Monday, June 02, 2008

U.S. Open history started in Charlotte

Sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open – the last way to get in at Torrey Pines next week if you’re not already in – is being held at 14 sites today.

It’s a cutthroat game where too many players are chasing too few spots and one bad hole can leave you home on your couch watching.

And sometimes history begins unfolding during sectional qualifying.

That’s what happened 72 years ago at Charlotte Country Club.

Don Bryant, now 85, was there in 1936 when Open qualifying was held at Charlotte, and he remembers watching how it ended that day.

Tony Manero, who was the pro at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, came to the 18th hole needing a birdie to get into a playoff.

The 18th was a sharper dogleg right in those days and Manero’s hopes looked lost when he hit his tee shot into the edge of what members still call the soup bowl off the right side of the fairway at the bottom of the hill.

“From there, he hit a low shot under some trees and it ran up to the edge of the green,” Bryant recalled. “He was just off the green by a little bit but he made the long putt to get in the playoff.”

At the first hole, Manero hit a poor tee shot that left him a longer approach shot than other players into the green. But Manero scraped together a par and had earned his ticket to the 1936 U.S. Open at Balustrol.

“And, by George,” Bryant remembered, “he won that U.S. Open.”