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Local golfer vie for a chance to compete in U.S. Open

COVINGTON — It’s very doubtful that anyone will try to make their dream come true by attempting an impossible shot of clearing a pond and putting back spin using three-wood to stick their ball on the green, but the making a dream come true for four local golfers is still a possibility as they try to get past the local qualifying round for the U.S. Open Championship.

“This is going to be my third try but my first try down south. I did it the last two years up in Michigan. Last year we didn’t have the best weather, it was around 40 degrees,” Darby Boone said. “I think this time will be different because I’ve had more time to prepare. The better weather gives me ample time to practice and prepare.”

Boone, 29, and 130 other golfer will try to get an invitation to the second qualifying round. Joining Boone at Marietta Country Club on Monday from the local area are Jason Baldia (Covington) and Willie White (Conyers). John Heard (Conyers) will play in the second qualifier on Tuesday at the Legends at Chateau Elan in Braselton where 132 players are scheduled to participate.

The USGA will hold a total of 111 local qualifiers nationwide from May 5-15.

The top seven golfers at the both qualifying sites will advance to the second qualifying round and two alternates from each location will also be selected.

“I’ve seen years where 73 gets in and I’ve seen years where 69 gets you into a playoff to get the last spot,” Boone said. “A friend of mine down in Orlando had 100 players and they took the top five. I did one at the Michigan State University and they only took three.”

One the the 12 domestic and two international sites for the second round of qualifying will by at the Ansley Golf Club-Settindown Creek Course in Roswell. The international sites will be played on May 26 with the domestic sites playing their round on June 2.

Boone missed the cut two years ago by one stroke. Last year he did not fare as well missing the cut by five shots. But he feels that this could be his opportunity to make it out of the first-qualifying round.

The reason Boone thinks that this year will be different is not only because of potentially better weather, but also having the time to practice even though everyone else has had ample time to practice as well.

“The weather is an advantage. I’m sure the competition is a lot better here than it is up north. But that in turn makes you want to play a lot better as well,” he said.

Also making a difference is that he will not have to worry about what is happening at his job like he has had to do the previous two times.

“When I was a club pro I had to take a day off and it’s tough to do,” Boone said. “Here (Bridgestone golf) it was different. When I asked if I could do this it was immediately greeted with overwhelming support. Everyone here has been awesome from the get-go.”

Even though Boone has not had a chance to play the course prior to the weekend before the tournament, he has had a chance to ask players that have played it as well as having had a chance to study the course online. Based on that he thinks that it is going to take a round of at least three-under par to qualify.

“It really depends on the course condition and the weather but if I had to pick a number I would have to say three or four under would be a pretty safe number to go after,” Boone said.

The Swartz Creek, Michigan native started playing golf at the age of 16 when he realized that his dream of playing professional hockey in the NHL was probably never going to become a reality.

“Once I realized I wasn’t going to get drafted in the NHL I needed something to do,” Boone said. “My closest and oldest friend that grew up across the street from me, his whole family is 100 percent Irish, convinced me to get on the golf course with him when he found out I wasn’t going to play hockey anymore.”

The prize everyone is trying for is to play in the 114th U.S. Open Championship which will be held at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club in Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina, June 12-15. The U.S. Open is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association.