The Real Meaning of 'No Qualifying'

Civilization is not a given. It does not exist, unless we build it. And, once built, it does not stay in existence unless we maintain it.

How fragile it is. And how mighty our effort in creating it. A billion or so years in the making, and counting.

Johnny Goodman
Johnny Goodman of Nebraska won the 1933 U.S. Open, the last amateur to do so.

There are all kinds of “Big Picture” metaphors that could now be given to illustrate that, but let’s keep to the topic at hand – the continued cancellation of local, regional and, yesterday again, national golf championships.

A round of golf. Who can shoot the lowest score. Such a simple thing, an inconsequential act, yet built upon so many other acts as to make it even possible. Until now, it seems.

The USGA announced yesterday the finalization of their 2020 championship schedule. The word “finalization” is one way to say that they have canceled four more of their championships, making now 10 of their annual national championships to have been canceled this year, all defeated by an unseen and as-yet-unknowable virus.

Although, on the other hand, with this “finalization” they have at least committed to holding four championships this year – the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Amateur, and U.S. Women’s Amateur.

But it is noted that the USGA will not hold qualifying for any of these four.

Emily Baumgart
Emily Baumgart of Pullman, Wash. was one of five players to qualify for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur during last year’s qualifier at The Home Course.

And now, sitting here, what is sinking in is this “no qualifying” for these championships. The heartbreak about this, in particular, is for the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open. These most democratic of championships are founded upon the crazy notion that any dreamer – pro or amateur – across this vast land has a shot at not only playing in it, but winning it. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you do for a living, or whether you hit new range balls at a manicured private club or pay $5-per-token for 30 balls at a serve-yourself driving range with worn hitting mats.

It is, of course, the impossible dream. But it is the available dream. And there is something very Americana about it, this Romantic notion that a hero can rise from the gutter, and that there is a hero hiding somewhere within each of us, waiting for that opportunity, for that chance, for that qualifier at which you can shoot the round of your life and make it into the U.S. Open.

We are fragile beings. And sometimes it seems remarkable that we have lasted this long on this Earth. But then there are times we want to pull out the driver, tee it up, and bullet the blue sky.

Tom Cade is the editor of Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine, which is published by the Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA). He is also the senior director of communications for the PNGA and Washington Golf. From 2010-2015 he served as president of the Northwest Golf Media Association, and in 2016 received the NWGMA Distinguished Service Award. He was the editor and publisher of America’s St. Andrews, the best-selling book about Chambers Bay and the 2015 U.S. Open. He also was editor of the Centennial history book for Inglewood Golf Club (published 2019). He is a regular member of the Golf Writers Association of America.