Road to Pebble Beach Begins at Champions Run
The Road to Pebble Beach will begin for 52 players on May 9 at Champions Run in Omaha, when Local Qualifying for the U.S. Open will be conducted by the Nebraska Golf Association.
This is the first stage of qualifying for the 118th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links, and three players will advance to the second stage, Sectional Qualifying.
The course will be played at 7,163 yards for the qualifier. Champions Run is no stranger to high-level golf, having hosted the Nationwide Tour's (now Web.com Tour) Cox Classic for many years, and also hosting the 2018 Nebraska Match Play Championship.
The field is highlighted by a couple past Nebraska Golfers of the Year who have turned professional, and a few who are still amateurs. The 2014 Nebraska Golfer of the Year Carson Schaake of Omaha and the 2015 and 2016 award winner, Rylee Reinertson of Gibbon, are two of the pros who will try to earn their way into the U.S. Open.
Schaake has been playing on the mini-tours in Arizona, while Reinertson has earned conditional status on the Mackenzie Tour (PGA Tour Canada) for the 2019 season through his play at the tour's Q-School. Schaake is coming off a win on the Dreamchasers Tour, where he shot three straight rounds of 68 (-4) to win by a stroke at 12-under.
Omaha's Alex Schaake, brother of Carson and the 2017 and 2018 Nebraska Golfer of the Year, leads the amateur brigade. He's coming off a very impressive junior season at the University of Iowa, where he won the Big Ten's Les Bolstad Award, given to the conference player with the lowest stroke average (70.81). Shortly after earning the award, Schaake was named the Big Ten Player of the Year. He's also very familiar with Champions Run, his home course, where he's won the 2016 Nebraska Junior Amateur and the 2018 Nebraska Match Play.
Lincoln's Nate Vontz, who just finished his sophomore campaign for Creighton University, is trying to advance to Sectionals for the second straight year. Last year, he shot even-par 71 at Omaha Country Club to get into a playoff for the final spot, defeating two others, including Alex Schaake, on the first hole to claim the spot.
Norfolk High School senior Luke Kluver, a Kansas University commit, is another name to watch. He earned a spot in the 2017 U.S. Open Sectionals, just before his 17th birthday, with the other two spots that year going to Web.com Tour pros. Now, he's won two straight Nebraska Junior Golfer of the Year awards, and will be a top contender for one of the three spots.
Kluver's counterpart from Missouri, Hank Lierz, will also be competing. Like Kluver, Lierz is his state's 2017 and 2018 Junior Player of the Year, and is committed to play at Kansas.
Some other local golfers in the field include three-time Nebraska Golfer of the Year Ryan Nietfeldt of Elkhorn, who is coming off his eighth NGA title after an incredible walk-off hole-out for eagle at the Nebraska Four-Ball. Shane Zywiec of Lincoln, one of the Nebraska PGA Section's top players, and recently-turned professional Philip Maschka of Omaha are two others to keep an eye on.
The most experienced golfer in the field, though, has to be professional Michael Letzig of Parkville, Missouri. Letzig is a journeyman on the professional tours, and after turning pro in 2002, has played on both the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour since. His last full season on the PGA Tour was in 2013, and he last played on the Web.com Tour in 2017. His experience on the Web.com Tour (then the Nationwide Tour) led him to play the Cox Classic at Champions Run three times, in 2003, 2005 and 2007. He made the cut twice, with a best finish of T21 and a low round of 65.
Pairings and additional information are available at the button below. Spectators are welcome to attend on Thursday at Champions Run, and live scoring will be available for those that want to follow online.