“I’m pretty happy about it,” Hossler said by phone Saturday. “I feel like I can compete on the PGA Tour.”
There is evidence that he’s right. When the AT&T National begins Thursday at Bethesda’s Congressional Country Club, Hossler will be the youngest member of a 120-man field. Eleven of those players, most notably tournament host Tiger Woods, have won major championships. But only three of them led the most recent major, the U.S. Open: Woods, Jim Furyk — and Hossler.
“The whole experience just helped my confidence,” Hossler said. “I just respect the games of those players so much. They’re the best in the world. But now, I think if I play well, I can play with them and compete.”
Hossler is one of several prominent, precocious players who will try to handle Congressional, which hosts the AT&T National for the first time since 2009. (The tournament moved to suburban Philadelphia for two years so Congressional could prepare for and host the 2011 U.S. Open.) Jordan Spieth, a freshman at the University of Texas — where Hossler is committed to play after his high school graduation in 2013 — will be there just two weeks after beating Hossler to take low amateur honors at the Open. Patrick Cantlay, a 20-year-old who turned pro last week following his sophomore year at UCLA, was also invited.
None, though, has the current notoriety of Hossler.
“We always like to support the amateurs and foster new talent in the world of professional golf,” said Greg McLaughlin, the tournament director of the AT&T National who also oversees Woods’s foundation, in an e-mail Saturday. “Beau made headlines with his exceptional performance at the U.S. Open. The fans loved him, and we’re excited to welcome him to the AT&T National.”
Hossler needed an invitation from McLaughlin to appear in this week’s event. But he gained entry into the U.S. Open by playing in two qualifying tournaments in the preceding months. He did the same a year ago, when his advancement through local and sectional qualifying brought him to Congressional for the 111th U.S. Open at 16. He arrived a week after getting his driver’s license, and was understandably nervous.
“To be honest with you, I really didn’t play my best at that tournament,” Hossler said. “I never got anything going. I didn’t have anything that kind of saved me from the bogey train.”
In two rounds, he made two birdies, nine bogeys and two double bogeys, and missed the cut by seven shots. No shame, of course. He learned, and moved on. “It was so different from anything I’d done,” he said.