The tough gets tougher Monday morning at Valencia Country Club.
Valencia, site of a U.S. Open sectional qualifying tournament, has been spruced up and juiced up in anticipation of the 36-hole event, which begins at 7:30 a.m.
Not that it needed much help.
"We spiced it up just a little," said Jamie Conkling of the Southern California Golf Assn., which oversees the event. "The course speaks for itself though."
Indeed. The 59 players in the field, including an exceptionally strong group of amateurs, will be playing from the gold tees (7,090 yards). The SCGA has made a few devilish changes in the already demanding course, which has a rating of 76.3. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and is considered among the best layouts in the Southland.
The rough will be lengthened and the fairways narrowed on several holes, and the slick greens will be trimmed even shorter. For true aficionados, Conkling said the Valencia greens will measure between 10-11 feet on the stimpmeter, a standardized instrument that measures how far a ball will roll on a green.
The top four players in the field advance to the U.S. Open on June 17-20 at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.
Sectional tournaments are the second step in qualifying for the Open field. More than 6,000 entrants nationwide sought 91 berths available to players without tournament exemptions. Valencia is playing host to one of 13 sectionals nationwide.
The field at Valencia features 45 professionals and 14 amateurs, but the latter group is considered the class of the event, Conkling said. Several of the amateur entrants are marquee names, including high school phenoms Tiger Woods of Anaheim and Ted Oh of Torrance. Both are former Southern Section individual champions.
Oh is scheduled to tee off in the opening group at 7:30 on the first hole and Woods at 8:51 on the 10th. Spectators are permitted.
Mitch Voges of Simi Valley, the 1991 U.S. Amateur champion, and longtime amateur standout Craig Steinberg of Van Nuys also are entered. Manny Zerman, a South African from the University of Arizona, ranks among the top college players in the event. Voges defeated Zerman for the U.S. Amateur title two years ago.
Former Cal State Northridge player Corby Segal, Jim Tassano of Camarillo, Ron Hinds of Westlake Village and Mark Singer of Valencia also are entered.