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Max Homa's week among the elite

Posted: June 12, 2013 10:26 p.m.
Updated: June 12, 2013 10:26 p.m.
Valencia graduate Max Homa tees off at the U.S. Open Thursday at 11:20 Pacific Time. Valencia graduate Max Homa tees off at the U.S. Open Thursday at 11:20 Pacific Time.
Valencia graduate Max Homa tees off at the U.S. Open Thursday at 11:20 Pacific Time.

Max Homa is starstruck and he’s not ashamed to admit it.

The Valencia High graduate has spent the week hanging around Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., or in other terms, this week’s golf capital of the world.

Homa will compete in his first U.S. Open beginning today when 156 golfers tee it up at the historic Pennsylvania course.

It’s by far the most elite field the 22-year-old Homa has ever competed against.

“I think the moment I got here I was pretty nervous, but I was calm (on Monday),” Homa said. “But you see Tiger (Woods) walk on to the range and Adam Scott, you realize this is different. This is the real thing.”

Homa will tee it up at 11:20 a.m. Pacific Time in the opening round on Thursday, when he’ll become the first Santa Clarita Valley high school graduate to play in a U.S. Open since Hart graduate Jason Gore played the tournament in 2010.

Shortly after Homa qualified, he sent a message to Tiger Woods via Twitter requesting a practice round with the world’s No. 1 golfer.

One of Woods’ employees called Homa and said although there wouldn’t be time for a practice round, he was encouraged to approach Woods this week and introduce himself.

“I’ve been too nervous to go up to him,” Homa said.

Regardless, Homa has enjoyed rubbing elbows with some of the sport’s top names.

“I’m just trying to embrace it and soak it in,” Homa said of playing with pros. He added that he’s “having fun. Just not feeling bad about gawking around and looking and laughing about where I am. I’m not trying to take it too seriously.”

This year, Homa made it into the tournament by finishing as one of the top five players among 175 at a 36-hole sectional qualifier in Newport Beach on June 3.

According to the United States Golf Association, an all-time record 9.820 people tried out for the U.S. Open this year.

This week at Merion extends what has been an incredible stretch for Homa in the past six weeks.

Two days before his U.S. Open qualifier, he played the final tournament of his University of California, Berkeley career, which was the NCAA Division I Championship.

Cal Berkeley was knocked out in the semifinal round of the team championship at Milton, Ga. Earlier in the tournament, Homa became the first Cal Golden Bear in history to win an individual NCAA Championship.

Less than a month before that, on May 1, he also won the Pac-12 individual title.

Two other members of that Cal team, Michael Kim and Michael Weaver, are joining Homa at Merion this week to compete as part of a group of 10 amateurs in the field.

In recent weeks, Homa has shown his ability to withstand the pressure of playing tournaments against some of the top collegiate golfers in the country.

But this week will be like nothing Homa has ever experienced. There will be massive galleries of thousands of people lining the fairways, national TV cameras and a golf course set up for the notoriously difficult playing conditions associated with the U.S. Open.

“In the U.S. Open, you’re never going to find a course to fit your game,” Homa said. “You are going to have to find a way to fit your game to the course.”

Home is staying this week with an aunt and uncle who live in the Philadelphia area near the course.

He arrived on Sunday and first made his way to the golf course on Monday to play a few practice holes before heavy rain cut his day short.

He managed to fit in an entire practice round on Tuesday and he was scheduled to play with PGA Tour professionals Nick Watney and Bo Van Pelt during a Wednesday practice run.

With the area being pelted with multiple days of heavy rain this week, the greens will likely be soft and the course will play longer than usual.

Homa said he understands how difficult this tournament will be. The last amateur to win the U.S. Open was John Goodman in 1933. But at this point, he’s not letting anything faze him.

“I definitely want to make the cut, but I just want to play good golf and see where that puts me,” Homa said. “I have no idea how my game stacks up against all these people. This will be a good chance to see where I am.”

Homa’s tee time on Friday is scheduled for 5:50 a.m Pacific Time.

After the conclusion of the first two rounds, the top 60 players including ties will make the cut and continue playing through the final two rounds on the weekend.

TV coverage of the tournament will be shown on both ESPN and NBC throughout the week.



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