EUGENE, Ore. – As far as good news goes, UO sophomore Brandon McIver received one of the best phone calls one could from the United States Golf Association. The Billings, Mont., native was notified today that he was going to play at the Pinehurst No. 2 course, the site of the 2014 U.S. Open.
“I was just ecstatic,” said McIver after he got off the phone with an official from the USGA.
“The feeling of disappointment last week and joy of knowing I have the opportunity to compete at the Open. I’m still in awe.”
McIver is the first golfer under head coach Casey Martin to play in the U.S. Open and the first Duck – current or former – to do so since Ben Crane did it in 2012.
He’ll have plenty of familiar faces when he tees off on Thursday, June 12, at 5:46 a.m. (PDT) on the 10th tee box for the opening round. The sophomore is paired with Maverick McNealy of Stanford as well as Smylie Kaufman, a recent graduate of LSU who was also at the NCAA Championships with McIver and McNealy.
A week ago, the sophomore missed out on earning an automatic bid to play at the Open by just one stroke after shooting bogey, double-bogey on the 14 and 15th holes and thus became the first alternate coming from the sectional qualifying at Emerald Valley Golf Course.
McIver, who was the third alternate overall, earned his berth to play at the U.S. Open after only one player from the PGA Tour and European Tour received an exemption to play at the tournament by virtue of the latest world rankings. He is joined by fellow Pac-12 golfer and 2014 NCAA Men’s Golf Medalist Cameron Wilson of Stanford, who also earned one of the four remaining spots.
“We’re just thrilled and excited for Brandon,” Martin said. “It’s an incredible opportunity, a once in a lifetime opportunity. Regardless of how he does, he’ll become a better golfer having competed in the U.S. Open.”
Both Martin and McIver thought that he would have a good chance of qualifying for one of the four open spots, so the sophomore and assistant coach Van Williams flew out to North Carolina.
“We thought it was a good idea to fly out here regardless, but making it was just icing on the cake,” McIver said.
“We thought this was a possibility all week so he was out there practicing and preparing himself,” Martin said.
When asked of his preparation for the possibility of playing in the Open, McIver said, “It’s a hard golf course to prepare for, and I have never played it before.”
McIver will have plenty of time to learn the course as contestants will have three practice rounds before the start of play on Thursday, June 12.
He’ll also have plenty of support with Williams – who is a North Carolina native – out there by his side as well as his best friend from high school, Jake Hedge, who will serve as his caddie.
If we learned anything from Crane’s press conference today after winning his first PGA Tour in three years, it is that the support and positive reinforcement from one’s caddie is immeasurable.
McIver will not be in short supply of that with Williams and Hedge by his side as he prepares to tee off against some of the world’s best golfers.