Guys with local ties teeing it up in U.S. Open

Jun. 12, 2014 @ 09:02 PM

At the start, Joe Ogilvie wasn’t sure if the galleries were shouting, “Duke,” because it was his alma mater or because it was the last name of playing partner Ken Duke.

Either way, by the end, most of the cheers were reserved for the third member of his group, North Carolina graduate Mark Wilson.

Seeking to make the cut for the first time at the U.S. Open, Wilson shot an even-par 70 Thursday in the first round at Pinehurst No. 2. The three Duke graduates were all in the red, with Ogilvie and Ryan Blaum at 3-over and Kevin Streelman at 5-over along with Duke, a graduate of Division II Henderson State University.

Playing his fourth career U.S. Open and his third in four years, Wilson was strong out of the gate. Starting in the afternoon at No. 10, the two-time All-American at UNC saved par with a 14-foot putt on No. 11.

“That really calmed me down, and then I birdied the next hole,” Wilson said.

The birdie at No. 12 momentarily put him one shot off the lead. He gave a stroke back at No. 15 and then bogeyed No. 4, but he immediately got back to even par on No. 5 by hitting a 3-wood to the fringe and two-putting for a birdie.

Wilson had an average drive of 254.5 yards (the field averaged 280.6) and hit just 10 of 18 greens, but made up the difference with his chipping and putting.

“Like anybody, I left a couple out there,” Wilson said. “But I capitalized on my opportunities and had a couple good saves coming in.”

The 1997 UNC graduate won five PGA titles between 2007-12. The only Tar Heel in the field wore red — the only blue shirt his clothing company makes is a royal shade, he said.

“(The red shirt) was in the lineup,” Wilson said. “I looked in the closet (and) I’m like, ‘I look good today.’”

Ogilvie, who joked that playing with Ken Duke “is much better than playing with Ken Carolina,” was competing in his third straight U.S. Open. He shot even par except for a bogey-double bogey stretch on Nos. 14-15.

“I hit the ball better than most today,” Ogilvie said. “I played really solid. I just scored terribly. I didn’t get the speed down on the greens. (A low score) was out there.”

Playing in the third-to-last group, Blaum parred every hole except for bogeys on 3, 16 and 18. He hit 13 greens in regulation (the course average was about 10) but didn’t make any long putts.

“I hit the ball great today,” Blaum said. “Overall, three bogeys are going to happen, I just didn’t get any birdies. I hit a lot of shots that didn’t get within that 10- to 12-foot range. It was more like 20, 25 feet, which is fine in the U.S. Open, you just hope to make a couple of those a round.”

Blaum missed the cut by one stroke in his only previous U.S. Open in 2009, and thought the experience made him more comfortable on Thursday.

“I think my confidence is a little bit higher because I’ve been through the circus that is the U.S. Open before,” Blaum said.

At No. 57 in the world rankings, Streelman had the most recent success of the Duke or UNC graduates in the field, but he had the worst round on Thursday. He bogeyed four of his first eight holes and then played a wild five-hole stretch at Nos. 3-7, going bogey-bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie.

Streelman, who had a share of the lead after the first round of the 2008 U.S. Open, was in the sand six times on Thursday and refused to comment to reporters afterward.

All the local golfers will start their second rounds early today, which Ogilvie thinks could work in their favor depending on the weather.

“I’ve always said when you play the U.S. Open — if there’s no weather — if you tee off late (Thursday) early (Friday), that is a massive advantage,” said Ogilvie, who is competing in the event for the seventh time. “It just gets progressively firmer. If we don’t get rain, those guys in the afternoon, there’s going to be carnage.”

Ogilvie and Wilson will tee off from No. 1 at 7:07 a.m. Streelman will start from No. 1 at 8:24 a.m., and Blaum will follow at 8:35 a.m.