U.S. Open: For 16-year-old Beau Hossler, Congressional is a classroom

June 14, 2011

The braces and the baby face suggest Beau Hossler, all of 16 years old, might be out of his element at the U.S. Open. His longing to play professionally indicates otherwise, even if he is the second youngest in history to qualify for what’s annually the toughest test of golf, at least on this side of the Atlantic.

So while his classmates at Santa Margarita Catholic in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., may be enjoying sun, sand and surf thousands of miles across the country, Hossler’s golf education continued at Congressional Country Club, where his practice round this morning began with three others.

By the time Hossler arrived at the ninth green in the shadow of the clubhouse, he was the only member left from that foursome, and he probably would have played another 18—his group began at No. 10—had that been an option. Becoming acquainted with Congressional’s unforgiving greens and punitive rough, after all, demands more than just one leisurely round.

“Practice rounds, you really don’t have to worry about how you’re playing,” Hossler said. “Just going out there and trying to find which parts of the golf course you need to be in and which parts you need to avoid at all costs.”

Hossler instead worked on putting shortly after completing the course, staking out a small area of real estate on the practice green just steps from PGA Tour luminaries twice his age and then some. Part of the time he spent rolling golf balls to get a better feel for the speed the greens. In other moments, he was studying the habits of his fellow competitors, who have been through this process countless times.

Hossler also surveyed the tendencies of several of his playing partners, including Camilo Villegas and Brian Gay, who left the group after nine holes. Villegas played 12 holes before heading for the putting green, where he stopped briefly to pose for pictures with a handful of Spanish-speaking supporters.

“I’m going out here trying to learn from guys who are out here all the time and do well in these type of tournaments and also to see the environment,” Hossler said. “Obviously, a golf course that’s set up like a major championship where it’s very difficult, and kind of observe the preparation of the really good players and try to learn from them so it can help me in the future.”

Hossler earned his tee time at Congressional thanks to surviving several qualifiers, initially in a playoff at Ironwood in Palm Desert, Calif., and most recently at a sectional at storied Oakmont, which has hosted the U.S. Open eight times. Hossler shot 4-under 138 over two days at Oakmont, good enough for a tie for third and one of the five spots up for grabs from that sectional.

Now, less a week after Hossler’s final day of high school this year, the sophomore is roughly 48 hours from officially participating in his first major championship.

“The accomplishment for me is being able to get experience in this type of event,” Hossler said. “It’s not necessarily the journey getting here, but having the opportunity to play in an event with the best players in the world and to see the best golf course in the world and how they’re set up in these major championships.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.
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