Dudley fires 68 to win Open Qualifier
by John G. Miller
BRIDGEPORT-- Tommy Dudley didn't get too excited when he shot a four-under 32 on the front nine of the Pete Dye Golf Course during Monday's U.S. Open Qualifier.
He'd been there before -- and he'd rather forget what happened next.
"I started thinking too much and just blew it," Dudley said of last year's qualifier at Pete Dye when he fired a 34 on the front nine to catch everyone's attention and a 42 on the back nine to end his U.S. Open dream.
"I wasn't going to let that happen again," Dudley said.
He didn't. His four-under 68 led the 74-player field, earning him low-medalist honors and a berth in a regional qualifier later this summer in Atlanta.
"I got on a run on the front side," Dudley said, adding that he birdied Nos. 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8. "When I made the turn I just told myself to keep swinging.
"Last year, I got too conservative, trying to make the perfect shot. This year, I just kept playing and didn't worry about it. I figured I had nothing to lose."
He birdied 15, but then bogeyed 16 and 17. But, showing the mental toughness that eluded him last year, the 23-year-old calmly birdied the difficult No. 18.
"I got some bad bounces on 16 and 17, but I just wasn't going to let it ruin my round," Dudley said. "I just stayed calm."
The Hooters Tour rookie from Jacksonville, Fla. stayed ahead of the field thanks to good tee shots and strong irons play.
"I don't think I had a putt over 15 feet today," Dudley said. "And a couple were just tap-ins."
Australian Tour professional David Hill and Nike Tour pro Timothy Straub shot 70s to also earn regional berths.
Hill, of Hixson, Tenn., and Straub, of East Aurora, N.Y., shot 35s on each side of the course.
Hill also said the key to his success was avoiding long putts on the greens, which were extremely fast on Monday.
"I drove it in play all day and put it on the pin most of the time," Hill said.
"I hit balls within 10 feet of the pin on 14 of 18 holes. It's the easiest 70 I've ever scored."
Hill, whose best finish on the Australian Tour was a Top 10 in his nation's championship, said he's happy to advance, but realizes there's a long way to go.
"Playing in the U.S. Open would be a tremendous thrill," Hill said. "But, it's early ... this is like round three of a 15-round heavyweight fight. There's a lot of golf to be played."
Even after 18 holes on Monday, there was more to be played before the final three qualifiers were determined.
Four golfers -- Charleston's Barry Evans, John Henk of Bridgeville, Pa., Kent Stauffer of Verona, Pa., and John Ross of Freeman, W.Va., -- were tied at 71 after regulation, forcing a sudden-death playoff.
Evans, who shot 32 on the front nine but nearly blew his round with four bogeys out of the last five holes, survived only after two playoff holes when he made par while the other three bogeyed.
Stauffer and Henk won spots on the next hole after Ross faltered.Return to Sports