California sophomore Michael Kim, who led his team to the semifinals of the NCAA championships over the weekend in nearby Milton, tied Ryan Nelson, a mini-tour player from Charleston, S.C., as the low medalist in Monday’s U.S. Open sectional qualifier at Hawks Ridge Golf Club.
Both shot 11-under-par 133 for 36 holes. Kim shot rounds of 67-66, Nelson 68-65.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Kim, whose Cal teammate, Brandon Hagy, also stayed for the sectional but fell four strokes short. “You dream of playing those majors and playing alongside Tiger (Woods), Phil (Mickelson) and (Matt) Kuchar. To be in the same tournament with them is awesome.”
Grayson Murray, who split the fall and spring seasons of his freshman year at Wake Forest and East Carolina before transferring to UNC Greensboro for the upcoming season, also qualified with rounds of 69-66 to finish at 135.
T.J. Vogel, a Florida senior who also participated in last week’s NCAA championship, shot 136 to become the first alternate. Jordan Mitchell, a professional player from Atlanta, shot 137 and won a four-man playoff to be the second alternate.
Kim started quickly on his first round with three birdies, and an eagle after driving the green on the 319-yard par-4 sixth hole, to put him at 5-under at the turn on his way to 67. He continued his good play in the afternoon round, making seven more birdies to shoot 66.
After Nelson finished his first round with an eagle on the par-5 18th hole — after hitting a 225-yard 4 iron to 12 feet — he played a bogey-free second round while making seven birdies.
“I went from an OK first round to a much better position in the second round,” Nelson said. “I made a few more putts. I played well and really limited mistakes.”
Starting on No. 10, the 19-year-old Murray played his best golf in the final nine holes of his second round after making a double bogey on 13. After making the turn, he made three birdies and an eagle on the par-5 seventh.
James White, a product of Harrison High School in Kennesaw and a former Georgia Tech standout, came up short, shooting 3-under 141. White, now a member of the Web.com Tour after making the final stage of the PGA’s qualifying tournament at the beginning of the year, shot 69 in the first round and 72 in the second.
Three-putting was White’s biggest nemesis. He said he struggled to adapt to the speed of the greens at Hawks Ridge.
“I had good putts that looked like they were going in and just didn’t,” White said. “A couple of putts I hit right on the line, but I left them short because I didn’t hit them hard enough.”
Birdies on Nos. 3 and 4 helped White in the first round, while bogeys on the same holes hurt him in the second.
He had a chance for eagle on No. 4 in the morning, but missed a 20-foot putt and settled for birdie. When he returned to No. 4 in his second round, he hit his second into a greenside water hazard.
“I gave it my best, and it wasn’t quite good enough,” White said. “My game was good enough to make (the U.S. Open), but putts didn’t go my way a couple of times.”
Two experienced PGA Tour players, Billy Andrade and Heath Slocum, were unable to advance from Hawks Ridge.
Andrade, who has played in the U.S. Open 11 times since 1988, shot 141. Slocum, a five-time Open qualifier, couldn’t use his Hawks Ridge membership to his advantage, shooting 144.
Acworth’s Jason Bohn, another PGA veteran, failed to qualify from Monday’s sectional in Memphis, Tenn., prior to this week’s St. Jude Classic. Bohn, who qualified for last year’s U.S. Open from a sectional in Suwanee, shot rounds of 72 and 73 to finish at 1-over par, five shots behind the necessary qualifying score.