(Update: Added video, competitor commentary)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Sports has a way of showing us both the highest highs and some of the lowest lows.
Monday’s US Open final qualifier at Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn Resort had no shortage of both, with some golfers even seeing both on the same day as three spots were secured for the week’s US Open next at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Seventeen-year-old Max Herendeen was on top of his golf game and qualification for much of the day.
“I fought my best today and I really couldn’t have asked for anything else,” the Bellevue, Washington native told NewsChannel 21. -this is about all you can ask for.”
He led after the first round of the 36-hole qualifier with a 5-under 67, tied for the lowest of the event. Working on an under-2 round going into the second nine, Illinois’ commitment looked good to clinch one of the qualifying spots.
But his tee shot on the par-5 16e went wrong. He tried to play conservative with an iron.
“The wind was blowing from the left, and it kept getting weaker,” said the high school student. “I went to the right rocks.”
He carded a 7 on the hole, which played under par for the event, dropping it from 6 under to 4 under and outside the cut line.
On his first attempt at final qualification for the US Open, one would have thought Herendeen would have been upset, having just missed out on a chance to play in the national championship. It was quite the opposite.
“I played really well last month and the confidence is definitely there,” Herendeen said. “It’s super helpful to see that I can test myself against a pitch like this.”
Herendeen was one of 65 players playing in one of the smallest of 11 final qualifiers, nine of which took place on Monday, earning the nickname “Golf’s Longest Day”.
And as fast as Herendeen fell, Chehalis, Washington’s Brady Calkins rose just as fast.
Calkins played the final 27 holes of the event bogey-free, including a spectacular second-round eagle-hole from 140 yards on the par-5 eighth hole (his 17e of the turn) to solidify its position inside the cup.
“I was aiming for the middle of the green, and I pushed him a little bit, the wind brought him in and he landed just wide of the hole – and spun back right into the cut,” Calkins said. “I freaked out. I lost my mind. And it was a bit difficult to pull myself together and play that last hole.
The emotions of the moment got to Calkins. He drove his tee shot on the ninth hole to the right, coming to rest almost directly behind a tree. However, he took a break and hit his next shot over another tree 10 feet from the hole.
“I saw him finish on the green, and I started counting my chickens before (they hatched),” the 27-year-old said.
He was clearly figuring out what he was about to do, walking down the fairway with his face in his hands.
However, his caddy stabilized him saying, “We’re not done yet.”
“Just a few deep breaths, and I walked up there and enjoyed the putt up there,” Calkins said. “I wish it didn’t end, but it works. It was awesome.”
A two-putt, and he became the first player to post 8-under and secure his first-place finish at a US Open, eight years after turning pro.
Former Standford star Isaiah Salinda tied Calkins at under 8 to share medalist honors in the next group. Salinda will also play her first US Open.
“I haven’t even thought about it yet,” said the San Francisco native, who arrived last Sunday night from a Mackenzie Tour event in Canada. “Like, what’s it gonna be like? I’m just glad I had to go out and made it.
Last spot went to amateur Ben Lorenz, who beat Ty Travis in the playoffs after both players shot 6 under for both rounds.
Full scores from the event are available here.