Pack dines at U.S. Open qualifier |

Pack dines at U.S. Open qualifier

GENOA – A University of Nevada golf tournament broke out at the U.S. Open Local Qualifier on Monday at the Genoa Lakes Golf Club.

Three of the top four members on the Wolf Pack men’s golf team participated in the 18-hole tournament, which is the first hurdle in making the U.S. Open next month at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

On a cool and breezy day, the Pack seized two of the four sectional tournament berths out of the 60-player field with Casey Watabu leading the way with a blistering 6-under 66. Nevada teammate John Cassidy also advanced to sectionals, firing a 3-under 69.

“You get done playing a tournament and you’re still in a tournament mode,” Cassidy said. “For a lot of these guys they probably haven’t had tournament for a little while.”

Both players picked up where they left off in the NCAA West Regional on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz. Watabu fired a 64 in the final round and tied for medalist honors at -13 in leading Nevada to its first trip to the NCAA Championships since 1990.

Nonetheless, Watabu had an icy start on Monday. He was 3-over through six holes after three-putting the 217-yard par-3 sixth hole for a double-bogey.

“My caddy and I were walking up the seventh fairway and he told me that there’s a lot of holes left. And there were a lot of holes left,” Watabu said.

A par on No. 7 got Watabu back on track and then he began a run of birdies that few golfers ever experience. Watabu birdied nine of the final 11 holes en route to a back-nine 29, which was a first for him.

“It’s a good feeling to see all of those putts drop,” Watabu said. “I’m just riding this wave of confidence right now, and I hope it doesn’t stop. I’m starting to believe in myself that I can do this day in and day out.”

Wolf Pack junior Dustin Hall of Sparks saw Watabu’s hot round coming.

“He’s one of the streakiest putters I’ve ever seen, and when he rolls the flatstick, it’s scary,” Hall said. “And Cassidy plays rock solid all of the time.

“Honestly, I was playing for two spots today before I teed off.”

Hall, who qualified for sectionals last year, shot a 72 to miss a possible qualifying berth by two strokes.

Cassidy would have slipped into a four-player playoff had he not holed a 40-foot birdie putt on his 17th hole (No. 8). It was Cassidy’s fifth birdie of the day to go along with two bogeys.

“If it didn’t hit the hole, it probably would have rolled off the green,” Cassidy said.

Matthew Daniel of Vancouver, British Columbia, earned the fourth-and-final sectional spot by sinking a 13-foot birdie on the first hole of a playoff with Adam Martin of Bend, Ore., and Scott Gordon of Sacramento. Daniel birdied the same hole in the morning and didn’t lose that good feeling when the playoff began at No. 1 in the afternoon.

After watching Gordon lip out a 35-foot birdie putt from the fringe, and Martin leave his birdie attempt three feet wide from a similar distance, Daniel wasted no time ending the drama. Looking like someone who was an hour behind schedule for a long drive home, Daniel stepped right up and drained the right-to-left putt.

“It was sort of one of those putts you’d want to have in that situation. I was due for a birdie,” said Daniel, who closed out his round of 70 with 13 straight pars.

Daniel waited more than 2 hours after finishing his round before learning his fate. Since the putts weren’t falling that often during his opening 18 holes, he worked on changing that trend for the playoff.

“I just went to the putting green to get a little more comfortable than I was on the course,” he said.

Several other local players made a run at qualifying for sectionals. Former Galena High and UNLV star Travis Whisman shot a 71, but a bogey on the par-5 17th and a four-putt double-bogey on the 18th hole (his ninth hole) spoiled a five-birdie effort.

“Those are definitely the two holes that I wish I could have over,” said Whisman, who will play the Butch Harmon Las Vegas mini-tour this summer. “I definitely should have done better than I did.”

Former Pack player Carlos Concha shot 72; Incline Village’s Ryan Mitchell fired a 74; Gardnerville’s Markus Zinke carded a 75 ; and 1999 medalist Ebon Slack of South Lake Tahoe finished at 5-over 77.

Although Hall didn’t make the sectional cut, he may still find a way to get into the Open.

“I expect to see Casey in the U.S. Open, and I expect to caddy for him,” Hall joked.

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