Oakmont open for qualifying

GLENDALE — Since it opened its doors in 1922, Oakmont Country Club has hosted its share of prestigious events.

The fabled club has been the site of professional and collegiate tournaments, in addition to co-hosting the state amateur championship before undergoing major renovations in 2009.

It will add another big event to its list Monday, as Oakmont is one of 11 sites in the nation and 13 internationally that will host a qualifier for the 111th rendition of the U.S. Open.

The U.S. Open, one of four majors and 13 championships conducted by the United States Golf Assn., will be held June 16-19 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. The international sectionals were held in May in Japan and England. The sites in the United States will be in Washington, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee.

The field of 93 from the Oakmont event will feature 58 professionals and 35 amateurs. The top four finishers in the 36-hole sectional qualifier will advance to the U.S. Open.

The first round will begin at 6:50 a.m., with the second round slated to start at 12:15 p.m.

The field will have a pair of locals ties, as Brett Kanda and Brennan Amirkhizi will each look to qualify for the championship for the first time. Kanda, a La Crescenta resident and a former All-Area Boys' Golfer of the Year while at Flintridge Prep, and Amirkhizi, who recently led the Glendale Community College men's golf program to an appearance in the state playoffs, each moved into Monday's round after getting through their local qualifiers in May.

Kanda, a Flintridge Prep and UNLV graduate, turned pro last year and has been on the Canadian Tour since February. He's also a member at Oakmont, which hosted a local qualifier for the U.S. Open last year.

"I'm real excited about trying to qualify," said Kanda, who will begin play on the first hole at 8:29 a.m. "I had been struggling a bit going into the local qualifier, but I trusted my ability and have been working hard at it since.

"I've made some changes with my swing and things have started paying off. It's great for the club to host the sectional for the first time. I'm happy for them."

Amirkhizi, a sophomore at Glendale College, won his local qualifying round May 17 at Crystalaire Country Club in Llano. That came one day after the Vaqueros placed seventh in the state tournament in Hanford.

Amirkhizi, who will tee off on the first hole at 6:59 a.m., said he's counting on his late-season surge to put him in position to advance.

"This is going to be one of the biggest days of my life and career," Amirkhizi said. "You can't go any farther than the U.S. Open, other than maybe the Masters.

"I've been practicing extra hard, but I know I can't go in too overconfident. I just want to go in there and play my game. Anything can happen."

Among those also expected to be on hand include amateur Steve Irwin and professional Eric Meeks. Irwin is the son of three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin, who won the championship in 1974, 1979 and 1990. Meeks competed in the 1989 and 1995 U.S. Opens.

Irwin, who resides in Colorado, will make his third sectional qualifying appearance since 1993. While he's yet to advance to the U.S. Open, Irwin said he's seeking a different outcome Monday.

"It would be fantastic to play in it and it's going to take a lot of work to make the dream become a reality," said Irwin, who will tee off at 8:20 a.m. on the 10th hole. "I played a practice round at Oakmont about two weeks ago and it's a nice golf course.

"It fits my eye and game well because it's more of a tree-lined course. It's not an overly long course."

Meeks, a Las Vegas resident who will tee off on the 10th hole at 6:59 a.m., hasn't played the Oakmont course, though he said he planned to play a practice round today.

"It's been a while since I've played in the U.S. Open and it would be incredible to make it there again," said Meeks, who won the 1988 U.S. Amateur. "I heard the course is pretty fast and accuracy will be a key.

"It's tougher to qualify for something you've never qualified for. I've qualified before, so why not again?"

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