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Chasing U.S. Open dream with home-course advantage

Brice Busse savors familiar turf in local, sectional qualifying

- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2014

All across America thousands of children dream of growing up to reach the highest level in sports, but very few of them ever realize that goal. For Brice Busse, it seemed like an impossibility — until now.

Busse is an assistant golf professional working at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland. He has played the game his entire life, but only recently dared to think he could fulfill his dream of playing in the U.S. Open.

"To make it to this spot has been a goal of mine for three years," said Busse. "Playing in the U.S. Open is like the Mecca for all golfers."

The 25-year-old has tried to qualify twice before. If he makes it through year, both family and familiarity will have played a large part in his path to Pinehurst, North Carolina, for next week's main event.

He'll tee it up Monday along with 58 other golfers competing for four spots at Pinehurst No. 2. To get there, they'll have to survive 36 holes at Woodmont, his home course. And he got this far by advancing from a local qualifier held at Crofton Country club, the course he grew up playing.

"My grandparents got me started in golf when I was really young and Crofton was where they taught me," Busse said. "I played most of my junior golf there, so I'm pretty familiar with the course."

Busse was familiar enough to earn fourth place in the local qualifiers. He shot 2-under par despite a par-5 being converted into a long par-4. He had an excellent outing, including a 35-foot birdie putt on the last hole.

Busse now faces the tougher competition of the sectional qualifier, where he also figures to have some level of comfort.

"I suppose I have a bit of an advantage," Busse said. "I'm comfortable playing here. We have a pretty straightforward course, the biggest difference is the greens. There are some pretty severe slopes on the greens and if you don't know where they are they can be tough to shoot."

Along with knowing how the greens are sloped, Busse will also have something of a crowd out to cheer him on — including his wife of about two weeks now, Whitney.

"Almost all of Brice's free time is spent practicing and playing golf," she said. "It's what he loves to do, and I love that he is so passionate about it. On his tournament days, I'm generally at work or school and incessantly refreshing the leaderboard results on my phone."

Brice and Whitney met each other at Crofton the summer before their junior year of college. Brice was working in the pro shop and Whitney was working in the business office. Whitney had gone on a bad date with someone else and Brice bet her he could show her a better time. After three dates Whitney was hooked and the two dated for several years before tying the knot last month.

"Seriously, it's kind of crazy that we hadn't met prior to when we did," said Whitney. "We lived less than five minutes away from each other and I knew his best friend throughout our high school years."

Busse has a lot to thank the world of golf for this year, including introducing him to his wife.

Busse is not taking anything for granted however, and is acutely aware of the 36 holes he will have to endure Monday to qualify on what some call "Golf's Longest Day".

"Thirty-six holes is a lot, but at the same time it's kind of nice," Busse said. "It takes some of the pressure off. If you only have 18 holes and you mess up on one of them, you're basically done. With 36 holes it's more of a marathon mentality. I think the guys who come in thinking that way are the ones who will be successful here."

Busse clearly has the support of all the members at Woodmont as well as the staff. His boss, director of golf David Dorn, is not least among those who will be in his corner throughout the day.

"This is a really nice opportunity for him," said Dorn. "There's positives and negatives to him playing here, though. He has an advantage with course knowledge, but there's also the downside of having to play through the added pressure of expectations."

Whatever happens through the grueling 36 holes Monday, Busse has already distinguished himself through the qualifiers.

"Becoming a professional golfer would be incredible but really I'm pretty happy where I am," Busse said. "My grandparents do live in Pinehurst now, though, so we always joked that if the U.S. Open was ever being played there I would have to qualify."

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