Recent UNLV graduate and first team All-American Shintaro Ban stepped to the par 5, 18th tee during last Monday’s sectional qualifying at Lake Merced Golf Club in San Francisco needing a birdie or better to avoid a playoff for the final qualifying spot into the U.S. Open that begins Thursday at Shinnecock Hills in New York.
Ban ripped his tee shot and then landed his approach shot two feet from the hole, securing eagle to finish the grueling 36-hole qualifier at 7-under 136 and in second place. The top five qualified.
“On the 18th tee, I actually didn’t know (my standing in the qualifier), but my caddie knew,” Ban said. “He asked me, ‘do you want to know?’ I told him, ‘No, I’m OK.’ I knew I was pretty close, but that wasn’t something I really wanted to know at that time.”
Other players with strong Las Vegas ties scheduled to play this week include former UNLV golfers Adam Scott and Charley Hoffman, and resident Aaron Wise. Scott Piercy, a Bonanza High product and resident, was the first alternate at the Memphis sectional qualifier and was added to the Open field Sunday. Rickie Fowler, who reportedly purchased a home at the Summit, is also playing.
Ban, 22, arrived at Shinnecock Hills on Sunday and has played practice rounds with Hoffman, Doug Ghim (the low amateur at the Masters), and Xander Shauffle, who is ranked 28th in the FedEx Cup standings.
“It’s a sweet venue and it’s playing fair,” Ban said. “You need to find the fairway and plot it decently around the greens for success. It’s an awesome track and pretty tough when the wind picks up.”
Ban won four times as a UNLV senior and will turn professional later this summer, but unfinished amateur business remains. Besides the U.S. Open, Ban will represent the United States in the prestigious Arnold Palmer Cup on July 6-8 at Evian Resort Golf Club in France. Harry Hall, his Rebels teammate, is playing for the European team.
Ban attended the U.S. Open amateur banquet Monday evening and is relishing the experience.
“It really sunk in that I made the U.S. Open when I went to the range and looked left and right and saw everyone I have watched on TV for so many years,” Ban said. “Something I always wanted to do in my life was to turn professional and golf has been my passion.
”I didn’t want to turn pro too early because I have a lot still left to learn and this week will be another step in that progression.”
For Scott, 37, this will mark his 68th major in a row. He kept the streak alive by qualifying through last week’s sectional event in Columbus, Ohio.
“It’s a nice streak to keep going but it will be better if I win the U.S. Open,” Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, told PGATour.com. “I am playing all these majors to win them not just to show up, so I’d like to make the most of this opportunity.”
Hoffman, 41, was a member of the 1998 UNLV national championship team and finished eighth in the U.S. Open a year ago at Erin Hills.
Wise, 21, recently moved to Las Vegas and works with TPC Summerlin professional Jeff Smith. In May, he won the ATT Byron Nelson, which was hist first PGA Tour victory.
Piercy is ranked 34th in the FedEx Cup standings and missed the cut at the 2017 U.S. Open. He won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April.
Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt can be reached at email@example.com or @LVGolfInsider.