HOUSTON – With one big shot, Kevin Tway went from having to fight to qualify for next weekâ€™s U.S. Open at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club to flying high to Western Pennsylvania.
In a pressure-packed situation, Tway hit a 5-iron second shot from 212 yards on the par-5 finishing hole that settled a mere 3 feet from the hole. After making the eagle putt, Tway jumped to 7 under and gained one of three available U.S. Open sectional qualifying spots at Lakeside Country Club.
â€œTo finish with an eagle on the last hole to make it, makes it all worthwhile to come,â€ said Tway, who almost didnâ€™t arrive in Houston in time for Mondayâ€™s 36-hole sectional qualifier.
â€œIt was a long day,â€ Tway said. â€œI just came from the Dominican Republic. We had a [Web.com Tour] tournament, and I barely made my flight and got here last night. I teed up today without seeing the course. I played here in â€™06 (sectional qualifying), but I hit the ball a little farther now, so it was a little different.â€
Derek Chang, 25, of Dallas, and Austin Jordan, of Rainbow, Texas, also shot 7-under 137 to earn spots in the field. Tway, Chang and Jordan will be playing at Oakmont for the first time. It will be the third U.S. Open for Tway, the 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur champion.
â€œThey say itâ€™s the toughest U.S. Open venue, so I got that to look forward to,â€ said Tway, smiling.
Jordan, who will turn 23 during the U.S. Open, said qualifying is the highlight of his early career. Chang said he has no idea what to expect when he gets to Oakmont.
Tway has an idea. His father, Bob, played in 18 U.S. Opens during his long professional career.
â€œHe knows itâ€™s going to be a long week,â€ Tway said. â€œFairways and greens are definitely a premium. Heâ€™ll be there with me and heâ€™s played Oakmont a lot, so heâ€™ll give me some insight.â€
Tway, who wasnâ€™t in the top 10 after Mondayâ€™s first 18 holes, shot a first-round 71 followed by a blistering 66.
â€œI just tried to stay patient and drink a lot of water,â€ said Tway. â€œThat was basically the plan.â€
His 18th hole, culminating with that spectacular second shot, was a thing of beauty.
â€œI just hooked it into that [flag],â€ said Tway, 27. â€œI thought it was good when I hit it. It was nice that it was that close.â€
On his final few holes, Tway said he wasnâ€™t scoreboard watching.
â€œI had an idea that I probably needed to birdie one of the last few,â€ Tway said. â€œI tried to hit each shot the best I could. Thatâ€™s all you can do. Most of the time, I donâ€™t look at leader boards. I think thatâ€™s a good thing.â€
While Tway has had some professional success, Jordan just turned professional a year ago.
Jordan, the first-round leader at 5-under-67, talked about how qualifying for the U.S. Open is a huge step in his development.
â€œIâ€™ve started to play better lately. I shot some low scores on my home course and was just hoping that would transfer through to today,â€ he said. â€œIt did, for the most part, especially the first round. My iron play all day was really solid.â€
Jordan was leading during the final round before a double bogey on the 15th hole dropped him to fourth place. But he rallied with birdies on his final three holes.
â€œIt definitely was exciting to finish like that,â€ he said. â€œI kept believing in myself and it worked out.â€
Jordan, who played college golf at the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio, knew he would have to play his best if he was going to nab one of the three spots available in the Houston sectional qualifier.
Like Tway, Chang didnâ€™t know where he stood. After completing his first 18 holes, he didnâ€™t look at the scores until the completion of his final hole.
â€œI made a decision not to check the scores,â€ Chang said. â€œI was happy with the way I was playing. I made a lot of birdies in the first round. I knew I needed to cut out some of the mistakes on the back 18. Thatâ€™s what I focused on.â€
See stories and results from all the sectional qualifying sites at www.USGA.org.