Dana Hills' Podres closing in on U.S. Open tee time

When Tanner Podres left Industry Hills Golf Club to get something to eat, the Dana Hills junior had a feeling his 3-under-par 69 would likely be good enough to move him along in the U.S. Open qualifying process.

But after he returned to the Eisenhower Course an hour or so later, did he ever get a surprise.

With only just a handful of players left to post a score in the local qualifying tournament, not only was his 68 still among the top five spots that would move on to a sectional qualifier, but it was also still at the top of the leader board just like when he left to grab some lunch.

“I was very excited to see that,” Podres said, “and to hold it was completely unexpected.”

Podres earned medalist honors on that May afternoon and became the only Orange County high school to make it to a sectional qualifier this year.

Podres will tee off at 7:10 a.m. on Monday at Newport Beach Country Club and finish his 36-hole qualifier in the afternoon at Big Canyon Country Club. The top six finishers will qualify for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., beginning June 18.

“(Medaling) was a good confidence booster. I know I can win playing against some guys that call themselves professionals and high-level amateurs,” Podres said.

The field for the Big Canyon/Newport Beach tournament is much deeper than the one he faced a month ago at Industry Hills, however.

Masters champion Fred Couples, Patrick Cantlay, Beau Hossler, Brian Campbell and PGA Tour pro Max Homa are Podres’ competition.

So he has modest expectations for the sectional, and is aiming to place in the top 20. Knowing that he is in the same tournament with Couples, Podres said, is really enough of a prize for him.

But if he could pull it off and place in the top six …  

“It is a dream come true, and for me to do it at 17 would be incredible. It fully hasn’t hit me yet, knowing that I am so close to the U.S. Open,” Podres said last month after shooting a 1-under-par 71 at Talega Golf Club to help Dana Hills win the CIF-SS South Coast Team Regional championship. “I am excited to see how I can play.”

Podres said he has never played Big Canyon before, but that doesn’t mean he can’t put up a low number. The local U.S. Open qualifier was only the second time he had seen the Eisenhower Course, and he played the par 4s at 5 under par and the par 5s at 2 under. He was 5 under with one hole to play at Industry Hills and in position to shoot a 67 until he took a double bogey on his final hole.

“I was just playing awesome that day and not missing many shots,” Podres said. “It was a great day. That course was tough, and just to shoot under par was good. Everything was working that day.”  

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