Jun 5, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorRiverton's P.J. Thomas played in a U.S. Open sectional qualifying round on Monday, shooting rounds of 77 and 75 for a 36-hole total of 152 at the Lakeside Golf Course in Houston.
The 8-over-part total tied Thomas for 44th place out 56 golfers in the field.
David Oragee from Greeley, Colo., (78-74--152) and Alex Aragon from San Diego (77-75--152) deadlocked with Thomas.
"I just wanted to have a great experience and not put too much pressure on myself," Thomas said.
The Lakeside course is a par 72.
"The course is pretty straightforward," Thomas said. "There is tree line on some of the holes, and water comes into play on some of the holes. It was pretty flat course. There were a few bunkers on it."
Friend Jarrett Watson caddied for Thomas for the tournament.
"I don't think that I could have made it without Jarrett being a caddy," Thomas said. "With the heat, I don't think that could have carried my clubs for 36 holes. It helped me a lot to talk and walk with Jarrett to keep me calm."
Thomas advanced to the round after he won the local U.S. Open qualifying round at the Riverton Country Club last month in Riverton. Thomas had the winning round of 70.
Thomas is a student at the University of Wyoming.
"I thought that I should have played a little bit better," Thomas said. "With the humidity in Houston I could not dial in my clubs. My short game is what kept me in it. I have a lot to build on in that. I think that if I could have got my distances right, then I would have shot a lot better. "
PGA tour veteran Bob Estes of Austin, Texas, won the tournament in Houston with rounds of 65-73--138. Estes has a four wins on the PGA tour.
Alistair Presnell of Scottsdale, Ariz., (71-69--140) and Brian Rowell (69-71--140) tied for second. Rowell lives in Lafayette, La.
"There was great competition there," Thomas said. "It was the best of the best."
The top three from the sectional tournament advanced to play in the U.S. Open.
"It just tells me the level of competition that you have to be at," Thomas said. "It motivates me more to do better. It just shows you the work that you have to put in."
The 112th U.S. Open is June 14-17 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
On the course
"The first 18 holes, I kind of got off to a rocky start," Thomas said."
Thomas opened the 36-hole tournament playing at the par-3 10th hole.
"I got up and down for par after hitting my ball into the sand," Thomas said.
Thomas bogeyed No. 11, and had a double bogey on No. 12.
"After that I played pretty well," Thomas said. "I just calmed down in a way. I just kept on grinding."
Thomas improved by two strokes on the final 18 holes.
"I started to hit some good shots. I started to putt a lot better," Thomas said. "Those were saving me."
The lone birdie for Thomas came on No. 10 in the final 18 holes.
"I just couldn't get the ball close enough to go after putts for birdies," Thomas said.
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