U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Furyk Visits Timuquana, Revisits USGA Roots April 29, 2019 | Jacksonville, Fla. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Jim Furyk has enjoyed plenty of success in 24 U.S. Open starts, winning in 2003, and posting three other runner-up finishes. (USGA/Fred Vuich) 

Jim Furyk visited Timuquana Country Club on Monday, the first day of match play in the 5th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, and it reminded the 2003 U.S. Open champion of his introduction to USGA championships more than 30 years ago.

“The first thing I tried to qualify for was the U.S. Junior and I was able to play one time, out at Singletree in Colorado,” said Furyk, 48, of the 1987 championship. “But even as a junior, I tried to qualify for the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open. I was able to qualify for the U.S. Amateur three times.”

The highlight came the summer before his senior year in high school.

“The most exciting thing for me was making it through the local qualifier for the U.S. Open,” Furyk recalled. “The nearest sectional qualifier was in Washington, D.C., near the Kemper Open, and I got paired with Bob Gilder [a six-time PGA Tour winner] and I played right behind [seven-time PGA Tour winner] Peter Jacobsen.”

Gilder was the medalist that day, but Furyk may have been the big winner.

“Here I was, a 17-year-old kid and I got paired with a bunch of Tour pros,” Furyk said. “It was definitely an eye-opening experience, and a great lesson. I didn’t play very well, but to come full circle six years later and be able to qualify for the Open as a rookie on Tour was a lot of fun.”

Furyk’s experience at 17 is a prime example of the democratic nature of USGA championships.

“You go out and fire a number and if you’re good enough, you qualify,” said Furyk, who holds the PGA Tour record for lowest round, a 58 he shot at the Travelers Championship in 2016. “That’s the beauty of the U.S. Open, that it’s truly an open tournament and everyone can qualify to tee it up with the best in the world.”

Furyk applauds the USGA’s two four-ball events, which started in 2015 and are being played for the fifth time.

Jim Furyk etched his name in U.S. Open lore in 2003 at Olympia Fields. (USGA/John Mummert)

“I think it’s wonderful that, as the governing body and the Rules makers, you folks are reaching out and providing this opportunity,” said Furyk. “I know some folks who have tried to qualify for the men’s four-ball, and it’s amazing to have the chance to compete at the national level.”

Furyk was visiting Timuquana with his wife, Tabitha, at the invitation of Clint Avret, the pro at Timuquana and a good friend of Furyk’s.

“Clint wanted to show us around a little bit,” said Furyk, who has lived in the area since 1996 and started a foundation with his wife in 2010 that partners “with a lot of amazing causes” in Jacksonville. “He said it was amazing to see how well the championship was run. This was a great opportunity to check out the club and see a little golf.”

“My college coach [at the University of Arizona], Rick LaRose, played in the previous USGA event here, the 2002 U.S. Senior Amateur,” said Furyk. “We have some friends who are members here and they’re proud to host another USGA event.”

As the remaining sides competed in the Round of 32, Furyk blended in with the gallery and watched a bit of the action.

“I heard about some of the scores, including the gal [Aneka Seumanutafa] who shot 62 on her own ball, beating the rest of the field on her own [in Saturday’s first round of stroke play],” said Furyk. “And I’ve watched a few swings this morning. It’s a really good golf course and I’m glad you are showcasing what we have here in Jacksonville. I know TPC Sawgrass gets the bulk of the recognition but there are a lot of great clubs around town.”

In six weeks, the 119th U.S. Open will be contested at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links, and Furyk stands a strong chance of making the field as the No. 52-ranked player in the world. The top 60 as of May 27 will earn entry into the championship (another top-60 cutoff comes on June 10). He was asked what a second U.S. Open victory would mean to him, in what would be his 25th start, after a win and three runner-up finishes.

“There’s a really good chance I’m going to get in,” said Furyk, whose birthday is May 12. “I’ll be 49 so it would be truly amazing. I’m kind of climbing back up the mountain after a few injuries, but I’m getting better. I gave it a good run at The Players [Championship] this year [finishing second by one shot to Rory McIlroy].

“I’ve had three or four really close calls in the U.S. Open,” Furyk continued. “I know I was able to get over the hump in ’03, but Winged Foot in ’06, Oakmont in ’07, Olympic in ’12, and Oakmont again in ’16… There were some events I felt like I should have won. It’s golf, though, and you have to swallow a lot more disappointments than you get wins, no matter who you are.”

If there is a venue that suits Furyk, it’s Pebble Beach.

“I feel like Erin Hills and Shinnecock [in 2017 and 2018] were set up for the long hitter,” said Furyk. “I don’t think that’s necessarily going to be the case at Pebble Beach. It’s going to be a little more about strategy and keeping the ball in the fairway, and hopefully that gives me a little more of an opportunity.”

Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.