Andy Pope qualifies for fifth U.S. Open, recounts wife getting hit with golf ball
June 16, 2021
By Nick Parker , PGATOUR.COM
- June 16, 2021
- This week’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines marks the fifth time in his last six tries that Andy Pope has successfully qualified. (Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
The daycare staff at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont was confused when Andy Pope showed up to pick up his young son, Tommy. With Pope playing in the event, they’d expected his wife, Jacklyn, that afternoon and became curious enough to ask him where she was.
“I’m like, ‘Well, unfortunately she got hit by a golf ball out there.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, some guy hit her in the head with a golf ball!’” Pope recalled. “They were like, ‘Who was it?’ I was like, ‘Me!’ and they started laughing.”
Pope can laugh about it now, but it was no laughing matter at the time. As he recalls, he was practicing flop shots out of the thick rough beside the green at the par-3 13th, preparing for his second U.S. Open when he caught one just a touch flusher than he’d like. He screamed but his wife didn’t see the ball or hear him in time.
“This thing comes down and smacks her right in the forehead, makes contact with her sunglasses and it makes a big loud noise,” Pope said. “Everyone in the crowd is like oh my goodness and she’s like, ‘I’m alright, I’m alright.’ I’m freaking out. I’m like, ‘Holy crap, I just hit her in the head.’ When I look, she’s got a golf ball on her forehead, a welt, and I swear I’ve never seen a forehead swell up so fast.”
Luckily, this year’s practice rounds at Torrey Pines have gone a lot smoother for both Pope and his wife. Not only has he kept his golf balls away from his wife’s head, but he and his family arrived in style after one of his sponsors, Chris Dietzler from Poudre Valley Capital, sent a private jet to Greenville, S.C., to pick him and his family up and take them to the U.S. Open after playing in last week’s BMW Charity Pro-Am. With extra space on the jet, he was kind enough to offer fellow Korn Ferry Tour member Greyson Sigg and his caddie a ride out to San Diego as well, kicking off what’s already been a great week for Pope.
For Pope, this week’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines marks the fifth time in his last six tries that the 37-year-old has successfully qualified for the U.S. Open – an incredible run that first began at the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, where he holed a 10-foot birdie on his 36th hole to make the cut on the number in his first major. He also qualified in 2016 at Oakmont and 2017 at Erin Hills but missed the cut. He failed to qualify in 2018 and made the cut at Pebble in 2019. With last year’s U.S. Open qualifying cancelled, he decided to write a letter in Golf.com to the USGA Committee in hopes of receiving a special exemption based on his past qualifying history. It didn’t work, and Pope went back to his tried-and-true method this year of getting into the event – advancing through the 36-hole sectional qualifier again.Andy Pope plays his third shot on the par 4, 10th hole during the first round of the 2019 U.S.Open at the Pebble Beach Golf Links. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
As a 37-year-old with only three other career PGA TOUR starts, Pope’s run of qualifying success is enough of an outlier to make one wonder what magical elixir Pope’s found to continually advance through the most grueling test in golf, but he insists it has more to do with the style of courses than anything. As a shorter hitter, he prefers courses with heavy rough that put a premium on driving it in the fairway, and he’s always found that at the U.S. Open and its qualifiers.
“I just feel like as I’ve gotten older, I’ve just come to appreciate and more of patience and how the game works,” Pope said. “Not getting down on yourself and being able to take the medicine. I think every guy that plays the game thinks they can hit the miraculous shot, and I was always that guy. Whereas now I think I understand it’s not bad to just chip it out and sometimes you’ve got to take a good bogey. I think that’s something that I’ve kind of learned.”
Ironically, it could be the U.S. Open that Pope has to thank for keeping his golfing dreams alive to allow him to be here in the first place. His made cut at the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach (T58) allowed him to bypass the first stage of the Korn Ferry Tour’s Qualifying Tournament, and he ended up advancing through both the second and final stage to earn status on the Korn Ferry Tour.
“There’s so many great players that don’t make it through first stage. The competition is just getting tougher,” Pope said. “Making the cut at Pebble got me through first stage, and I always say credit to the USGA because they helped boost me to get to the Korn Ferry. I’m hoping I can do something with this start this week and give myself more opportunities.”
At No. 100 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points Standings, Pope’s hoping taking the week off on the Korn Ferry Tour won’t hurt him, and he can play his way into the Korn Ferry Tour Finals at the U.S. Open with a high finish. Either way, there was no way he was missing golf’s ultimate meritocracy – a tournament he looks forward to attempting to qualify for each year.
“Any chance I get to compete against the best in the world I’m going to take. Being No. 100 and taking a week off, it stinks, but to me coming here to play in the US Open is a no brainer,” Pope said. “A great week out here could still get me into the Playoffs without finishing in the top 75, so I’m looking to not only make the cut but try to make something happen.”