Golf

One of University Place’s own – Michael Putnam – qualifies for the US Open

Michael Putnam didn’t want to just be a gracious host for house guests at the 115th United States Open championship in his hometown of University Place.

He wanted to be one of the 156 golfers in the field at Chambers Bay.

Very few felt the kind of pressure Putnam had for months. Living down the street, he watched Chambers Bay transform from an abandoned sand-and-gravel pit into an 18-hole championship links-style layout.

He was also the first golfer to play a preview round before the course opened in 2007.

Well, Putnam not only qualified for the national open out of the U.S. Open sectional qualifying sites at Brookside Golf and Country Club and Lakes Golf and Country Club on Monday, he did it in dominating fashion.

Putnam shot an 8-under-par 64 in the afternoon at Lakes to tie playing partner Sam Saunders as co-medalist at 12-under 132.

For the 36 holes, the Life Christian Academy graduate made 13 birdies and an eagle to qualify for the U.S. Open for a fourth time.

None of the previous three were as special as coming home to tackle Chambers Bay.

“It has been a crappy last five weeks on the road (on the PGA Tour). I wasn’t playing that great coming in here,” Putnam said. “But still, there was huge pressure on me to make the tournament.

“I was getting calls, texts and questions every day, ‘Am I in the tournament?’ Well, I am. To come out here and cruise through like I did, I played really well.”

After missing the cut at The Memorial tournament last week down the road in Dublin, he took the weekend to practice around the Lakes, and play a practice round at Brookside.

“I told myself, ‘You’ve got one shot to qualify for Chambers,’ ” Putnam said.

After making three final-nine birdies at Brookside in the morning to close out a 68, Putnam drove across town to tee it up at Lakes.

A 40-foot eagle at No. 3 got him rolling there.

“It settled me down a bit,” Putnam said. “And after that, I made a couple of 15- to 20-footers (for birdie), too.”

Then the expected thunderstorms hit late in the afternoon, causing nearly a 90-minute delay.

With no opportunity to warm up, Putnam hit a tee shot at the 13th hole that was headed out of bounds.

“I thought there was a good chance it was OB,” Putnam said.

Somehow it stayed inside the out-of-bounds stake. He rallied to sink an 8-footer to save par.

“I hadn’t made an 8-footer the last five weeks,” Putnam said.

As he was coming off the final green, he was met by his two small children — son, Jantzen, and daughter, Hallie.

He called his father, Dan, who was in tears over his son’s accomplishment.

And he received a congratulatory text message from his younger brother, Andrew, who failed to qualify at sectionals in Memphis, Tennessee.

Asked what he would have done if he had not made this U.S. Open, Putnam gave a hearty chuckle.

“Probably flown to the Bahamas,” he said.

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