UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Tom Hoge is no wide-eyed kid. He’s an established professional who earned the right to play in the U.S. Open.
He didn’t make the cut after a 74 in Friday’s second round of the 115th Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course. And he didn’t like it.
“Obviously, I would hope to be playing another couple of days,” Hoge said afterward. “I feel like I belong out here. I really felt like I played well enough to keep on playing.”
Hoge entered Friday’s play at 3 over for the tournament after an opening 73 on Thursday. Friday, he played the first nine holes at 4 over, but got on a roll on the back.
He picked up his first birdie on No. 12, a par-4 playing Friday at 284. Then, he had looks at birdie putts on 13, 14, 15 and 16 – and missed them all.
On the 17th, he came up with a shot for the highlight reels. Using a 6-iron on the 226-yard par-3, his ball hit the pin and spun out eight inches from the hole. He tapped in for birdie to get to 6 under for the tournament, and closed with a bogey on 18 to finish with a 36-hole total of 147, 7 over and three shots over the cut line.
“I would have liked that to go in,” Hoge said of his near hole-in-one.
For the second day in a row, the Fargo native said he was hitting the ball well enough, tee to green, to contend in the tournament. It was his work on the greens that sent him home early.
“I really made nothing of significance in 36 holes,” he said of his putting. “I had a tough time reading the greens, and matching the speed to the line.”
The Chambers Bay greens, the subject of grumbling by some PGA Tour pros this week, played a role in his putting issues, Hoge said.
“It’s really difficult,” he said. “Balls are bouncing early on in the putts. It’s hard to get ‘em on line and keep ‘em on line. Obviously, guys were making putts out there, so it can be done.”
Hoge is no wide-eyed kid, but it was as a kid – in Fargo’s junior golf programs – that he first began to make a mark in the sport.
“Jeez, golf season in Fargo is what, a week long?” said Hoge’s father, Chuck Hoge of Fargo. “Fargo does a great job of encouraging junior golf.”
Chuck was part of the “Hoge Gang” that trekked to the Pacific Northwest this week to watch their guy play in the Open. The group included his girlfriend, Kelly O’Brien, who travels on tour with Tom.
Chuck said Tom picked up a golf club at age 3 or 4.
“He always had a good golf swing when he was young,” said the elder Hoge.
Hoge moved on from being a top junior player in the Upper Midwest to Texas Christian University, where in 2009 he finished third in the NCAA championships. He played in four U.S. Amateurs, including 2010 at Chambers Bay, where Chuck Hoge was his caddie.
Now, at 26, the resident of Fort Worth, Texas, is a fully grown pro golfer, disappointed at missing the U.S. Open weekend but able to appreciate the ride.
“Definitely – first major, first U.S. Open, first time in a big environment like that,” he said. “It was an awesome experience, everything you kind of dream of … having the fans go crazy when I hit the flag on 17 …
“I walk away frustrated, but at the same time I take away positives from it.”