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Snowy Wednesday makes for uncomfortable qualifier

Steve Yingling

Qualifying for the U.S. Open is never easy, but the 46-player field who tried their luck Wednesday got more than they bargained for at the Golf Club at Genoa Lakes.

A freak snowstorm dumped an inch of snow on portions of the course early Wednesday, causing a three-hour and 15-minute delay. Players dressed accordingly, wearing four layers of clothing and winter hats.

“Normally on a day like this I would have gone to Squaw Valley and skied powder,” said Truckee’s Pete Smith, who shot a 1-over-par 73 and finished one stroke out of a playoff for the final two qualifying spots.

United State Golf Association official Mark Zinke seriously considered moving the 18-hole tournament to Dayton Valley Country Club.

“It’s real crucial that we got this done today because there’s so much that has to happen after this,” Zinke said.

If the site would have been switched, players would have teed off at 1:30 p.m. with a shotgun start.

“The USGA doesn’t like shotguns whatsoever, but in order to get the event completed we almost had to,” he said.

But the storm subsided by mid-morning and play started by 11:15 a.m., with the 10th and first tees being utilized.

“We were going to give it until noon to see if the weather broke, and if not, we were going to use the alternate site,” Zinke said.

Tom Dawson, for one, thought it was a nice day.

The Hidden Valley golf pro in Reno was the only player to break 70, shooting a three-under-par 69. He holed a 30-foot eagle putt on his final hole to post the lowest score.

“I grew up playing in the winds of the Midwest. As long as the conditions are the same for everybody, let’s go play golf,” Dawson said.

Three years ago, Dawson nearly qualified for the U.S. Open. However, he lost a playoff with two other players for two spots.

“That broke my heart. I thought I was going to make it,” he said.

Mark Gilmartin of Reno finished second, two strokes behind Dawson. Reno’s Travis Whisman and Eddie Travis gained the final two sectional berths in a playoff with Truckee’s Sean Farren and Dayton’s Joe Tamburino.

Genoa Lakes Director of Golf Randy Fox was in contention through nine holes, but a two-stroke penalty for failing to replace a ball mark to its original position led to a triple-bogey 7 on the 10th hole. He was 1 under before the mishap.

“It was fun knowing that I was in the hunt, but that penalty just threw my whole focus,” said Fox, who faded to a 78.

Whittell High graduate Justin Eiguren shot an eight-over-par 80.

Former U.S. Open champion Johnny Miller’s sons, Todd and Scott, also didn’t make the grade. Todd shot 74 and Scott carded a five-over 77.

The 36-hole sectionals are June 8-9. Anyone clearing that hurdle will advance to the U.S. Open June 18-21 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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