Try as he might, Olympia native Patrick Nugent didn’t qualify for next week’s 115th U.S. Open Championship at nearby Chambers Bay.
So there’s a good possibility Nugent will be treating this weekend’s Capitol City tournament as his personal “major.”
After playing some of his best golf in parts of 2014 — including advancing to the sectional round of U.S. Open qualifying — Nugent gave qualifying for the Open another shot this year. He shot a 152 over 18 holes at the Eugene Country Club in Oregon on May 18 but failed to crack the top seven to advance to sectionals.
But recent U.S. Open local and sectional qualifiers were still rewarding experiences for the 22-year-old Olympia High School graduate.
“I’ve been pretty happy with my golf game,” said Nugent, an area auto body detailer who carries a plus-1 handicap.
The opening round of the two-day event at Olympia’s Capitol City Golf Club, which has a full field, starts at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. The final round is Sunday.
Nugent, an assistant golf coach at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen, had a 2014 to remember. In May, he made it through the U.S. Open local qualifying stage to get to sectionals at Emerald Valley Golf Course near Eugene playing in a field amateurs, Canadian Tour and Web.com players. He finished tied for 36th (156) on the one-day, 36-hole tournament.
Admitting he didn’t have his best day — “I got a few bad breaks and never got anything going,” he said — it gave Nugent encouragement, particularly against stiffer competition. That carried into a hot summer, including a tie for fourth place at Capitol City (141). Two months later, he won the Lewis County Amateur at the Riverside Golf Course in Chehalis, followed by a victory at the Twin Lakes Amateur in Federal Way.
He credits the U.S. Open sectionals experience for the confidence spike in his golf game.
“It was a good experience going down there,” he said.
To surpass his Capitol City placing from a year ago — his highest — Nugent knows putting will be key this weekend. Defending tournament champion Ryan Earl also is in the field.
“If I get my putting down,” Nugent said, “I should be fine.”