EVERETT, Wash. -
By Rich Myhre, Everett Herald Writer
After winning a recent qualifier for the United States Amateur golf tournament, Mark Strickland of Mukilteo knew he had accomplished something special.
But as family and friends began bombarding his cell phone with congratulatory calls and texts, "that's when it finally sunk in just how big this tournament is," said the 22-year-old Strickland, a 2010 graduate of Kamiak High School and a senior-to-be on the Western Washington University golf team.
"It was," he added, "overwhelming to see all the support."
The U.S. Amateur, which begins its seven-day run Monday at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga., "will be the biggest tournament I've ever played in,"
Strickland said. "For amateur golf, this is as big as it gets. It's the pinnacle of amateur golf."
Indeed, only a handful of Snohomish County golfers have ever qualified for the U.S. Amateur. The county boasts a single champion, Jack Westland of Everett, who won the tournament in 1952, which was the same year he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Strickland earned his spot in this year's U.S. Amateur on July 22, posting a one-stroke victory in a 36-hole qualifier at the Tom Doak-designed Tumble Creek Club at Suncadia Resort outside of Cle Elum. He shot 72 and 68 for an even-par total of 140 (the course was reconfigured from par 71 to par 70 for the qualifier), and was in the first group to finish, meaning he had to wait for the rest of the field to complete their rounds.
"I went to the (driving) range with my caddy, and we were just hanging out and looking at the scores," he said. "And I was thinking, `Wow, these guys aren't going as low as I thought they would.' But it was raining a little bit and then it started to rain a little bit harder."
Strickland had played the first 18 holes at 2 over par, which "was pretty disappointing," he said. "I left a lot of shots out there. I missed a couple of short putts."
Hoping to play better for the second 18 holes, he started on No. 10 and promptly lost his tee shot out of bounds to the right, resulting in a double-bogey 6. But he rallied the rest of the way, shooting 4-under-par over the remaining holes for his victory.
Andrew Kennedy of Redmond and James Fahy of Vancouver, B.C., who finished second and third, also qualified for the U.S. Amateur.
The U.S. Amateur opens with 36 holes of stroke play. The top 64 finishers from the field of 312 then move to match play, including a 36-hole finale. The match-play rounds will be televised nationally.
Every year the U.S. Amateur brings together an elite field, with some, no doubt, headed to future stardom on the PGA Tour. "That's what I'm excited for," Strickland said. "I want to play against the best players and to compare myself against the best."
Though no big paycheck awaits the winner, there is still plenty at stake. The winner receives exemptions to play in next year's Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, and an exemption for the next five U.S. Amateurs.
With that in mind, "it's going to be a total life-changer if I win," Strickland said. "But I don't really daydream about winning. I can't think about that yet. I know those are the facts, but that's the farthest I let myself get."
Of course, given the magnitude of the tournament, Strickland doubts he will be perfectly calm in the minutes before he hits his first tee shot.
"I don't think that's possible," he said. "You can visualize it in your head to try to get used to it, but that's not going to cut it.
"There are early jitters in any tournament, but for this one you can probably multiply it by a 100," he said with a laugh. "But once I hit the first tee shot, everything is going to be good."
Vikings Open Season with Victory at SMU Invite
WWU men's golf opens season with 5-stoke victory in 13-team tournament
Vikings Hold Lead at Saint Martin's Golf Invitational
Junior Michael Butler is tied for 2nd place with two-round total of 3-under-par 139
Men's Golf Opens 2017-18 Season This Weekend
Vikings start busy week with two tournaments in five-day span in Olympia and Bellingham
Men's Golf Ranked No. 24 in Preseason Coaches Poll
Vikings looking to build off consecutive GNAC Championships and 16th-place finish at NCAA Championships
Jake Koppenberg Qualifies for U.S. Amateur
Former Viking All-American to play in prestigious U.S. Amateur August 14-20 at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Men's Golf Finishes 16th at NCAA II Championships
Senior Jeffrey Marcum and Freshman Ethan Casto tie for 57th in 108-player field
Men's Golf Slips to 17th at NCAA Championships
WWU men's golf moved up to as high as 8th place, but had a tough finish to finish the 2nd round in 17th place
Men's Golf Senior Trio Named All- West Region
Chris Hatch, Brett Johnson and Jeffrey Marcum earn Division II PING All-West Region honors
Men's Golf in 12th Place at NCAA Championships
Senior Brett Johnson has WWU in the hunt after carding even-par 70 in first round
Vikings Begin Quest for NCAA II Championship
WWU men's golf opens play Monday in the NCAA Division II Championships
Men's Golf Headed to NCAA Championships
Vikings tie for 3rd at NCAA II West/South Central Super Regional
Men's Golf Surges Into 2nd in NCAA Regional Play
Vikings card 10-under-par 2nd round to inch closer to NCAA II Championships
Men's Golf Tied for 5th at NCAA II Regional
Senior Chris Hatch leads Vikings in first round with 5-under-par 67 at Brookside Country Club.
Men's Golf Tees it up at NCAA Regional
Vikings will take to the course starting at 12:50 pm today in Stockton, Calif.
Three Men's Golfer Named First Team All-GNAC
Seniors Brett Johnson, Chris Hatch and Jeffrey Marcum named First Team All-GNAC and Head Coach Luke Bennett repeats as GNAC Coach of the ...