Wisconsin native and sentimental favourite Steve Stricker shot a two-round total of 10 under par in sectional play in Memphis to qualify for next week's U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
Having recently been denied a special exemption into the tournament by the USGA, Stricker instead played his way into the 156-player field, going 67-65 at Ridgeway and Germantown Country Clubs.
Exemptions typically have been limited to Hall of Famers, but Stricker had hoped his deep roots in Wisconsin might have helped his case, which was bolstered by a social media push from fans.
The five-time Wisconsin State Open winner lives in Madison, little more than a hour from Erin Hills, where he walked the course in its infancy at a time when hosting a U.S. Open seemed only a dream.
When his exemption was denied, Stricker had only one way to get in.
"Not getting an exemption was a motivational factor," he was quoted as saying by the U.S. Open's official website.
"Not that I deserved one, but it's been driving me to achieve this goal. And I'm just happy that I'm going to get to play. It's a relief to get to play in the first one in my home state."
The Memphis sectional was one of 10 nationwide and 12 worldwide that featured 108 players vying for nine spots in the U.S. Open, June 15-18 at Erin Hills.
Of note elsewhere:
- An emotional Stewart Cink, who a year ago bypassed U.S. Open sectional qualifying to support his wife, Lisa, as she underwent treatment for stage 4 breast cancer, dug deep at Brookside Golf & Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, playing his final six holes in 5 under par to secure one of 14 spots.
- Andrew "Beef" Johnston, a fan favourite in his U.S. Open debut at Oakmont last year, delighted the crowds at Walton Heath in England, making a hole-in-one during his morning round and then recording a pair of eagles in round two to earn his spot with one stroke to spare at 10-under 134.
- Yusaku Miyazato rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt on the eighth play-off hole in the qualifier in Ono City, Japan, the longest qualifier play-off since Zack Fischer bested Ryan Palmer in a 12-hole playoff four years ago.
- Finally, pity poor Michael Buttacavoli, who plays on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica. He never even got a chance to play for a spot at the qualifier at Jupiter Hills Club. He was forced to withdraw when his clubs were lost on his flight to Florida.