UM sophomore swings his way into U.S. Open

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Kyle Mueller

It hadn't really hit him.

But it sure had hit his phone, which was rapidly running out of juice — thanks to a steady stream of "congrats."

Michigan golfer Kyle Mueller played two rather stress-free rounds of golf Monday, and the end result was pretty darn sweet — a ticket to the U.S. Open later this month.

Mueller finished his 36 holes at 5 under, taking runner-up honors at a qualifier in Springfield, Ohio, where four U.S. Open spots were up for grabs.

Mueller shot rounds of 67 and 68, continuing his hot play that began in the fall.

"I didn't really have any expectations," said Mueller, speaking on a friend's cell phone, which actually had some battery left. "Just try to treat it like another round. I played there last year, the same event, and felt like I didn't bring my best golf, and only missed by five or six shots.

"Just a matter of staying patient. I did that, and it worked out."

Mueller, 20, who just finished his sophomore season, will be the first Michigan golfer to play in a major while still in school since Lion Kim played in the 2012 Masters.

The last former UM player to play in the U.S. Open was PGA Tour journeyman Justin Hicks, who last played in it in 2013. Hicks also qualified with a 65 and 73 in Summit, New Jersey.

The U.S. Open will be June 16-19 at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania.

"I felt like I was hitting it pretty close all day, 10 to 20 feet," Mueller said. "I felt it was a matter of rolling one in. I was finally able to do that as I made the turn on the back side in the first round."

That 20-footer came on No. 11.

It was pretty much cruise control from there for Mueller, but what else is new.

Mueller this past season became the first Michigan golfer ever to finish a season with a stroke average below 72, which usually is par for most courses.

Mueller made the sectional qualifier at Springfield Country Club by winning a spot at a local qualifier May 10 at Weymouth Country Club in Medina, Ohio.

On the bag as his caddy Monday was former UM golf teammate Chris O'Neill, who graduated this spring.

That helped put Mueller at ease.

"It's unbelievable. It still really hasn't sunk in yet, especially with Chris on the bag," said Mueller, from Athens, Georgia. "He was huge. I don't know if I would've made it without him, having him there to walk through some shots and really reassuring every shot."

Current Illinois golfer Nick Hardy (-6) was the medalist Monday, and former Ball State golfer Patrick Wilkes-Krier (-5), from Ypsilanti, and another current Illinois golfer. Charlie Danielson (-1), also earned spots in Springfield.

The U.S. Open, won last year by Jordan Spieth, is the USGA's signature event. Another is the U.S. Amateur, at which Mueller got to the round of 16 last year.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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