Eckroat, Gooch vying for U.S. Open spots Monday at Dallas Athletic Club

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Oklahoma State current star Austin Eckroat and former star Talor Gooch will be among the field at the first sectional qualifier for the 2021 U.S. Open. The event will have 116 players Monday at Dallas Athletic Club competing for an as yet undetermined number of spots. The other nine sectional qualifiers will be hled Monday June 7. The 2021 U.S. Open Championship will be contested from June 17-20 at Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course), in San Diego, Calif.

Also in the field is Eckroat’s teammate Aman Gupta, the runnerup in the 2020 U.S. Amateur Championship. Here are some of the top players who will be competing Monday in Dallas.

Dallas Athletic Club (Blue and Gold Courses)
Dallas, Texas; 116 players for TBD spots

►Eric Cole, 32, of Delray Beach, Fla., comes from an accomplished golf family. His father, Bobby, played in seven U.S. Opens, with his best finish a tie for 12th in 1970. Bobby won a PGA Tour event in 1977 and captured nine titles in his native South Africa. His mother, Laura Baugh, won the 1971 U.S. Women’s Amateur. She competed in 14 U.S. Women’s Opens and tied for eighth in 1979. Eric, who was an All-American at Nova Southeastern University, has won a number of Minor League Golf Tour events.

►Austin Eckroat, 22, of Edmond, Okla., was a member of the winning 2021 USA Walker Cup Team. He played in the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and has competed in four U.S. Amateurs. Eckroat, a senior at Oklahoma State University, was fifth individually in leading OSU to this year’s Big 12 Conference Championship. He is a three-time all-region and all-conference selection. Last December, he tied for 12th in the PGA Tour’s Mayakoba Golf Classic with a 72-hole score of 270 (14 under).

Nick Flanagan, 36, of Australia, has played in two U.S. Opens (2004, 2017). He won the 2003 U.S. Amateur and became the first international player to claim the championship in 32 years. Flanagan, who carded a 68 in the Kerrville, Texas, local qualifier, has captured four Nationwide Tour (now Korn Ferry) titles and was player of the year in 2007.

Talor Gooch, 29, of Edmond, Okla., tied for 66th in the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills. Gooch was a first-team All-Big 12 Conference selection at Oklahoma State University. He has won on the Korn Ferry Tour and competed on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Canada. Gooch, whose father, Ron, was a second baseman in the Texas Rangers’ minor-league system, has played in nine USGA championships.

►Noah Goodwin, 20, of Corinth, Texas, is a junior at Southern Methodist University and a two-time All-American. He won the 2017 U.S. Junior Amateur by defeating Matthew Wolff, 1 up, in the 36-hole final, becoming the first U.S. Junior champion to earn an exemption into the following year’s U.S. Open. Goodwin, who has played in 10 USGA championships, has the same swing coach (Cameron McCormick) as 2015 U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth. His father, Jeff, is a professor of kinesiology at the University of North Texas.

►Jason Gore, 47, of Gladstone, N.J., has competed in four U.S. Opens and played in the final group with Retief Goosen at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2005. Gore, who was a member of the victorious 1997 USA Walker Cup Team, has one PGA Tour and seven Korn Ferry Tour victories. He is the managing director of player services for the USGA.

►Lev Grinberg, 13, of Ukraine, shot a 2-under 70 to advance from the Orlando, Fla., local qualifier. He posted five birdies and three bogeys at Orange Tree Golf Club. Grinberg, who moved to Florida from Belgium two years ago, reduced his handicap to single digits at age 9. Grinberg is attempting to become the youngest competitor in both U.S. Open and men’s major championship history. Andy Zhang was 14 years, 6 months when he played in the 2012 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club. Guan Tianlang was 14 years, 5 months when he competed in the 2013 Masters.

►Aman Gupta, 22, of Concord, N.C., advanced to the semifinals of the 2020 U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes. Gupta, a sophomore at Oklahoma State University, tied for 10th in this year’s Big 12 Conference Championship to help OSU claim the conference title. He has played in four USGA championships and reached the quarterfinals of the 2017 U.S. Junior Amateur.

►William Holcomb V, 23, of Crockett, Texas, was runner-up to current U.S. Amateur champion Tyler Strafaci in last year’s North & South Amateur. He advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2019. Holcomb, a senior at Sam Houston State University, tied for third in this year’s Southland Conference Championship to help the Bearkats win the conference title. Holcomb has twice been chosen the Southland Conference Student-Athlete of the Year. His sister, Ann, was a member of the Stephen F. Austin golf team from 2013-17.

Michael Kim, 27, of the Republic of Korea, was low amateur in the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, where he tied for 17th. Kim, who was born in Korea and raised in San Diego, Calif., led Torrey Pines High School to a state championship as a senior. He earned the Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation’s top collegiate player while at the University of California-Berkeley and was a member of the winning USA Walker Cup Team in 2013. Kim won the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic by eight strokes in 2018.

Kelly Kraft, 32, of Dallas, Texas, is attempting to qualify for his first U.S. Open. Kraft won the 2011 U.S. Amateur, defeating Patrick Cantlay, 2 up, in the final at Erin Hills. He forfeited his exemption into the 2012 U.S. Open as U.S. Amateur champion by turning professional following that year’s Masters. Kraft, who has played on the PGA and Korn Ferry tours, was a member of the 2011 USA Walker Cup Team.

►Hunter Mahan, 39, of Dallas, Texas, has competed in 10 U.S. Opens and tied for fourth at Merion Golf Club in 2013. Mahan, who owns six PGA Tour victories, also tied for 18th in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Mahan won the 1999 U.S. Junior Amateur by defeating Camilo Villegas and was the runner-up to Ricky Barnes in the 2002 U.S. Amateur. He has played in 19 USGA championships.

►Graeme McDowell, 41, of Northern Ireland, won the 2010 U.S. Open by one stroke over Gregory Havret at Pebble Beach Golf Links, becoming the first European to capture the championship in 40 years. McDowell, who has played in 15 U.S. Opens, also tied for second with Michael Thompson one stroke behind champion Webb Simpson at The Olympic Club in 2012. McDowell has recorded four PGA Tour and 11 European Tour victories.

►McClure (Mac) Meissner, 22, of San Antonio, Texas, was a member of the victorious 2021 USA Walker Cup Team, winning a foursomes match as the first alternate when illness struck both teams. Meissner, who has played in four U.S. Amateurs, was chosen first-team All-America and All-Central Region as a junior at Southern Methodist University in 2019-20. He has recorded three top-10 finishes as a senior in 2020-21. Meissner, who was voted 2019 AAC Player of the Year, won last year’s Southern Amateur.

John Pak, 22, of Scotch Plains, N.J., has been a member of two winning USA Walker Cup Teams (2019, 2021). He tied for 51st and was low amateur in the U.S. Open last September at Winged Foot Golf Club. A senior at Florida State University, Pak has recorded seven top-10 finishes this spring, including a victory in The Calusa Cup on April 6 and a tie for fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. He is tied for first on the school’s all-time list with eight tournament victories, including the 2019 ACC Championship.
►Pat Perez, 45, of Scottsdale, Ariz., has competed in six U.S. Opens, with his best finish a tie for 36th in both 2008 and 2018. Perez previously worked in the cart barn and practice range at Torrey Pines Golf Course, where he won the 1993 Worlds Junior with Tiger Woods in the field. Perez, who owns three PGA Tour victories, attended Torrey Pines High School.

Thomas Pieters, 29, of Belgium, has played in three U.S. Opens. His best finish was a tie for 23rd last year at Winged Foot. He has won four European Tour events and has four top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour in 2020-21. Pieters had a celebrated career at the University of Illinois and won the 2012 NCAA Division I individual championship. In 2013, he claimed the Big Ten Conference title and led the Illini to a runner-up finish in the NCAAs.

►Scott Piercy, 42, of Las Vegas, Nev., was the runner-up with Jim Furyk and Shane Lowry to champion Dustin Johnson in the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club. Piercy, who has competed in eight U.S. Opens, advanced through both stages of qualifying to play in 2008 at Torrey Pines. Piercy, who attended San Diego State University from 1998-2001, has won four times on the PGA Tour, including the 2012 RBC Canadian Open.

►Matthew Sharpstene, 22, of Asheville, N.C., advanced to the semifinals of the 2020 U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes and reached the Round of 32 in last year’s North & South Amateur. He earned All-Midwest Region honors at West Virginia University before transferring to Charlotte University for the 2020-21 season. Sharpstene also qualified for match play in the 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur.

►Davis Thompson, 21, of St. Simons Island, Ga., was a member of the victorious 2021 USA Walker Cup Team. He nearly made the 36-hole cut in the 2020 U.S. Open after carding a first-round 69 at Winged Foot Golf Club. In 2020, he was a quarterfinalist in the Western Amateur and advanced to match play in the U.S. Amateur. Thompson, a senior at the University of Georgia, earned first-team All-America and first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors in 2019-20. He competed in two PGA Tour events last year, tying for 23rd in the RSM Classic (10-under 272), for which his father, Todd, has served as tournament director since 2017.

Braden Thornberry, 24, of Olive Branch, Miss., was a member of the victorious 2017 USA Walker Cup Team and won the NCAA Division I individual title the same year. He received the Fred Haskins Award as the top college golfer. Thornberry won the 2017 Sunnehanna Amateur in a three-hole playoff against Collin Morikawa and tied for fourth in the PGA Tour’s FedEx St. Jude Classic, the best finish by an amateur in the tournament since 1965. He competes on the Korn Ferry Tour.

►Travis Vick, 21, of Hunters Creek Village, Texas, is a sophomore at the University of Texas. He tied for 16th in the 2021 Big 12 Conference Championship and was an All-Central Region selection last year. He was a three-sport athlete at Houston’s Second Baptist High School (golf, football, baseball). Vick scored the first double eagle in the history of the U.S. Junior Amateur in the 2018 championship. He is a family friend of Hal Sutton, who won the 1980 U.S. Amateur and competed in 18 U.S. Opens.
►Nick Watney, 40, of Dixon, Calif., has posted five PGA Tour victories, including a one-stroke triumph over John Rollins in the 2009 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines Golf Course. Watney has played in eight U.S. Opens with his best finish a tie for 21st in 2012 at The Olympic Club. In that U.S. Open, Watney made a double eagle on the par-5 17th and is one of three players to have accomplished the feat in championship history.

►Mike Weir, 51, of Canada, has played in 14 U.S. Opens and recorded four top-10 finishes. He tied for third at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club in 2003. Weir also advanced to the 2019 U.S. Open through the Dallas, Texas qualifier. He has won eight times on the PGA Tour, including the 2003 Masters and 2001 Tour Championship. Weir, who won his first PGA Tour Champions event on May 2, is scheduled to play in his first U.S. Senior Open at Omaha (Neb.) Country Club this summer.

Brandon Wu, 24, of Scarsdale, N.Y., has played in two U.S. Opens and tied for 35th as an amateur in 2019 at Pebble Beach Golf Links. He missed his graduation from Stanford University while playing in the final round but received his diploma in a small ceremony at the course after finishing play. Wu, who earned All-America and All-Pac-12 Conference recognition at Stanford, won last year’s Korn Ferry Tour Championship. He was a member of the winning 2019 USA Walker Cup Team. Wu was born in Danville, Calif., and lived in Beijing for five years.

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