By Jennifer Van Tuyl
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
In July, Oklahoma will host the U.S. Amateur Public Links Golf Tournament at the Jimmie Austin Golf Club in Norman, Okla. It will mark the first time the prestigious tournament will be held at a collegiate golf course, as well as the first time that an Oklahoma venue has hosted the event.
The tournament is open to amateur public golfers who hold a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 8.4. Competing in the tournament gives golfers an opportunity to compete for a national championship, as former Sooner Hunter Haas did in winning the 1999 crown with a four and three victory over Michael Kirk at Spencer T. Olin Community Golf Course in Alton, Ill.
Seeking a spot in this year’s field is first-time participant Ben Blundell, a junior on the OU squad from Rowlett, Texas.
“It is one of the biggest tournaments of the year,” Blundell said. “It is going to be a big event and it is fortunate for the guys on the team who get in because we get to play the course everyday.”
If past success on big stages is any indication, Blundell should perform well at the public links. The junior carded a 7-under-par 65 in the first round of the Cordevalle Collegiate as freshman – marking the lowest round by an OU true freshman since Chris Cureton shot 65 in the final round of the 1999 Red River Classic.
In regards to OU being the first university program to hold the tournament, Blundell thinks it will draw lots of interest to the golf program.
“We get to show everybody our golf course,” Blundell said. “Not every team gets to have a golf course on campus. They just spent a lot of money this last year getting it ready for the tournament.”
Competing in the U.S. Amateur Public Links is a very prestigious tournament that can lead to bigger things. The 2008 Masters Champion Trevor Immelman won in 1998, while other former competitors included Tiger Woods and OU’s three-time All-American Anthony Kim. Being such a high-caliber event, Blundell is nervous but confident.
“I am getting a little bit nervous because I have to qualify in order to earn a spot into the field,” Blundell said. “I think if I can qualify everything should be good because I have a really good handle on the course.”
Qualifying rounds for the national championship will take place June 20–28 at select sites across the country. Golfers will have to earn one of the advancing spots at the qualifying stage, which differs between the qualifying sites based on the size of competitors. Once the national championship field is set, the tournament will conduct two days of stroke play competition to lower the field to 64 for match play. Competing on the home course will not only bring attention to the OU program, but will definitely give the Sooners a slight advantage if they are fortunate enough to advance to match play.
“The tournament will draw young golfers out to watch,” Blundell said.” And the bigger the crowds coming to watch will help you beat the other guys.”
Blundell has definitely earned his spot in the tournament as he is just one of four upperclassmen on the current Oklahoma roster and has been a mainstay since his freshman year. He has played a total of 82 rounds for the Sooners, the highest total of any golfer on the current squad.As for competing against his fellow teammates, Blundell just wants Oklahoma to be represented well. He knows they have the potential to do well and hopes for an all Sooner final.
“I hope it is me and one of teammates in the final round,” Blundell said. “So we can draw a really big crowd and have the Sooners at the top.”