- Associated Press - Saturday, June 15, 2013

ARDMORE, PA. (AP) - Among those who had the shortest week at the U.S. Open took the longest road to even get to Merion.

For the first time since at least 1997, none of the 20 players who endured 18 holes of local qualifying and 36 holes of sectional qualify for the U.S. Open made the cut.

That doesn’t mean the experience was a total waste of time.

Take 18-year-old Gavin Hall, who birdied his last four holes to make it through sectional qualifying in New York. Hall went to bed Thursday night with his name on the leaderboard because he was 1-under par when the opening round was suspended. He ran off a string of bogeys Friday morning, though he also holed out from the eighth fairway for an eagle to open with a 74.


The second round was tougher _ a 40 on the front nine, and then a triple bogey on the 10th hole, the shortest par 4 at Merion. He shot 77, but that included back-to-back birdies on Nos. 15 and 16, and an experience he wouldn’t trade.

“That’s a special place, a special tournament to play in, and for me to play in this at such a young age is a great learning experience, and it’s just a great tournament to kick off the summer,” said Hall, who clearly had a great time despite missing the cut.

“I’ve gotten exposed to a lot of things and I have a lot to work on,” he said. “But I still feel like if I clean up some things in my game, I belong out here.”

Harold Varner III made it through local qualifying, and he was an alternate from sectional qualifying to play in his first U.S. Open. He went 76-79, so it was never really close when it came to staying for the weekend.

Varner was one of two players who competed in The First Tee event at Pebble Beach _ Scott Langley was the other _ only the 22-year-old who played at East Carolina was more disappointed with his results.

The biggest surprise was the size of the crowd.

“When I played in the Wal-Mart First Tee, there was a lot of people, and then I played in the one Web.com in Charlotte, seeing that many people,” Varner said. “But this week was obviously like a circus. It was unbelievable.”

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WEIBRING‘S STRUGGLES: Matt Weibring made the cut in his first U.S. Open, though it becomes an even greater achievement considering that Merion was only his second form of competition in the last two months.

Weibring, a Web.com Tour player and the son of former PGA Tour player D.A. Weibring, has been coping with Bell’s palsy, a form of facial paralysis.

“I was happy just to be here, just to be back playing,” he said. “And I hung in there, and I did what I had to do. It’s hard out there.”

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