The phone call came Wednesday morning for Coastal Carolina golfer Andrew Dorn, and while the conversation was brief, it was one he’ll never forget.
Dorn was told that he has received a coveted spot in the U.S. Open Championship field, and next week he’ll be playing amongst the best golfers in the world as the spotlight for the sport shines on Pinehurst No. 2 up the road in North Carolina.
Dorn, who recently completed his junior season with the Chanticleers, had won a local qualifying tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio, last month and then placed fourth Monday at sectional qualifying in Springfield, Ohio, to be named one of the top alternates for the U.S. Open field.
And then he waited for the phone to ring.
“It just really is unbelievable that I actually have been given the opportunity to play,” he said by phone Wednesday after getting official notification. “It’s just a feeling that I can’t really describe, something every kid dreams about and being able to play in the U.S. Open is just a dream come true.”
The tournament – one of professional golf’s four majors – runs June 12-15, and Dorn will be one of the fortunate amateurs in the 156-player field.
According to the Associated Press, a record 10,127 hopefuls signed up for local qualifying tournaments just trying to earn a spot in one of the 12 sectional qualifying events (10 in the United States). The number of U.S. Open spots available from each sectional tournament varies, but in Dorn’s sectional at Springfield Country Club, the top three finishers secured their place while he finished as the first alternate.
As he explained it, he was told by the United States Golf Association that he was then slotted as the No. 3 alternate overall after all the sectionals were completed. And after two players – including Tiger Woods – had already withdrawn the dream then became a reality for the Chanticleer standout when Thomas Bjorn also formally withdrew from the field due to injury.
“I was just sitting around today watching TV, I get a call, I recognize the number and I knew it was the USGA,” Dorn said. “I was like, ‘What could this be?’ He said, ‘Andrew, would you like to play in the U.S. Open?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I would.’ He said ‘Great because Thomas Bjorn just dropped out this morning and the spot is yours if you want it.
“It was a two-minute phone conversation, but it was one of the best phone calls I’ve ever received in my life.”
According to the latest GolfWeek rankings, Dorn is rated tied for 55th among U.S. amateurs and tied for 98th in the world. He is a two-time All-Big South selection with the Chants.
“It’s another player representing from Coastal. It’s great for us. We’re proud for Dorn,” Coastal Carolina men’s golf coach Kevin McPherson said. “Him being in school now and not just with [former Chanticleer] Dustin Johnson being on the tour and expected that he’s going to be in the tournament, I think it just says a lot about where this program is going and where it’s been.
“Having [an] amateur player such as Dorn being able to qualify against the best players in the world, it puts it in perspective that we’ve got some talent out there, and we’re certainly proud of him.”
As for his path to Pinehurst, Dorn could have spared himself some suspense if not for three bogeys down the final stretch of his sectional qualifying round. He had been 5-under par with six holes to play before those stumbles, and he knew he needed to regain some ground over the final two holes to give himself a chance.
After missing a birdie putt of about 10 feet on his penultimate hole, Dorn thought about what was at stake as he got ready to tee off on hole No. 9 – a short par 3 – for his final hole of the day.
“It was only a wedge for me. It played about 140 yards. I hit the shot and it was right at the pin, it was coming down right on top of the pin and I thought, ‘This could land in the hole,’” he recalled. “It landed a foot short, and I tapped in for birdie. … The ball seemed like it was in the air for 10 minutes as I as watching it.”
That gave him a 3-under 137 for the 36-hole tournament, and there was one more player ahead of him on the leaderboard who still had holes to play at that point. He readied himself for a potential playoff that never materialized, but that final birdie had nonetheless given him hope as he waited for the call.
And now that it’s come to fruition, Dorn said it’s like a storybook outcome.
“It’s really surreal because when they had the last U.S. Open [at Pinehurst], I think it was 2005 my dad took myself and one of my friends and we were about 10, 11 years old,” Dorn said. “We went for one of the practice round days. It was just cool because it was the first big golf tournament I’d ever been to before.
“And with winning [the North & South Amateur Championship] at Pinehurst last summer, it was the No. 1 priority on my list this summer to make it through the local qualifying so I could have a chance to qualify for the U.S. Open.”
The North & South Amateur that Dorn won last year is a prestigious event in its own right and gives him some well-earned confidence returning to the famed No. 2 course at Pinehurst next week. He said he’ll be using the same caddy – a local Pinehurst caddy – who helped him on the bag there last summer.
As for expectations, well, he’s just eager to see what he can do against the game’s greats.
“It’s golf so anything can happen,” Dorn said. “I’ve been playing really well lately, probably some of the best golf I’ve been playing ever. … I’m really feeling confident. I’m not going to go in and set any performance-based goals. I’m just going to go and take it one shot at a time and play my game and see what happens.
“I feel if I play well enough I can maybe go out there and possibly compete, so why not.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318 or on Twitter @RyanYoungTSN.