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A golf cart makes it way through a flooded cart path as rain falls at Merion Country Club (Gene Puskar/AP)
A golf cart makes it way through a flooded cart path as rain falls at Merion Country Club (Gene Puskar/AP)

Rubenstein: Ominous start to U.S. Open week Add to ...

The news out of the Merion Golf Club Monday is not good, not when it comes to the weather anyway. Thunderstorms whacking the course; bunkers filling with waters; maintenance staff giving everything they have to sopping up the mess.

Meanwhile, Canadians at least have plenty to cheer for this week, and the weather is supposed to improve for the tournament itself, which starts Thursday. Their fellow citizens David Hearn, who tied for 18th Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, made it through sectional qualifying a week ago, along with his countrymen Mackenzie Hughes, the young pro from Dundas, Ont. who won the last two Canadian Amateurs, and Adam Hadwin, the gifted golfer from Abbotsford, B.C. This threesome was always headed for Merion.

Mike Weir, in the end, also got in, and who wouldn’t be pleased for him? He’s been making progress after many, many miserable months, and he shot eight-under-par in the same qualifier as Hearn. Weir got into an 11-man playoff for seven spots, but didn’t make it through and on to Merion that way. He got in off the alternate list, a list that’s difficult to understand. Weir was first alternate in his qualifier, but other golfers in other sectionals were also first alternates. As the Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson tweeted this morning, “wish the USGA would say ahead of time the pecking order from sectional qualifying.”

That makes four: Hearn, Hughes, Hadwin, and Weir. The USGA added a fifth Canadian to the field this morning. That’s Ryan Yip. The 27-year-old Calgarian has a couple of pro wins to his credit. Before he turned pro in 2006, he won the 2002 Alberta Amateur and was a quarter-finalist in the 2005 U.S. Amateur, which was played at Merion. He told the Calgary Herald’s Brody Mark that he still has his yardage book from that championship, and that he was watching the FedEx St. Jude Classic to see how it would end because he pretty much knew what had to transpire for him to make it into Merion.

Yip had played the sectional qualifier in Springfield, Ohio. He got into a four-man playoff for a couple of alternate spots, and ended up fifth alternate for Merion. Again, don’t ask the meaning behind that. I’m a golf writer, not a numerologist or post-doc in math. I do know that Yip was the first alternate out of his site.

The top 60 in the official world golf ranking after Memphis got into Merion automatically. The USGA held back six spots for players who could conceivably play their way in that way at Memphis. Stanley had played his way into the top 60 by finishing third at the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio two weeks ago. He didn’t play Memphis, but it didn’t matter as far as Merion goes because only one player out of the possible six played his way into the U.S. Open there. Stanley was ranked 60th when the Memphis tournament. Ended. He was in Merion.

That meant the USGA could let in five more players off the alternates list. Yip was the fifth alternate, and so he’ll be playing his first major championship. He and Hughes, by the way, both attended Kent State University, where Markham, Ont.’s Herb Page, a member of the Golf Association of Ontario Hall of Fame, coached them. Page is an unsung hero when it comes to grooming golfers. Page has worked at Kent State since 1978. His players also include Nationwide Tour winner Jon Mills and Vancouver’s young star Eugene Wong, the winner of the 2012 Canadian Tour Championship. I conduct a discussion every year at a charity tournament that Dick Grimm, known here as Mr. Golf in Canada–as he should be–hosts. His close pal Craig Stadler has come up every year I’ve been involved. He plays nine holes with a young Canadian pro as part of the day. He played with Yip two or three years ago at the Coppinwood Golf Club in Uxbridge, Ont. We chatted during the Q&A about what he observed.

Stadler looked directly at Yip when he said, “Ryan, I don’t see any reason you shouldn’t succeed as a tour pro. You can really play. I saw it out there.” Yip listened to Stadler, the winner of the 1983 Masters. He spoke about how hard it was to stand over a putt on the Canadian Tour on Sunday when he knew that if missed it, well, he might not be able to afford getting to the next tournament. He wasn’t complaining, but he was stating a fact with which the vast majority of young pros must contend and overcome.

Here’s what Yip tweeted after he learned he was in the U.S. Open field, at Merion, eight years after he played the U.S. Amateur there.

“It’s been a long eight years but I will be back at Merion. Go figure. My first National Open is the U.S. Open.”

Good for Yip, and already I’m tired of all the jokes people make about his last name. I hope his golf will speak for itself. That’s also true for Hearn, Hadwin, Hughes and Weir. And for Stanley. There’s a Canadian connection to Stanley, the winner of the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open. More on that later.

RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein

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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at lornerubenstein@me.com. You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein

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