Ten U.S. Open sectional qualifiers took place across the United States on Monday, and a trio of Kentuckians — Hunter Stewart, J.B. Holmes and Justin Thomas — were able to play their way into the major championship.
Stewart, a former Lexington Christian standout who just completed his junior season at Vanderbilt, earned the final spot from the Memphis sectional by finishing second among five players in a playoff for the final two spots at Colonial Country Club.
After bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13 during his second round, Stewart had to rally with birdies on Nos. 16 and 18 to get into the playoff. He shot a 6-under par 137 during his two rounds.
Stewart punched his U.S. Open ticket by sinking a 12-foot downhill birdie putt on the second playoff hole.
"It's the putt you dream of," Stewart told Golfweek.com. "You know, when you're 7 or 8 years old and it's dark and you're telling yourself it's to win (the U.S. Open) and, fortunately, I hit a great putt and rolled it in."
Holmes, a former Taylor County and University of Kentucky star who won last month on the PGA Tour for the first time since 2008, shot a 9-under par 134 through his two rounds to finish second behind Houston Swafford at Memphis.
Thomas, who competed for St. Xavier in high school and Alabama in college, tied for first with Justin Leonard and Seung Yul Noh at 5-under par at the Columbus, Ohio, sectional.
A year ago, Thomas came down the stretch with a shot at qualifying only to finish bogey-bogey and miss making the field by a shot. This year, he hit his second shot to the closing hole to almost exactly the same spot but was able to make a par.
"It's cool to finish in the same spot and do that. I played so well last year and those last two holes were the difference," he said. "This'll be my first major and I'm looking forward to a great experience."
Former University of Louisville standout Adam Hadwin was in the mix for one of the 16 spots available at the Columbus qualifier, but two bogeys, a double bogey and a triple bogey over the final six holes dropped him all the way to a tie for 70th in the 120-player field.
Only three spots were up for grabs at the Springfield, Ohio, qualifier and former Butler High School and Murray State standout Jared Wolfe missed by two shots. He tied for fifth at 2-under par. Andrew Stephens (Covington Latin and UK) tied for 10th at even par and Andy Winings (UK) was 13th at 1 over.
The U.S. Open will be played at Pinehurst in North Carolina on June 12-15.
■ Leonard, the 1997 British Open champion who has won 12 times on the PGA Tour but not since 2008, had failed to qualify for the U.S. Open the past three years. "It'll be fun," said Leonard, who'll turn 42 on the day of the Open's final round. "And Pinehurst is one of my favorites, so a little extra incentive there."
■ Kenny Perry (Lone Oak, WKU) had already qualified for the U.S. Open by winning the 2013 U.S. Senior Open.