As the thermometer flirted with triple digits and the 37 mph winds whipped through DragonRidge Country Club, Mike Ruiz felt right at home.
The 38-year-old former UNLV golfer is accustomed to playing in tough conditions, and he handled his game accordingly Tuesday. Ruiz shot 4-under-par 67 at the U.S. Open local qualifier to claim one of six spots for the sectional qualifier, moving one step closer to the Olympic Club in San Francisco, where the Open will be contested June 11 to 14.
“I haven’t been playing that much,” said Ruiz, one of 81 golfers in Tuesday’s event. “I’ve been caddying at Shadow Creek, so that’s taken up most of my time. But I wanted to give it a shot.”
Ruiz, who played in the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, N.C., relied on his experience and knowledge of DragonRidge to post the day’s best score. Highlighting his round was a hole-in-one at the par-3, 202-yard No. 14. Ruiz used a 19-degree utility club, akin to a 3-iron, landed his ball to the back of the green and watched it trickle back down ever so slowly until it came to rest in the cup.
“That was huge,” he said. “In a format like this, two strokes can be the difference between moving on or going home.”
Ruiz made a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 13, and because of his strong back nine, he will play in the sectional qualifier at Lake Merced Golf Club in the San Francisco suburb of Daly City on June 4, when as many as five spots will be available for the Open. Ruiz said one of his friends is a member at Lake Merced, and he encouraged Ruiz to play Tuesday in the hope he would qualify.
Veteran players ruled Tuesday. Along with Ruiz’s 67, Henderson’s Craig Barlow, 39, shot 68, and 43-year-old Bob May of Las Vegas shot 69. Jason Edmiston, the 40-year-old head pro at Las Vegas Country Club, shot 70 to claim the fourth spot.
“I just tried to get around the course, play steady and go under (par),” Barlow said. “I think having grown up here and having the experience helps me in this situation.”
May said he just tried to play the course intelligently.
“The golf course seemed to set up fairly this year. I kept it in play for the most part,” said May, who spends the majority of his time at his recently opened golf academy at Silverstone and Badlands golf clubs. He played in four consecutive U.S. Opens, from 1998 to 2001.
The final two spots went to Henderson’s Andrew Scott (70) and Las Vegas’ Dustin Flatt (71).
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.