As Alex Martin stood at the first tee on the Brookside Golf Course in Columbus, Ohio, he shook hands with his playing partner for the day, 2008 U.S. Open runner-up Rocco Mediate.
Martin and Mediate were about to embark on a 36-hole qualifier that would decide which 15 of the 120 golfers would punch their tickets to the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Little did Martin know that 12 hours, 137 shots and three playoff holes later, he would be the one heading to Pebble Beach, marking the second consecutive year that a member of the IU men’s golf team would be represented at the U.S. Open.
After shooting a seven-under par 137 for the 36 holes, Martin survived a six-man playoff for five spots when, ironically, Mediate missed a 10-foot par putt on the third extra hole.
Martin said that Mediate, a fan favorite on the PGA Tour, helped to keep him calm throughout the day and told him about life as a professional golfer.
“It was really a different experience as far as what I have ever done before,” Martin said. “Playing with Rocco Mediate — he was a really cool guy and was very talkative during the day and helped me stay relaxed down the stretch.”
The quest for Pebble Beach began for Martin on May 17 when he shot 68 and finished second at the local qualifying site in Cincinnati.
Next up for the two-time All-Big Ten selection was the Columbus sectional qualifying site.
Columbus usually brings a strong field because the PGA Tour holds the Memorial Tournament in nearby Dublin, Ohio, the weekend prior to Monday’s qualifier.
Even though the field included many PGA Tour players, Martin said he thought the site was his best chance to make it through.
“The more numbers that make it out there are usually more consistent, and the courses up there (Columbus) fit my game a little better,” Martin said. “I wanted to go up there and give it a shot against the best and see what it was like.”
Last year, sophomore David Erdy qualified for the U.S. Open after earning the first alternate spot in the sectional qualifier.
“I think that it’s an awesome thing for IU that two of us have made it in the last two years, and it just shows how strong our golf team is,” Martin said.
IU coach Mike Mayer said the recent success of Erdy and Martin on a national stage shows what the IU golf program is all about.
“It shows that we can do it all, and that is what we want,” Mayer said. “We want academic success, we want athletic success and we want to prepare these kids for what they ultimately want to do — play professional golf.”
Also joining Martin in the field June 17-20 will be former IU golfers Shaun Micheel and Steve Wheatcroft.
Martin said travel arrangements have been made, and he will head to Pebble Beach on Sunday.
“It’s been a whirlwind last 24 hours, and I’m still trying to decompress from everything that is going on,” Martin said.
The NCAA Central Regional in mid-May marked the end of Martin’s career at IU, but his plans before qualifying were to finish his degree in the fall and wait until January to turn professional.
However, thanks to his stellar play in Columbus, it is now time to rethink those plans.
“His phone has been ringing off the hook, as you well could imagine,” Mayer said. “There are agents calling him, and I think he has the decision of whether to stay amateur or turn pro, and my suspicion is he will probably turn pro.”
Martin will undoubtedly be one of the younger players in the field and was the only amateur to qualify out of the Columbus site; however, his coach believes Pebble Beach sets up well for the Cincinnati native.
“We have had a couple of preliminary talks about playing Pebble, and I think it’s perfect for Alex Martin,” Mayer said. “It is not an overly long golf course, and I think he has a really good chance to play extremely well.”