Playing in the U.S. Open is a dream for many golfers, but reality for Jay Overton on Monday morning when he arrived at the Bay Hill Club in Orlando was the prospect of walking 36 holes in oppressive heat with little chance of qualifying. "Frankly, at 40 years old, I didn't think I would be able to do that again," said Overton, the director of golf at the Innisbrook Resort in Tarpon Springs. "Not walking 36 holes twice (local and sectional qualifying) and going through the whole thing. I'm not sure why I entered. The odds are just too tough."
But after shooting rounds of 73 and 69 over the long Bay Hill Club course, Overton gained one of four spots in sectional qualifying for next week's U.S. Open.
Dennis Zinkon of Haines City took medalist honors with a 36-hole total of 139 (68-71). PGA Tour player Fulton Allem also qualified at 140 (69-71), along with Mike Weeks (70-72) of North Palm Beach.
Lakeland's Andy Bean was among three players at 144 who failed to qualify.
After double-bogeying the tough par-4 18th at Bay Hill to shoot 73, Overton decided to be more aggressive in the afternoon round, when he made four birdies and one bogey.
"I was really surprised," said Overton, who will play in his third U.S. Open and has played in five PGA Championships. "It was really tough and the scores reflected that. After we played nine or 10 holes, I thought 1 or 2 under might be good enough to get in."
In sectional qualifying tournaments across the country Monday and today, there were 91 spots available for the 156-player field. The tournament is June 13-16 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.
Craig Parry was medalist at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., where 43 spots were available. Others to qualify where Tampa's Lee Janzen and Tampa's Brian Kamm. The 167-player field was filled mostly with PGA Tour players who competed over the weekend at the nearby Kemper Open.
Ben Crenshaw failed to qualify at Rockville.
Other qualifying tournaments were played Monday in Littleton, Colo.; Glen Ellyn, Ill.; Cincinnati; Sharon Center, Ohio; and Medina, Wash.
Today there will be five more qualifiers. Ken Green, former Florida State golfer Kenny Knox, John Mahaffey, Ponte Vedra's Mark McCumber, Tom Purtzer and Howard Twitty are expected to try Canoe Brooke Country Club in Summit, N.J. The other sites are Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.; Country Club of the South in Alpharetta, Ga.; Hallbrook Country Club in Leawood, Kan.; and Trophy Roanoke Club in Dallas.