Golf

Anderson leads US Open local qualifying, advances to sectionals

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comMay 10, 2013 

Mark Anderson finished his round at Secession Golf Club on Thursday and looked for food.

He settled on a hot dog and beer and picked a chair on a patio. Perfect weather, a nice breeze and home-course advantage helped his mood.

After a tough start to his Web.com Tour season and a busy schedule ahead, this was a chance to relax.

The Beaufort resident shot 7-under-par 65 to share medalist honors at the U.S. Open local qualifier and advance to sectional qualifying. Charleston's Ryan Nelson also shot 65.

Hilton Head Island resident Chris Epperson grabbed one of five qualifying spots with a 5-under 67.

Anderson is trying for his first U.S. Open. He will go to sectionals at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, in his home state of Maryland, for a chance to qualify for June's U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

He has missed three of six cuts to start the Web.com season, perhaps still getting over a tough finish to 2012, when he slipped late at PGA Tour Qualifying School and couldn't keep his card.

"I've been struggling, particularly off the tee," Anderson said. "My putter is coming around, which feels great. I think this week I'm starting to feel a lot better about the game. Hopefully going forward it's going to improve."

He had few troubles Thursday, dropping a 50-foot putt on No. 3, the start of six birdies in eight holes. His only bogey was a three-putt on the par-4 14th.

Anderson, who has called Secession home since he began working on the driving range in high school, said the course allows for more aggressiveness off the tee than some realize. He pointed to 14, the par-4 that feeds down to a marsh and approach to a tricky green, as one where a player has to know where to hit it. And on No. 16, when he fanned a drive well right near the 18th fairway, he was still pin-high on the par-5 in two and made an easy birdie.

Gene Rucker, who has caddied at Secession for 10 years, carried Anderson's bag Thursday and thought he brought something a little extra than yardages and reads. The 60-year-old qualified for the 1978 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, advancing past sites in Miami and Atlanta.

"We were saying this might be an omen," Rucker said. "You never know, we might see him at Merion. ... It sure was nice watching him play."

Anderson earned his 2012 PGA Tour card after two years on the Web.com Tour. He finished 155th on the money list, earning $441,000.

He just missed earning his card back at Q-School, finishing 32nd.

"It's taken awhile to get over it," Anderson said. "I feel like I am, but maybe mentally I'm not 100 percent there out on the golf course. I think getting deeper into the season like we are right now is going to help me."

U.S. Open local qualifier

Thursday, at Secession Golf Club; par 72

Qualifiers

Ryan Nelson, Charleston 65

Mark Anderson, Beaufort 65

Kent Bulle, Glasgow, Ky. 66

Chris Epperson, Hilton Head Island 67

Drew Perry, Charlotte 69

Alternates

First: Bradley Long, Birmingham, Ala. 70

Second: Brad Benjamin, Bluffton 70

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