Michigan star golfer Kyle Mueller qualified this week to play in his third consecutive U.S. Amateur, and will be joined by teammate Nick Carlson, who earned an automatic exemption after his Cinderella run to the final four a year ago.
Mueller, a senior-to-be and the 73rd-ranked amateur in the world, shot rounds of 71 and 67 to finish 4 under, one shot off the medalist spot at the qualifier at Columbia Country Club in S.C.
The Athens, Ga., native still did enough to earn one of the three spots available for a ticket to the U.S. Amateur, set for Riviera Country Club and Bel-Air Country Club in California the week of Aug. 14-20.
"I remember I was a senior in high school, and I went back to the same qualifying site, Columbia site, and I remember I missed it by two," Mueller said. "I was pretty devastated, just being young, 'Oh, I might ever get another chance to play in an Amateur."
Yeah, forget that.
Mueller, 21, qualified the next year and made the match-play portion of the U.S. Amateur in 2015, then earned an exemption for 2016 because he had played in the U.S. Open, but he didn't get out of stroke play in 2016 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township.
Last year's U.S. Amateur spotlight, instead, belonged to Carlson, the Hamilton, Mich., native who was barely ranked inside the top 2,000 at the start of the 2016 tournament, but quickly became a fan favorite as he stormed his way all the way to the semifinals, where he lost to eventual champion Curtis Luck in extra holes.
Still, it earned Carlson, 20, a junior-to-be and now the 294th-ranked amateur in the world, a return trip in 2017 without the hassle of having to stress going through qualifying.
Mueller said there was a little heckling from Carlson, as he enjoyed a sweat-free week while Mueller had to grind. But Mueller said there was motivation from Carlson, too.
"I told him after I qualified, I couldn't leave him hanging," said Mueller, who will playing his fourth USGA-sanctioned tournament in the last three years. "I had to get there with him."
The two are likely to room together during the tournament.
Meanwhile, former Michigan golfer Jack Schultz, 26, qualified this week, as well, as the medalist at Cedar Chase Golf Club in Cedar Springs, in West Michigan. There were two spots available there; Novi's Andrew Sarokin and Tipton's Jerred Barley earned alternate spots at Cedar Chase.
Two more Michigan qualifiers will take place, at Oakland University's Katke course July 17 and at Michigan State's Forest Akers West course July 21.
The U.S. Amateur is a week-long tournament that includes 36 days of stroke play, with the top 64 moving into the match-play bracket.