- Jay Blasi playing qualifying event at Stanford University
- Some 10,000 golfers try to reach national championship event
Jay Blasi has an intimate knowledge of Chambers Bay Golf Course, spending three years as the project architect and even getting married on the 15th tee. Blasi is now trying to make golf history by qualifying for a U.S. Open that will be played on a course he helped create.
Blasi, 36, is one of about 10,000 golfers aiming for a spot to tee it up alongside players such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth when the season’s second major championship is played outside Seattle on the site of a former sand and gravel mine adjacent to Puget Sound. Blasi will play in an 18-hole local qualifier at Stanford University’s course on Wednesday, one of 111 such events in 43 states from May 4 to 21.
“I’m keenly aware that this is a one-in-a-million type of shot,” Blasi said in a telephone interview from Palo Alto, California. “But I figured because it’s such a unique opportunity, having the Open at Chambers Bay, I wanted to give it a go. ”
While celebrated architects such as Donald Ross, Herbert Strong, Walter Travis and Willie Park Jr. played in U.S. Opens, none competed on a course they had designed or renovated. Travis was the runner-up as an amateur at the 1902 U.S. Open at Garden City Golf Club in New York, a course he’d later remodel.
The players who get through local qualifying -- determined by the number of participants in that particular field -- then face sectional qualifying at 10 U.S. sites on June 8. Of the record 10,127 entries a year ago, only 24 competitors made it to Pinehurst Resort’s No. 2 course in North Carolina after starting their journey in local qualifying.
Blasi said he’s been playing golf since he was four years old, on a putting green in the backyard of the family home in Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin, got a degree in landscape architecture and spent 10 years working for Robert Trent Jones Jr.. The design firm built Chambers Bay, the links-style municipal course that opened in 2007. There’s only one tree on the golf course, which features massive, rolling dunes and mounds that are the result of the 1.4 million cubic yards of dirt and sand moved by Blasi and his team.
“Chambers Bay will provide the players with different options. And having a great understanding of what those options are and how the ball will react once it hits the ground is something that will be invaluable,” said Blasi, who in 2012 founded his own design company.“For me, it’s the long-shot of all long-shots, but knowing where to miss and where not to miss would be a big asset.”
Blasi’s handicap is below the 1.4 handicap index limit, though he says he hasn’t played competitively since failing to qualify for the 2010 U.S. Amateur Championship, which was also held at Chambers Bay, by about six-to-eight shots. Although Blasi started that quest with back-to-back double bogeys over his 36 holes at Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, California, he said it was great to “get the nerves going and the heart racing again” and was pleased he didn’t embarrass himself.
Though not nearly as familiar as Chambers Bay, Blasi enters Wednesday’s round with a strong knowledge of the Stanford course. He’s played it about 20 times and is currently reconfiguring the school’s 30-acre golf practice complex, a facility he originally helped design when it opened in 2008. Blasi said he hopes it will be the first step in a journey that takes him back to Chambers Bay, which from June 18-21 will become the first course in the Pacific Northwest to host the U.S. Open.
“It’s the stuff you dream about,” Blasi said. “I got to live out my dream being part of the team that helped design it, so I feel like I’m playing with house money. This would just be more icing on the cake.”