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Brandon Brown is U.S. Open-bound.
Brown, a professional golfer from Shelbyville, earned a place in next week’s Open – one of the sport’s four major championships – by finishing second Monday in a United States Golf Association Sectional Qualifying event in Springfield, Ohio.
Brown shot 5-under-par for 36 holes at Springfield Country Club to garner a spot in the 156-player field that will converge on Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., on June 13-16.
He is believed to be the first player from Shelby County to qualify for the Open, although several residents have played in the U.S. Amateur and Senior Amateur.
“Yesterday was another special day, and [I] can’t say enough for all the support I continue to get,” Brown, 31, wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday. “This is a dream come true for myself and so many family members and friends! Truly blessed.”
To make that dream become a reality Brown had to survive two 18-hole rounds of qualifying in what is billed as “most democratic major championship.”
First Brown made it out of the Open’s Local Qualifying (there were 111 sites around the country) May 7, when he tied for third place (the top five advanced) with a 70 at Cardinal Club in Simpsonville.
Then Monday, Brown shot an even-par 70 in his first 18 holes before following that up with a 5-under 65 to card a 135 in what is known as “golf’s longest day.”
Brian Stuard, a 30-year-old PGA Tour player from Jackson, Mich., earned the first qualifying position with his 129 (65-64). Meanwhile Brown, the reigning National Golf Association Tour Player of the Year and its leading money winner each of the past two years, beat out four others by two strokes for the final spot in the 39-player field.
In his first round on the 6,657-yard course Brown played steady golf, parring every hole but two. He made bogey the par-4 sixth but rebounded with a birdie at the par-4 14th to finish at even par.
Brown, who afterward said that the Springfield Country Club course reminded him of the Shelbyville Country Club course, began heating up in his second round. He made birdie on four of his first five holes before another bogey on No. 6. Brown bounced back immediately, though, by making birdies on three of the next four holes. He made par at the next two holes before a birdie at the par-3 13th got him to 7-under. He made bogeys on two of his final four holes (Nos. 15 and 17) and then had to wait for the remainder of the field to finish their rounds before knowing he was assured for one of the two spots Springfield was deciding.
“This is a dream come true for me,” he said afterward. “[Plus] I’ll get to see my buddies.”
Among those he’ll see in Pennsylvania is fellow Kentuckian, and current PGA Tour player Josh Teater of Danville. Teater, who is 39th on the PGA money-winnings list, also earned a spot in the U.S. Open field on Monday, tying for second place in the Sectional Qualifying event in Columbus, Ohio, another of the 11 Sectional Qualifying spots around the country.
“I only get to play with him [Teater] once a year, but he always tells me to keep believing and it [a PGA Tour card] will happen,” Brown said.
Brown played his first PGA Tour event last year, finishing 62nd in the Reno-Tahoe Open after earning an exemption through the NGA Tour. A little more than a week ago Brown earned another exemption from the NGA Tour, this one into the Web.com Tour’s Air Capital Classic.
That tournament, however, is next weekend as well so he’ll miss the stop in Wichita, Kan., in favor of the U.S. Open.
Still, qualifying for the U.S. Open is just the second-biggest thing to happen to Brown in the past two months. He became a father, to daughter Sophia Anne, in late April.
“Golf is a game,” Brown said Monday. “That’s my life right there.”