The first and only time Chris Devlin played in the US Open was the last time Tiger Woods won a major — at Torrey Pines in 2008.
The Ballymena man, 40, was a frustrated alternate at the Olympic Club in 2013 but he's now on the cusp of glory again as he is one of 120 players teeing it up in the 36-hole US Open Sectional Qualifier at Brookside Golf & Country Club & Lakes Golf & Country Club in Ohio today.
It's one of 10 Sectional Qualifying sites offering a varied number of spots in the US Open at Chambers Bay in a fortnight.
Devlin's venue is likely to have a large number of spots as it's the nearest to last week's PGA Tour stop at Muirfield Village, the venue for the Memorial Tournament.
But the competition will also be fierce with Robert Allenby, Ricky Barnes, Alex Cejka, K.J. Choi, Stewart Cink, Tim Clark, Ben Curtis, NCAA winner Bryson DeChambeau, Davis Love III, Billy Mayfair, Patrick Rodgers, Rory Sabbatini, Vijay Singh, Steve Stricker, Justin Thomas, Nicholas Thompson, Camilo Villegas, Nick Watney and Mike Weir also chasing a spot.
Longford teenager John Igoe, 19, is also going for his US Open dream having secured a place in the Sectional Qualifier at the Bears Club in Florida.
Luke Donald, Chris DiMarco and former Ryder Cup player Brett Wetterich are the big names in the 70 man field and as he told the Longford Leader, it's a dream come true for two-handicapper Igoe, who could not get a spot in the West of Ireland Championship at Easter.
"This time last year John was preparing to sit his Leaving Certificate at Moyne Community School and when the exams finished he jetted off to Bethpage State Park golf courses in New York, where his cousin Colin is head caddy.
John explained, “I spent the Summer caddying on the Black Course at Bethpage where the US Open was held in 2002 and 2009. Colin and I played a lot of golf during my days off on the Red Course and I happened to do well and I enjoyed it.
“As it turned out last week’s event was on the Red Course.”
John shot a two-under-par 65 - on a course that was reduced to 17 holes - securing the sixth qualifying slot of the seven available from the field of 112 competitors.
“I’ve got to do ten times more practising than I’d normally do ahead of Florida and I’m going to give it everything. I’m not going to put any extra pressure on myself by tempting fate and saying ‘what if I make to the US Open?’”
John returned from the US on Monday (he flew out on Friday, May 8), and determined to achieve his goal and to improve his game, he went for some practice at Longford Golf Club.
He admitted to being “annoyed” he could not gain automatic entry into the West of Ireland Championship as his handicap fell outside the cut-off limit of 0.2.
He has played for Connacht in the Boys Inter-provincial series.
US Open qualifying attracts 10,000 golfers and John revealed that he sat down with his Mam and Dad to discuss it before “deciding to give it a go” and going online to complete his $175 entry form.
He stayed with his uncle David Farrell, who lives 20 minutes from Bethpage, and while in the US he met with his former coach Davy Byrne, who is friendly with his current coach Mel Flanagan.
“There was a lot of travelling. It has been a crazy 10 days but well worth it,” enthused John.
He isn’t altogether sure whether the next stage of qualification on June 8 will be in Florida, as there are also events at New York and Ohio. “Fingers crossed it will be Florida. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway because I’ve already got the flights booked!”
The US Open, whose roll of honour features Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, takes place at Chambers Bay near Seattle, Washington from June 18-21.
John began playing golf in 2009. He revealed, “I played a bit of underage hurling and I had good hand eye coordination, so I gave golf a go.” He also played gaelic football with Killoe Emmet Og and credits his parents for their support. “Mam looks after the booking of my flights and Dad drives me around. They are great.”
John says he has been inundated with messages of congratulations.
“It is a great feeling. I have never experienced anything like it before.”
John’s coach, Mel Flanagan, has described him as a great ball-striker with a very good temperament.
“It’s a fantastic achievement to get this far, and there’s more to come,” while Longford Club Professional Pete Duignan said John was “a nice, quiet and unassuming character,” and wished him every success in his bid to reach the US Open.