UNCG alumnus Andy Bare qualifies for U.S. Open
SUMMIT, NJ – UNC Greensboro men’s golf alumnus Andy Bare shot a 32 in his last nine holes of sectional qualifying to card a second round 66 and qualify for the 2006 U.S. Open Championship to be held later this month.
This season’s championship, the 106th, will be held at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, NY, a course Bare is familiar with, having played there in the 2004 U.S. Amateur Championship. From 8,584 entries this season, Bare is one of 156 that will tee it up beginning June 15. He is believed to be the first UNCG men’s golfer to qualify for the Open.
“I really don’t think it has set in,” said Bare on Tuesday, shortly after returning to his Jacksonville, FL residence. “I keep looking at the player packet and it just really hasn’t sunk in, yet. I’ve been to the U.S. Open (as a fan) before. I guess when I get there and seeing Tiger (Woods) and (Phil) Mickelson, it will kick in.”
Shooting a 70 on the 7,066-yard North Course at Canoe Brook CC and following it up with a 66 on the South Course (6,625 yards), Bare said he thought he had a shot as the day went on and felt pretty good as he concluded his 36 holes.
“I felt pretty good coming off 18,” said Bare, who finished six-under for the afternoon. “I was looking at the scoreboard and talking to the officials and the folks up there at the course and they were thinking that four-under would be enough.”
Bare had just one bogey all day long, lipping out a put on No. 17 as his first round came to a close.
“My caddie was happy that we were playing the North Course, first. He knows the course pretty well and was telling me that the North is the harder of the two. We felt like if we could be ok after the first 18, we’d have a shot. I had played solid until 17 and then just lipped a par put from 12 feet. Still, we were tied for seventh (with those that had played the North Course to start), so I felt pretty good.”
As much as the pressure may have been there for Bare, playing in his first U.S. Open sectional, he tried to keep the thoughts of qualifying – and the fact that he was competing against the likes of former Major champion Mark O’Meara, Michelle Wie and Billy Andrade – out of his mind. O’Meara, Wie and Andrade all missed in their qualification attempt.
“Really, it never entered my mind,” said Bare. “I was playing along side Mark Brooks, who won the 1996 PGA championship and lost the Open in a playoff in 2001. He really kept me calm. He had a lot of nice things to say about my game. I was playing shot for shot with him, so I figured I was doing ok. I just tried to stay in the moment.”
Brooks, winner of seven PGA Tour events in his career, including the 1991 Greater Greensboro Open, also qualified for the Open with a 36-hole total 135.
But since finishing his round and learning that he was on his way to Winged Foot, Bare hasn’t been able to rest very much. Not soon after walking past the hoards of media that were in Summit to cover Wie’s attempt at history, Bare faced his own adoring public... those calling his cell phone.
“I didn’t get to sleep very early last night,” laughed Bare. “The phone kept ringing and at one point I looked at it and I think I had 20 missed calls. I eventually had to just turn it off. I didn’t eat much dinner, either. I ordered a pizza and I think I might have eaten two pieces.”
And it won’t slow down anytime soon, either. Bare will likely make the trek north by week’s end to start preparing. “I want to get up there Friday or Saturday, get the registration stuff out of the way and then get to the course and spend some time around the greens. The last time I played up there in 2004, I hit the ball well, but I didn’t have a good short game.”
Bare graduated from UNCG in 2004, twice earning All-Southern Conference honors. The holder of UNCG’s record for a 54-hole score, Bare played last year on the New England Pro Golf Tour (formerly known at the Cleveland Golf Tour), playing in 10 events and finishing in the money in nine of them. He earned his first professional win at the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Celebrity Classic last June.
This year, Bare began the month of May by winning the Tarheel Tour’s Warrior Classic in China Grove, NC. He then tied for first at the U.S. Open qualifier on May 15, shooting a 69 at Sawgrass CC in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.
Bare then made his way up the coast to northern New Jersey with the hopes of receiving one of 18 qualifying spots. The Canoe Brook sectional had the second-most slots available, bested only by a qualifier in Columbus, OH. The USGA determined the number of slots at each qualifier based on the number of entrants and the quality of entrants at each site. Some sectionals have as few as one qualifying spot. Bare’s score of 136, which included seven birdies, tied him for ninth at his sectional. The top 18 players, with ties broken, gained a spot in the 106th Open.
So what are the chances of seeing Bare playing on the weekend? Or even better... a final group? Bare hasn’t given it much thought to this point.
“A lot of folks have said to me already that I have done a lot to get where I am at this point,” Bare said. “I’ve proven that I can play on that level by what I’ve done thus far. But I know that it’ll be a lot different up there. Realistically, I would like to make the cut. I think that would be an accomplishment.”
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