U of M’s Wetzel Medalists, Rexing, Udovich and former Gopher Flanagan advance to US Open Local Qualifying

May 13, 2024 | 5 minutes.
By Nick Hunter

HUDSON, Wis. – With the help of his putter over his final 12 holes Monday at Troy Burne Golf Club, University of Minnesota golfer Jack Wetzel holed four birdie chances to claim the medalist title by shooting 3-under 68 to advance to finals qualifying for the 2024 US Open.

Joining Wetzel in the second phase next month are University of St. Thomas golfer Owen Rexing, former Gopher Angus Flanagan, Cretin-Derham Hall junior Sam Udovich and Wisconsin professional Keegan Drugan, who survived a two-way playoff to get the last qualifying spot.

All five players will now advance to the Final Qualifying, a 36-hole event known as ‘The Longest Day in Golf’, on June 3 at 10 different locations across the country, in the hope of earning a coveted spot at the 2024 US Open at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club.

“I was 1-over through seven and just stayed patient and waited for the putter to warm up a little bit,” said Wetzel, the 2022 Class AAA individual co-champion in his senior season at Edina High School. “I hit a lot of fairways and looked good. I hit it a little hard at first, but my speed control was a lot better on the back.

“I came in ready to compete – I haven’t played an event since the Big Ten Championships at the end of April. I was excited to get out there and test my game.

After an early bogey in the round, Wetzel carded three birdies over six holes midway through the round before making a par save from 15 feet on the 13th.

He responded by sinking a 20-footer for birdie on the 14th and rolling in a final birdie from within six feet on the 16th to advance for the first time in his career despite a bogey on the final.

“I’ve played in a lot of these games and never got through,” Wetzel said Monday. “I am happy for the opportunity to move on. There will be a lot of great players and it will be a good test of stamina and endurance.”

Rexing, another co-medalist of the 2022 Class AAA Championship, posted a colorful scorecard on Monday, with three birdies against two bogeys on each side, to clinch a spot in the next qualifying stage for the first time, with a score of 2-under 69 .

“I placed the ball well and just missed in the right places,” Rexing said after earning his spot Monday. “Only one three-putt and one water ball, but otherwise I managed well. I’ve made a lot of eight- to twelve-footers, that’s how you score.

“I would have to play crazy to get further (in the final qualifying), so I’m just going to enjoy that, have a nice little holiday and play some extra golf.”

Udovich, the defending Minnesota Boys’ Junior PGA champion and 2022 Class AA medalist, quickly climbed the leaderboard Monday by scoring four birdies over his first 10 holes before taking back-to-back bogeys at the 11th and 12th hole.

After trading a birdie on the 16th for a bogey on the 17th, a par save from within 10 feet at the last spot advanced the 17-year-old Texas Christian University to the next stage of qualifying with his round of 69.

“I thought I played really good golf today, especially with my driver. That was my most confident club in the bag,” Udovich said.

“I’m really looking forward to moving on; It’s been a while since I qualified for a big event like this. I will continue to work hard and prepare myself mentally.”

Udovich won the final of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition at Augusta National Golf Club in 2021 and advanced to the U.S. Junior Amateur at Bandon Dunes in Bandon, Oregon, the following year.

Flanagan, who won both the Minnesota State Open and the Minnesota Golf Champions in 2020, as well as the back-to-back Minnesota PGA Foundation Pro-Ams (formerly the Tapemark Pro-Am), previously played his first 11 holes in 1-over on Monday he rattled off three birdies over his next four holes and carded a 2-under 69.

A winner of four events in Minnesota, Flanagan also won the Genesis Invitational Collegiate Showcase to earn a spot in the PGA Tour’s Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in 2021.

Most recently, Flanagan tied for 40th at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Club Car Championship at The Landings Golf & Athletic Club in Georgia in late March.

Drugan, from Holmen, Wisconsin, recovered from two early bogeys on his front nine by carding four birdies over his first seven holes on the back end.

A late bogey put the 35-year-old in the clubhouse in a tie for fifth place with Kirk White at 1-under 70. He clinched the final qualifying spot by cashing in on his birdie chance on the first playoff hole.

White, from Blaine, Minnesota, finished as first alternate, while Tommie golfer Matthew Armstrong finished as second alternate.

This year’s national championship marks the fourth time the event has been played at Pinehurst No. 2, and the first since 2014 when Martin Kaymer walked away from the field for an eight-stroke victory.

The most recent USGA Championship played at the 117-year-old Donald Ross creation was the 2019 US Amateur, won by Mississippi native Andy Olgetree.

Current Korn Ferry Tour player and 2020 MGA Amateur champion Frankie Capan, along with partner Ben Wong, won the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship when it was contested at Pinehurst in 2017.

Qualifying places: 5 alternates: 2

Nick Hunter

Nick Hunter got his start covering sports for the Mankato Free Press while attending Minnesota State University, Mankato.

He subsequently contributed to several online outlets, including Bleacher Report, before turning his focus to golf.

Hunter enters his twelfth season covering golf in Minnesota as news editor for the MGA website. He lives in New Prague with his wife and two sons.