Ron Philo Jr. had to endure a lot more than the heat yesterday at Woodmont County Club in Rockville to qualify for the 99th U.S. Open.
Philo, 33, has been trying to qualify for the Open since he was 17. He has entered the local qualifier often enough not to be sure of the number -- from 10 to 15 times -- and has made it to the 36-hole sectional qualifier five times. But yesterday's sectional, held at Woodmont for the 13th straight year, ended a bit differently from the others.
Philo shot a 9-under-par 66-69 -- 135 at the 6,998-yard, par-72 North course to qualify for his first U.S. Open. Philo, the director of instruction at the County Club of Vermont and co-owner of Ron Philos' School of Golf in Amelia Island, Fla., shared medalist honors with Bradley Hughes, who tied for second place two weeks ago at the Kemper Open.
"I'm just thrilled," said Philo, who played the previous five seasons on the Nike Tour.
Forty-seven golfers played Woodmont for five spots in the U.S. Open, which will be June 17-21 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in North Carolina.
The three others who qualified were Georgetown resident and Nike Tour professional Michael Muehr (66-70 -- 136), PGA Tour veteran Chris Perry (68-69 -- 137) and Bobby Wadkins (72-68 -- 140).
Wadkins, who entered the 1999 PGA Tour season as the golfer with the second-most career earnings yet to win a tournament, made an eight-foot putt on the first playoff hole to earn the fifth spot over Frederick, Md., native Donnie Hammond and Eric Meichtry of Concord, Calif., who also finished their 36 holes at 4-under-par 140.
Hammond, Meichtry, Annapolis native Mark Carnevale and Jim Hallet, from Jacksonville Beach, Fla., earned the four alternate spots.
About 750 golfers at 17 sites are playing for 89 berths. Sixty-seven other golfers are exempt from qualifying, completing the 156-golfer field.
The field at Woodmont was the smallest it has been since 1993, a result of the Kemper Open being moved back to Memorial Day weekend. From 1994 through 1998 the average field was 141 playing for 26 spots. Next year, the Kemper will be played June 1-4 and the qualifier will be June 5.