National Berths, With a Cherry on Top
Schovee, Spray, Hallberg qualify for Colorado-based U.S. Amateur
by Gary Baines
Matt Schovee will play in his first USGA championship next month, and he'll feel right at home while doing it.
On Monday, the former Southern Methodist University golfer earned a berth in the 2012 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills Country Club, which just happens to be Schovee's home course.
"It's a dream come true," said the 22-year-old, who lives just a couple of minutes from Cherry Hills. "Once I heard they were going to have (the U.S. Amateur) at Cherry this year, I marked down the date as something I obviously wanted to go to.
"It'll be fun to be at a course I essentially grew up on. Hopefully I'll have a lot of support out there."
Schovee punched his ticket Monday by sharing medalist honors in Sectional qualifying at the Country Club of Colorado.
Former Colorado State and Fort Lewis College golfer Justin Spray used his home-course advantage at the Colorado Springs club to join Schovee in leading Monday's 78-man field with 5-under-par 137 totals over 36 holes. Schovee and Spray matched rounds of 70-67.
Earning the third and final national spot was Castle Rock's Eric Hallberg, son of longtime tour player Gary Hallberg, winner of three events on the PGA Tour and one on the Champions circuit. Eric Hallberg, 18, finished at 139 after shooting 72-67.
All three qualifiers will be competing in not only their first U.S. Amateur, but their first USGA championship. (The three are pictured above, from left, Spray, Hallberg and Schovee.)
This year's U.S. Amateur will be played in Colorado for just the fourth time, with Cherry Hills hosting the championship Aug. 13-19, and CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora serving as the second stroke-play course Aug. 13-14.
The U.S. Am being in Colorado definitely served as extra incentive for the three longtime Coloradans who qualified on Monday.
"It's the best moment of my life in golf," said Hallberg, who has been caddying a lot for his dad over the last year. "I'm really excited. I haven't done anything well in golf for the last year or so, so I'm finally breaking through."
But for Spray, the most special aspect of what happened Monday was that he qualified at his home course, a layout he estimates he's played more than 1,000 times.
"This is something I've dreamed about for sure," said the 23-year-old, who recently has been living in Arizona. "I've played in so many Am qualifiers and so many Junior Am qualifiers -- probably every year since I was 16. It's definitely special to have this happen on my home course. I definitely feel comfortable out here."
Both Schovee and Spray had to right the ship after less-than-stellar starts on Monday. Schovee was 3 over par for his first nine holes after a triple bogey on the 18th hole (his ninth of the morning round). But after that, he went bogey-free for his final 27 holes. All told, he posted nine birdies, a bogey and a triple.
"Honestly, starting 3 over probably helped," the Kent Denver High School graduate said. "I was thinking at that point, 'Let's just try to keep it cool and try to make some birdies.' That probably kept me sane."
Spray made three bogeys in his first 11 holes Monday, but went bogey-free for his last 25 and finished with eight birdies and three bogeys overall.
The performance came on the same Country Club of Colorado course on which Spray's Cheyenne Mountain team -- which also included 2003 U.S. Open qualifier Tom Glissmeyer -- won the 4A state high school title.
"I have some good memories out here." Spray said.
Hallberg was a bit more erratic Monday than Schovee and Spray, carding 12 birdies, seven bogeys and a double bogey.
"It was really an up-and-down day," he said. "I made some bombs, missed some short putts, had some three putts. ..."
One player competing Monday who was in a similar situation as Schovee was Wyndham Clark, who also has grown up at Cherry Hills and was focused on playing the U.S. Amateur there. But after qualifying for the championship the last two years, Clark fell a few strokes short on Monday as he went 70-72 for a 142 total.
The two alternates, in order, from Monday's tournament were two-time U.S. Amateur qualifier Michael Harrington of Colorado Springs (66-74--140) and Stephen Summers of Dallas (73-67--140).
A second U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament in Colorado will be held July 23 at Inverness Golf Club in Englewood, where 78 golfers will compete for three U.S. Amateur berths.
U.S. Amateur Sectional Qualifying
At Par-71 CC of Colorado in Colorado Springs
ADVANCE TO U.S. AMATEUR
Justin Spray, Gold Canyon, Ariz., 70-67--137
Matthew Schovee, Englewood, Colo., 70-67--137
Eric Hallberg, Castle Rock, Colo., 72-67--139
ALTERNATES (In order)
Michael Harrington, Colorado Springs, Colo., 66-74--140
Stephen Summers, Dallas, Texas, 73-67--140
FAILED TO QUALIFY
Brendan Connolly, Castle Rock, Colo., 73-67--140
Steven Kupcho, Westminster, Colo., 69-72--141
Jonathan Park, Denver, Colo., 66-75--141
Wyndham Clark, Greenwood Village, Colo., 70-72--142
Andrew Cornella, Colorado Springs, Colo., 72-71--143
Blake Mitchell, Loveland, Colo., 70-73--143
Kory Harrell, Colorado Springs, Colo., 77-66--143
Kirby Pettitt, Fort Collins, Colo., 72-72--144
Kale Waaso, Aurora, Colo., 74-70--144
Christopher Thayer, Chicago, Ill., 73-71--144
Chris Hyten, Colorado Springs, Colo., 73-72--145
Cameron Harrell, Colorado Springs, Colo., 71-74--145
Jonathan Marsico, Denver, Colo., 74-71--145
Jimmy Makloski, Pueblo, Colo., 75-71--146
Steven Irwin, Arvada, Colo., 76-70--146
Danny Hahn, Denver, Colo., 75-72--147
David Delich, Colorado Springs, Colo., 73-74--147
David Schroeder II, Colorado Springs, Colo., 68-79--147
David Holtgrewe, Englewood, Colo., 79-68--147
Alex Kephart, Colorado Springs, Colo., 78-70--148
Josh Mitchell, Boulder, Colo., 75-73--148
Andrew Tapia, Raton, N.M., 70-78--148
Adam Vasilakis, Colorado Springs, Colo., 74-75--149
Ryan Choi, Colorado Springs, Colo., 75-74--149
A. J. Morris, Aspen, Colo., 73-76--149
Chris Longfellow, Castle Rock, Colo., 73-76--149
Zach Tripp, Littleton, Colo., 74-75--149
Drew Trujillo, Montrose, Colo., 71-79--150
Jackson Stimple, Colorado Springs, Colo., 76-74--150
Ken Cosper, Fort Collins, Colo., 73-77--150
Alexander Gutesha, Greenwood Village, Colo., 81-69--150
Greg Carlin, Denver, Colo., 73-78--151
Russell Einspahr, Arvada, Colo., 79-73--152
Adam Pladson, Aurora, Colo., 79-74--153
Stephen Fernandes, Denver, Colo., 79-74--153
Blake Basham, Highlands Ranch, Colo., 73-80--153
Andrew Rapp, Denver, Colo., 72-81--153
Ben Lyons, Centennial, Colo., 76-78--154
Michael Tilghman, Castle Rock, Colo., 77-77--154
Zachary Coe, Gypsum, Colo., 78-76--154
Kyle Graham, Las Vegas, Nev., 77-78--155
Patrick Mullin, Colorado Springs, Colo., 78-77--155
Matthew Evelyn, Denver, Colo., 72-83--155
John Gorell, Colorado Springs, Colo., 77-79--156
Kevin Koelbel, Centennial, Colo., 80-76--156
James Doidge, Pueblo, Colo., 80-76--156
Wilson Belk, Colorado Springs, Colo., 80-77--157
Dillon Mcdonald, Wolcott, Colo., 77-80--157
Carson Torchia, San Diego, Calif., 81-77--158
Michael Slutzky, Littleton, Colo., 82-76--158
Will Myer, Denver, Colo., 80-79--159
Jim Murray, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., 81-79--160
Arnold Hoy, Castle Rock, Colo., 84-77--161
Kyle Thurman, Broomfield, Colo., 78-83--161
Brian Thomas, Aurora, Colo., 84-77--161
Keenan Dickard, Colorado Springs, Colo., 83-79--162
Christopher Platt, Arcadia, Calif., 81-82--163
Tyler Hogg, Colorado Springs, Colo., 78-86--164
Nick Willenbrock, Cherry Hills Village, Colo., 85-80--165
Jack Allen, Centennial, Colo., 75-91--166
Alex Crall, Aurora, Colo., 78-89--167
Travis Mills, Arvada, Colo., 80-90--170
Jeffrey Johnson, Parker, Colo., 84-91--175
Nicholas Purvis, Montrose, Colo., 93-92--185
Brooks Andrisen, Englewood, Colo., 76-DQ
Steve Summers, Dallas, Texas, NC
Ryan Bent, Evergreen, Colo., 81-NC
Ricky Rathjen, Durango, Colo., 77-WD
Andrew Hebert, Longmont, Colo., 79-WD
John Luoma, Parker, Colo., 77-WD
Dean Clapp, Centennial, Colo., 76-WD
Troy Duerr, Colorado Springs, Colo., 81-WD