When the 2016 U.S. Open tees off on Thursday at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa., there will be a pair of former University of Kentucky stars in the field.
One is J.B. Holmes, the PGA Tour star who has four career victories and is currently 19th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
The other, Chase Parker, an All-SEC freshman team pick in 2010, is not quite as recognizable.
The Augusta, Ga., native has been playing on professional mini-tours since finishing up at UK in 2013. He earned his first pro victory in mid-April on the GPro Tour, and he’s fourth on that tour’s money list this season.
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Parker played his way into the U.S. Open by finishing tied for second and surviving a 3-for-2 playoff at a sectional qualifier in Rockville, Md., on June 6.
I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I didn’t think I could compete with those guys out there.
Parker, who had competed in several local qualifiers but had never made it to the sectional level until this year, shot 6-under par over his final 13 holes to get into the playoff.
“I don’t know where that came from, something just happened,” he told the USGA. “I turned it on and started making some putts. The further into the round I went, the better I started hitting it.”
He said Oakmont’s notoriously speedy greens fit his game well.
“That bodes well for me. I like that,” said Parker, who won Georgia’s high school championship in 2009. “The faster they get, the better I putt. I’m sure they’ll be pretty fast at Oakmont.”
While the course and the field shape up to be the biggest test he’s faced, Parker said he’s confident in his game.
“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I didn’t think I could compete with those guys out there,” he said in an interview with WJBF, a TV station in Augusta.
He told WJBF that playing in the U.S. Open validates his pursuit of playing golf professionally.
“It means a lot,” he said. “It means I’m doing the right things. It means that I definitely should be doing what I’m doing. I’ve made strides over the last couple years in getting better.”
Where: Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa.
TV: Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (FS1) and 5-8 p.m. (Fox); Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. (Fox); Sunday, 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. (Fox)
Kentuckians in the field: J.B. Holmes (Taylor County, UK); Chase Parker (UK); Justin Thomas (St. Xavier); Kent Bulle (Glasgow) and Derek Fathauer (U of L)