University Place, Wash. — Parker Edens stood overlooking the 18th green at Chambers Bay, with Puget Sound farther out, searching for some solace to the day.
I have no idea what we’ll doing, hopefully something fun, said Edens, 20, of Greeley, Colo., after posting a 15-over-par 86 in the 110th U.S. Amateur Championship’s opening round.
Edens’ U.S. Amateur backstory is one of the field’s better tales. It’s just that Monday’s here-and-now went awfully awry.
In July 2009, Greeley Central High golf coach Kevin Rohnke, who has family in the Tacoma area, brought his prep team along for a golf road trip. Rohnke also invited Edens, who had recently graduated and would attend South Dakota State University in the fall. The week featured five rounds, including one at Chambers Bay, which will host the 2015 U.S. Open and is the first municipal course to host the U.S. Amateur.
After putting out for a 1-over 73 from the tips that summer day, Edens somewhat jokingly told Rohnke that he would be back for this year’s U.S. Amateur. Rohnke’s touché response was, Then I’ll be on the bag.
When Edens arrived for his qualifying round at Broadmoor Golf Club’s West Course in Colorado Springs three weeks ago, his mindset was serious. My goal became to make the field.
Edens shot 145 to tie for the second and last sectional qualifying spot, and placed his first call to Rohnke, who recalls sitting in his car eating a sandwich during a break in a class he was attending.
I just about fell out, Rohnke said. He just said ‘Remember my comment on the 18th green last year? Well, I’m going back.’ I just thought that was so cool.
Edens, who is making his first USGA championship appearance, and Rohnke arrived on Friday and played a practice round at Chambers Bay on Saturday.
I told a friend that it’s a completely different golf course, said Edens of a course that, at 7,742 yards, is the longest in U.S. Amateur Championship history. A year ago, you could fly the ball to about 5 feet of the hole and make it stick. This year, you have to think it’s going to run out 20 feet or longer.
Which, in turn, means one’s iron play and short game must be in fine working order. Edens, who hit 11 of 14 fairways according to Rohnke, picked the wrong day to be off. In describing his player’s round, Rohnke held his hands about 18 inches apart.
Sometimes you get punished when you’re that far off at a USGA event, he said.
At the 604-yard, par-5 18th hole, Edens’ 112-yard third shot into the green summed up Rohnke’s assessment. The ball hit in a swale near the pin and released softly, rolling up a slight ridge. Instead of coming to rest or even returning toward the hole, the ball slipped over the ridge, leaving Edens a testy downhill comeback putt, which he missed.
Over the final four holes on the front nine, Edens went from 3 over to 11 over, yet remained resolute.
I know I was 8 over with 28 holes remaining [in stroke play], and thought to myself, ‘There’s still a long way to go,’ said Edens, whose back nine did feature a birdie, but also more erratic play. I just kept telling myself if I can find the center of the green, then I’m putting well enough that I can make a few. I just didn’t have the opportunities.
At least Edens can say he had the opportunity to come back and play for a national championship.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA Web sites.