If you’re looking for a local
to root for in next week’s U.S.
Open, there is one guy – and he’s quite the Cinderella story.
Of the six area golfers who
teed it up in section qualifying on Monday, only Michael Tobiason Jr., 27, from
Wilmington, a teaching pro at Applecross Golf
Academy at Applecross
CC, played his way into the Open
at Congressional CC in Bethesda,
Md., beginning next Thursday.
his ticket to the Open with stellar rounds of 69-66=135,
at Woodmont CC in Rockville, Md., leaving him T-3rd
among 112 hopefuls who were vying for 10 spots.
Here’s the best part: Not
only is this Tobiason’s
first U.S. Open, it will be the
first PGA Tour event he has ever
attended, let alone played in.
"It feels good; the hard
work is finally starting to pay off," said Tobiason, reached on his cell
phone Thursday. "Professional golf
is sort of a roller coaster ride. It’s nice when you see one of the little guys
get in there to play against the best in the world."
After playing junior golf in
the area, Tobiason
went on to be a two-time All-America
at Division II Goldey-Beacom
College in Wilmington, where he was Player
of the Year four straight years in the Central
Atlantic Collegiate Conference, beginning in 2003.
Since then, Tobiason has
taught at Eric MacCluen Golf, which is now based at Applecross Golf Academy. Tobiason has spent the past three winters in Florida,
notching eight wins on the mini-tour circuit as he chases his dream of one day
playing the PGA Tour.
Qualifying for the Open is a bit bittersweet for Tobiason, coming
as it does a year too late for his dad to witness his biggest success.
"He believed in me every
part of the way," Tobiason
said of his dad, Michael Sr., who
lost his battle with cancer last year at the age of 60. "I know he will be there every step of
the way. He lived a good life, and
he lived it to the fullest."
Tobiason is so new this level of competition, there is no one he can call for
advice or insight into what to expect – none of his friends have made it
to the Tour ahead of him. To
date, the best mentoring he has received has come from former Tour player Al Besselink,
who took him under his wing one winter in Florida.
"Al helped me not just with
my swing but with my mind," said Tobiason.
Speaking of which, Tobiason knows
he is about to strut onto the biggest stage in golf, and he fully expects a bad
case of butterflies.
"But those butterflies are
what make you feel alive," he said.
"You just have to get used to it.
You have to rise to the occasion, and that is what I plan on doing."
As for a game plan for the Open, Tobiason doesn’t want to try to
over-think things. He want to stay
in his normal routine as best he can, enjoy the moment and play his own
game. "That’s what I said this past
Monday (at sectional qualifying)," he said. "If I go out and play my game, I will
have no trouble getting in, and that is what I did."
His expectations for net
week? "Aim for the stars," he
said. "My expectations are
high. You’ve got to set them high."
Among the locals who did not
qualify for the Open were Sean O’Hair, 28, from West Chester, the
PGA Tour star who has been struggling of late. After missing the cut at the Memorial Tournament, O’Hair hung around for the sectional
qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, where he shot 4-nder 68 in the morning at Lakes G & CC but even par 72 in the
afternoon at Brookside G & CC,
missing by three shots. Complete
This will be the first major
O’Hair has missed since the 2008 Open at Torrey Pines, when he
withdrew after being injured in an auto accident back home in West Chester
several days earlier. In four Opens, O’Hair’s best finish was T-12th last year at Pebble Beach.
Other locals who failed to
make it out of sectional qualifying were Christopher
Gold (146) from Haddonfield and Michael
Kania (152) from Haverford.
At Canoe Brook CC in Summit, N.J., Billy Stewart from Devon missed by seven shots, shooting a total of
145; Chris Gray from Newark, Del.
(150) and Jonathan Rush (152) from
Yardley also came up short.