consecutive birdies to start his round — the first one a 15-footer.
And on the par-5 ninth hole, he rolled in a 30-footer for eagle. He finished with 11 birdies and an eagle in 36 holes.
Now he gets to take on Oakmont and its crazy greens. Gonzales feels like it is a good fit for him.
“I feel pretty good about my short game,” Gonzales said. “I am excited for the test. It is going to be hard. They (USGA officials) are going to set it up crazy.”
Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley opened with a 72 at Germantown, but he withdrew after his morning round.