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GOLF THOMAS BONK

Tolan, 16, Gets to Find Himself at U.S. Open

June 06, 2002|THOMAS BONK

Soon after he chipped in from 50 feet to win a three-way playoff and qualify for the U.S. Open Championship, 16-year-old Derek Tolan got so many calls it nearly fried his cell phone.

"I'm pretty lost right now," said Tolan, a junior-to-be at ThunderRidge High in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

It's understandable. Tolan's shot shocked PGA Tour veteran Mike Reid and Mike Zaremba, and propelled the teen into the U.S. Open field at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y., next week. Tolan already has lined up two practice rounds.

"But not with Tiger," he said. "I already asked. He's booked."

In the 36-hole qualifying Monday at Columbine (Colo.) Country Club, Tolan was three shots ahead in the race for the second spot but bogeyed three of the last five holes and was forced into the playoff.

John Tolan, a club pro and his son's only teacher, was in agony as he watched the bogeys.

"I know what it's like for that to happen and you try so hard not to think about making bogeys, but that's all you can think about," the elder Tolan said. "But Derek has mental focus years beyond a 16-year-old."

Tolan isn't the youngest to play the U.S. Open. In 1941, Tyrell Garth was 14. He may, however, be one of the luckiest.

On the first playoff hole, Tolan was short of the green, his ball on the front fringe, a solid 50 feet from the hole. His next shot was a chip.

"It kept going, I saw it going, I didn't know what it was going to do," John Tolan said. "Then it went in. I was so nervous on the back nine, I just couldn't believe it."

Neither could Derek, but with all the hoopla, he has gotten used to the idea of making the Open.

"My goal is mostly just to see what it's like and get a feel for it," he said. "I want to see how tough the Open is, how tough the course is, how tough the players are."

He won't be the only Tolan on hand to find out. His father and mother, Darlene, will be at Bethpage and so will sisters Heather, 20, and Chantel, 11.

John Tolan says Derek, who is 5 feet 11 and slender, hits the ball pretty far.

"And he has a real good short game," he said.

Obviously.

Open Up

There are hints now that the U.S. Golf Assn. will not announce its choice for the site for the 2008 U.S. Open on Wednesday at Bethpage Black as expected. The site was to have been revealed in the organization's annual news conference at the U.S. Open, with Riviera Country Club and Torrey Pines Golf Course figuring prominently as the front-runners.

It seems that the deal is much more complicated than you would think, with Pebble Beach being rumored as the choice for 2009 and the USGA apparently trying to tie that one down first. Speculation is that the club that doesn't get the 2008 bid will be awarded the U.S. Open in 2010 or possibly 2011--at which time Tiger Woods will be 35 and playing his 15th full year as a pro.

The Open sites already announced are Olympia Fields in 2003, Shinnecock Hills in 2004, Pinehurst No. 2 in 2005, Winged Foot in 2006 and Oakmont in 2007.

This Just In

In a survey of nearly 800 of its members, the Golf Course Superintendents Assn. of America asked what the most interesting course for a major is this year--38% each for Bethpage Black and Augusta National, 14% for Muirfield in Scotland (British Open), and 8% for Hazeltine in Chaska, Minn. (PGA Championship).

This Just Out

News item: Part of BusinessWeek's May 20 article called "The PGA Tour: Where's the Green?" includes an item about the "proposed" Major Champions Tour, "an eight-event mini-tour in 2003 [that] would feature 20 top pros and compete head-to-head with the PGA Tour."

Reaction: Since the Major Champions Tour, at least in that format, went belly-up about a month ago, it reflects poorly on the credibility of the rest of the story, fairly or not.

Tiger Update

News item: The pairings program for last week's Kemper Open included a "Tiger Who" story, accompanied by a picture of Woods with a red circle and a slash ... a satirical shot at his skipping the tournament.

Reaction: This virtually guarantees "Tiger Who" won't play next year, either.

Shoe News

Those red slip-on golf shoes that Annika Sorenstam wore and caused such a stir when she won the Nabisco Championship, well, they simply won't go away. Nike Golf will ship 150 pairs of the Verdana Slip-ons to the U.S. Women's Open next month and sell them for $85 (available in sizes 6 through 11).

There's no word whether Sorenstam will be wearing them again because she doesn't have a shoe deal with Nike.

Playing a Round

Yes, we know Bethpage Black is a public course, but do you know how many rounds were played there last year? Try 50,000.

And while we're on the subject of Bethpage Black, the USGA is probably going to do very well financially at the Open. It has sold all 42,500 of the daily tickets, 78 corporate hospitality tents--50% more than ever before--including 18 at $175,000 apiece along the 18th fairway.

The Rose Garden

He just jumped 21 places in the Official World Ranking to No. 48, so the hottest golfer in the world right now must be, yes, Justin Rose.

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