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Thomas wins U.S. Open qualifier
Riverton golfer P. J. Thomas shot a two-under 70 to win the U.S. Open local qualifying round Thursday at the Riverton County Club. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

Thomas wins local qualifier

May 17, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports Editor

P.J. Thomas of Riverton won the U.S. Open local qualifying round on Wednesday at the Riverton County Club.

The 2010 Riverton High School graduate finished the 18-hole tournament shooting a two-under 70.

Thomas beat a field of 14 other golfers. In order to compete, golfers must have at least a 1.4 handicap.

"There is a lot of pressure because it's not like a normal tournament," Thomas said. "You have to bring your A game the first day. There is a lot of nerves."

Sheridan's Nate Wilson finished second (71).

"My game was pretty good, but I didn't know what score would win," Thomas said. "I thought that if I could get under par then I would have a chance."

Thomas will now go on and play in a regional sectional round in Houston, Texas.

The winner of sectionals qualifies for the 112th U.S. Open to be held June 14-17 at Olympic Club in San Francisco. Riverton Middle School seventh-grader Eaxton Paxton finished the 18-hole round on Wednesday with a 75.

Thomas and Paxton played together in the tournament.

"Easton is amazing," Thomas said. "It's incredible on how young he is and how well he is doing in golf. It will be a lot of fun to watch in the coming years to see how well he does."

Thomas started the year golfing on the Montana-State -Billlings golf team before he transferred to University of Wyoming this past semester to become a full-time student.

"It would be awesome to play golf for Wyoming," Thomas said. "I miss playing college golf."

University of Wyoming golfers in the field were Clinton Boutelle (77), Eddie Stewart (73) and Michael May (72).

"I'm just happy that I had good round," Thomas said. "You can't worry about too much who is playing. You just have to stick to your own game and focus on your own."

Winning round

Thomas bogeyed holes No. 8 and 9. He finished the front nine with a 36.

Thomas birdied holes No. 10, 11 and 12 to get the momentum going in the final nine holes.

"It was good to get on a good start in the back," Thomas said. "I let a few strokes go on the back."

A key hole came on No. 15 when Thomas came up with the birdie.

Thomas made it on the par-5 in two shots.

Thomas finished No. 17 with a bogey to hang on for the one-stroke win.

"I'm glad that I had a cushion," Thomas said.

Paxton's round

"I started off really bad with nerves," Paxton said.

The 13-year-old opened the 18-hole round with a seven on No. 1.

"I just told myself to bounce back after the first hole and start hitting better shots and make some birdies coming in," Paxton said.

Paxton had a 41 on the first nine and a 34 on the second nine.

"I came back and played really well on the last 12 holes," Paxton said.

Paxton delivered birdies on No. 6, No. 11, No. 12, No. 15 and No. 18.

"I was just sticking my irons really close and making my putts," Paxton said.

Paxton was proud of the way he finished the round.

"It was a good up-and-down for birdie on No. 15," Paxton said. "On No. 18, we got the right distance and hit a good shot."

Scores from U.S. Open qualifying round held Wednesday at Riverton Country Club

Thayne Balling, Cody, 79; Bernie Blain, Trinidad, Colo, 79; Clinton Boutelle, Cody, 77; Nathan Green, Green River, 83; Collin Hopkins, 88; Chris Manning, 73, Cody; Dustin Materi, Sundance, 77; Michael May, Big Piney, 72; Easton Paxton, Riverton, 75; Brian Spiva, Casper, 74; Eddie Stewart, Jackson, 73; P.J. Thomas, Riverton, 70; Tyler Watts, Hulett, 78; Nate Wilson, Sheridan, 71.

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