Two IMG alums earn U.S. Open berths in qualifiers

jdill@bradenton.comJune 3, 2014 

US Open Media Day Golf

The "Putterboy" statue is shown at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club during media day for the upcoming back-to-back U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open golf championships to be held this June in Pinehurst, N.C., Monday, April 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)


Two golfers with local connections survived Monday's U.S. Open sectional qualifying, deemed the longest day in golf due to the 36 holes that are played to decide who makes the cut as the final entrants into this year's national championship.

The U.S. Open is scheduled for next week in Pinehurst, N.C.

IMG Academy alums Casey Wittenberg and Andres Echavarria punched their tickets at two different venues.

Wittenberg got through the largest sectional qualifying site in Memphis, Tenn., off a scorching 62 in his first round at Colonial Country Club.

Wittenberg did his damage on the North Course with seven birdies and an eagle in the 145-player field.

The Tour member closed with a 74 on the South Course to tie for eighth place.

Meanwhile, Echavarria got through the lone Florida sectional, which was held at Quail Valley Golf Club in Vero Beach.

The Colombian was steady with a 70 in the first round and a 71 in the second round to take third place. Echavarria, who played collegiately at the University of Florida, was one of four players that earned U.S. Open trips at Quail Valley.

Echavarria's brother, Nicolas, was not one of them after posting rounds of 80-74--154.

Those two were joined by two players that advanced from the local qualifier held in early May at Waterlefe Golf and River Club.

But neither Bradenton's Doug Ferris nor Orlando's

Jonathan Sundstrom advanced.

Ferris withdrew after an 80 in the first round, while Sundstrom finished with an 83-85--168.

The U.S. Open qualifiers from the Florida sectional were Jupiter's Daniel Berger (66-68--134), Satellite Beach's Nicholas Lindheim (66-71--137) and Australia's Aron Price (71-71--142).

Lakewood Ranch resident Vince India, who practices out of The Concession Golf Club in East Manatee, was the medalist at the Waterlefe local qualifier.

However, he didn't get through the sectional held in Springfield, Ohio.

India shot 70-74--144, which was eight shots behind the final qualifying spot awarded at Springfield Country Club.

There were just three berths handed out in the 63-player field.

Brian Stuard of Jackson, Mich., Will Grimmer of Cincinnati, and Chris Thompson of Lawrence, Kan., advanced.

Stuard had an 11-under par total, with Grimmer (5-under par) and Thompson (4-under par) following behind.

In the other Ohio sectional, rising high school senior Luke Miller, who helped Lakewood Ranch polish off its third consecutive state championship last fall, was in the field in Columbus. He missed the cut after an 85-79--164. The cut came at 2-under par 140 with 16 players advancing.

Clearwater's Ryan Gildersleeve, who got through Waterlefe's local qualifier, attempted to pass through Georgia's lone sectional.

He came up short with a 76-72--148 as Henrik Norlander of Augusta, Ga., and Smylie Kaufman of Vestavia, Ala., were awarded the two berths.

The duo had totals of 140 and 142, respectively, at Ansley Golf Club's Settindown Creek Course in Roswell, Ga., to advance.

IMG alum Cheng-Tsung Pan, who qualified for the U.S. Open last year, attempted to qualify for his third Open overall in Creswell, Ore.

Playing the Emerald Valley Golf Course, Pan's opening round 77 crushed his chances of securing one of the two berths awarded in the 50-player field. Pan finished with a 71, but the qualifying spots went to Zac Blair, of St. George, Utah (69-68--137), and Clayton Risk, of Otsego, Minn. (69-72--141).

Also Monday, after three years of coming up short in qualifying, Justin Leonard earned a return to the U.S. Open.

The 1997 British Open champion, who has won 12 times on the PGA Tour but not since 2008, was among the 16 players at the Columbus site who qualified for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst June 12-15.

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