Tabuena Paces 6 Bay Area Qualifiers
By James Raia
DALY CITY, Calif. – Miguel Luis Tabuena, a 21-year-old Philippine professional, struck early and continued his stellar play throughout a cool, overcast day to claim medalist honors by two strokes at 11-under-par 132 in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier.
Tabuena, who has nine professional victories, including the 2015 Philippine Open on the Asian Tour, led six qualifiers for next week’s championship at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club, including Mark Anguiano (134) of Whittier, Calif.; Tyler Raber (136) of Davis, Calif.; Gregor Main (134) of Danville, Calif.; Justin Suh (134) of San Jose, Calif.; and Brandon Harkins (137) of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Harkins birdied the 10th hole, the first playoff with David Gazzolo of Riverside, Calif., and Hunter Larson of Naalehu, Hawaii, to secure the final qualifying position.
With temperatures mostly in the high 50s, Tabuena, a pro since age 16, tallied a morning round of 64 at Lake Merced Golf Club. He followed with a round of 68 on the Ocean Course, 3 miles northwest at The Olympic Club.
Tabuena, who lives in Manila, began his march into the U.S. Open with a stellar opening nine, which was the inward nine at Lake Merced. He sandwiched an eagle on the 475-yard, par-5 14th hole between birdies on the 11th, 13th, 15th and 16th to make the turn in 7-under 29.
”I told myself that Lake Merced would be the easier course and I needed to go low there, which I did,” said Tabuena, who had two eagles, 10 birdies and three bogeys in his two rounds. “I am just really happy with my rounds. I am still in shock. This will be my first major and I just can't wait to have fun next week.”
Tabuena, who has played two career events on the PGA Tour, has full privileges on the Asian Tour and PGA European Tour.
“I am really happy with the way I am playing now,” said Tabuena, who had previously only played practices rounds on the two Bay Area courses. “I had a lot of help from members here."
Main, 26, a three-time All-American at UCLA who has conditional status on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, had only one bogey in his two rounds. He shot 66 at The Olympic Club, followed by 68 at Lake Merced.
“I hit my driver really well all day,” said Main. “I just striped it and I just really took advantage of all the driver holes out here. The courses are pretty narrow and I never had to punch it out or anything. It was just fairways and greens.”
Main, a member at The Olympic Club, played in a 2010 U.S Open sectional qualifier, but failed to advance.
“I was never really in trouble; it was pretty stress-free,” said Main. “It could have even been lower had I been putting better. But I did what I needed to do. I can’t believe it. I was getting kind of emotional coming up the last fairway.”
Anguiano, 23, who has played the past two seasons on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, also had a 66 at The Olympic Club and followed with 68 at Lake Merced. He had 13 birdies and four bogeys on the day.
Suh of San Jose, who will turn 19 on Sunday, is a two-time Northern California junior player of the year who just completed his freshman year at USC. He had consecutive 67s and had only two bogeys in 36 holes.
“It feels really good; I’m sort of speechless,” said Suh, the lone amateur to qualify out of Daly City. “I am going to Oakmont. I can’t put it into words.”
Raber, 26, a mini-tour player who attended UC Davis, birdied the 17th and 18th holes at Olympic to qualify with a closing 67. He opened with a 69 at Lake Merced.
James Raia is a California-based freelance writer who has contributed to USGA websites.