Senior-to-be Beau Hossler comes of age
SAN FRANCISCO -- Ah, the summer before senior year.
Time to make some college visits with the parents, prep for that last run at the SAT, hang out with friends for one final extended break before everybody scatters after graduation.
Or, you could go Beau Hossler's route and become a national figure in the sports world.
"I'm not taking the SAT again, that's for sure," Hossler said Sunday evening after finishing his final round of the U.S. Open with a 76 (6-over par) that left him at 9-over for the tournament. Webb Simpson came from behind to win the tournament with a score of 1-over to capture his first major.
A frustrating double-bogey on No. 18, moments after he received a hearty ovation from the gallery, ended what still has to be considered a turning-point weekend for Hossler, the 17-year-old from Santa Margarita High School in Orange County, Calif.
No, Hossler didn't make any history Sunday at The Olympic Club. His chance to contend (he came into the day tied for eighth) evaporated on a tough back-nine in which he admitted that he couldn't "stop the bleeding" by shooting 4-over-par.
He failed to finish as the low amateur in the tournament, ceding that honor to Jordan Speith.
By finishing out of the top 10, he missed the chance to punch his ticket to next year's U.S. Open, not to mention next year's Masters (the top eight plus ties at the U.S. Open receive a Masters invitation). He missed the chance to become the first amateur since 1971 to finish in the top 10.
But he gained a legion of admirers who have to see that despite an uneven performance on Sunday, this kid is going places beyond senior year.
"I had no idea how to play golf at his age," said Hossler's Sunday playing partner, Jason Dufner. "I know he wishes he would have probably finished a little bit better, but any time you're in the top 30 of a U.S. Open at 17 years old, you got to have a lot going for you."
Endearing because of his braces, his boyish gait and a steely game beyond his years, Hossler became a gallery favorite at Olympic and an up-and-comer this weekend.
Standing ovations in the grandstands book-ended his round at the start and the finish.
As Hossler made his way across the footbridge leading to the first tee Sunday, sporting a University of Texas shirt and visor, a group in the crowd started chanting "Let's Go Hossler!" accompanied by some rhythmic clapping, and another spectator grabbed his friend and pulled him over to the rope, saying, "We've got to watch this kid."
One fan yelled "You can win this" as he walked past after his tee shot and then the 17-year-old still lugging his high school golf bag around the course at Olympic played the first couple of holes like he agreed.
As the fog poured on to the golf course from the Pacific, he putted from the rough to make par at No. 1, held on to a par at No. 2. And then, after Saturday's round in which he countered every bogey in his round with a birdie, he stumbled more decisively with bogeys on Nos. 3-5.
Hossler recovered his balance to birdie Nos. 7 and 9 before losing his grip again, and this time there was no recovery.
"I really didn't make that many putts, but I felt pretty good, my speed felt all right, my stroke felt good," Hossler said. "I got those two key saves at the beginning. But I mean, when those are for par, you aren't going to make them all and you have to make sure that you are getting some birdie opportunities as well."
Hossler said he will most remember the back nine on Saturday, when he put himself high on the leaderboard.
"That was pretty special because you got roaring crowds and everything and really got the major championship feel," Hossler said.
Hossler was the first high-schooler since 1951 to qualify for consecutive U.S. Opens. At the end of a summer in which he will play more, albeit more low-key, amateur tournaments, he will return for his senior year of high school.
He is, in fact, a kid, as evidenced by the fact that he came to his post-round news conference not in his golf shoes, but a pair of beat-up Converse sneakers.
Hossler was asked whether competing at the Open was as nerve-wracking as, say, taking the test for his driver's license.
"That third driving test was brutal. I failed it twice," he said. "I got screwed on the first one, messed up on the second one because if you miss the third one, I want to say you can't do it for another like three or six months.
"I was kind of nervous for that. But, obviously, I was nervous out there on the course the entire time."