By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
Published June 15, 2006
MAMARONECK, N.Y. - The memories came flooding back for Jay Haas when he stepped on the grounds this week at Winged Foot Golf Club. This is the site of his first U.S. Open. In 1974.
Haas, 52, competed as a 20-year-old amateur that year while playing college golf at Wake Forest. It was an experience he will never forget.
"I do remember the course being the hardest I'd ever played," Haas said on the eve of his 27th U.S. Open. "To this day I say that. We had a perfect week in '74 and 7-over par won the tournament.
"I just remember being here and having the time of my life and being low amateur. I had mixed emotions when I left. That was a good thing. I got an exemption into the U.S. Amateur later in the year, but also realized I shot 27-over par and if I was going to do this for a living, I needed to improve quite a bit."
Allen Doyle is the oldest player in the field at 57. He qualified by virtue of his U.S. Senior Open title last year. Doyle's only other Open was in 1991 at Hazeltine National in Minnesota, where he missed the cut. He did not turn pro until 1995 and has 10 victories on the Champions Tour.
"If someone told me I'd be playing an Open at Winged Foot when I was almost 58 years old, I would've said, "You might be smoking something,' " Doyle said.
AND THE YOUNG:
Tadd Fujikawa is the youngest player in the field at 15. In fact, he is the youngest to qualify for the U.S. Open since Tyrell Garth at 14 in 1941. Fujikawa is from Hawaii, where another teenager named Michelle Wie gets the most attention.
Fujikawa played in the same local qualifier as Wie and shot 74 to her 72. But Wie elected to play her sectional qualifier last week in New Jersey on her way to the LPGA Championship. Wie failed to qualify, while Fujikawa stayed home and faced a field of just 10 players for one spot and made it to Winged Foot.
"It would have been really nice to get a second chance at competing with her," Fujikawa said. "Unfortunately she didn't qualify, but she did well in the past tournament, the LPGA (Championship, tied for fifth), and I wish her the best of luck.
"Michelle is a great golfer, she is doing what she has to do to succeed. I think she's representing Hawaii well. Not only Hawaii, but the whole game in general. She's made a big impact."
Players with area ties and their tee times today: John Koskinen, who lives in St. Petersburg and has worked as a caddie at Old Memorial in Tampa, begins play off the first tee at 9:12; Belleair's Greg Kraft, who made it through sectional qualifying in New Jersey, tees off No. 1 at 2:31; Tampa native Woody Austin starts on No. 10 at 12:30; and Tampa's Ryuji Imada, who made the field because of a tie for 15th last year at Pinehurst, goes off No. 10 at 2:09 p.m.
AROUND WINGED FOOT:
The United States Golf Association announced the 2013 U.S. Open would be at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. Merion last hosted the Open in 1981, won by David Graham. It is also where Lee Trevino defeated Jack Nicklaus in an 18-hole playoff to win the 1971 U.S. Open. ... The USGA is doing something different with the rough at Winged Foot. There are two different cuts: The first is 31/2 inches and closest to the fairway, and the second is 51/2 inches. "The idea here and the philosophy is that the farther a player hits the ball off line, the more penalty they will incur," said Jim Hyler, chairman of the USGA's championship committee.