Highlight for teaching pro was getting to US Open

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Just think if Dennis Miller had made that 8-foot birdie putt on the next-to-last hole of U.S. Open qualifying.

He would be just another long shot in the field at Olympic Club, a burly, 42-year-old teaching pro from Ohio who got into this major on his 12th attempt.

There are stories like that, players like him, just about every year in the U.S. Open.

One putt that hung on the lip changed everything. Miller was famous even before he arrived.

As he settled into his chair Monday morning, the USGA played a video that has gone viral. In a four-man playoff for three spots into the U.S. Open, Miller rapped a 20-foot putt from the fringe and watched it graze the front of the cup and stop there. He took one step, then two, and turned his back to the cup on the fifth step when gravity took over the ball dropped into the cup. The small gallery threw their arms in the air in disbelief, and Miller was awash with shock.

Twelve years trying to play in his national championship, never coming particularly close, and now this.

“I could never have dreamed of qualifying for the U.S. Open in this fashion, that’s for sure,” he said before going out for his first look at Olympic.

Less than a week later, the video is closing in on 400,000 hits on YouTube. Miller, the golf director at Millcreek Metroparks in Canfield, Ohio, received more than a thousand text messages and emails. He called some of his colleagues who have experience on a national stage _ former tour pro Jerry McGee and ex-Walker Cup captain Bob Lewis among them _ asking for advice.

One of them was George Bellino from Tippecanoe Country Club.

“I asked George, `Do you have any advice?’ He said, `Yeah, stay home,’” Miller said with a laugh.

Not a chance.

Miller played college golf at Youngstown State. His biggest thrill in golf was winning the Ohio Open.

“Yeah, that wasn’t the top highlight on ESPN,” he said.

He has been to the Professional National Championship a few times, but never finished high enough to get into the PGA Championship. He made it out of local qualifying seven times, though never came closer than four shots to getting into the U.S. Open. His time was running out.

Miller was an alternate out of the first stage of qualifying and wasn’t even planning to show up at the sectional qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, except that he had never played Scioto Country Club, where Bobby Jones won the 1926 U.S. Open and where Jack Nicklaus was raised.

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