U.S. Open 2019: Amateur who failed to qualify for Open plays in third round anyway

June 16, 2019

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — John Sawin, the 34-year-old director of golf at Pebble Beach, got the call at about 8 p.m. Friday: There was an odd number of players who made the cut in the 119th U.S. Open — would Sawin be willing to fill-in as a third-round marker, joining South African pro Justin Walters?

Sawin was happy to oblige, although this wasn’t exactly how he envisioned playing in the U.S. Open. Earlier this month, having already advanced through local qualifying for the Pebble Beach Open, Sawin played in the SoCal sectional qualifier held at Big Canyon CC and Newport Beach CC. He finished a commendable one under but eight short of the score he needed to punch his ticket to Pebble Beach.

John Sawin at the 2018 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball.
USGA/Darren Carroll

A Philadelphia-area native, Sawin grew up with a soft spot for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. “I have a deep love for this place from the moment that I saw it,” he told the Napa County Register. “I believed for a long time, before I arrived here, that this is the most magical place for golf in the world. And Pebble Beach is the centerpiece of the Monterey Peninsula golf world.”

Sawin, formerly a financial services professional, has serious game. He won the Pennsylvania Amateur in 2014 and has racked up club championships at Merion Golf Club, near Philadelphia, and San Francisco Golf Club. In his year and a half on the job at Pebble Beach, he said he has played the course only 20 times.

No doubt he won’t soon forget his 21st round.

“I don’t know how many people have missed the cut at sectional but played the weekend at the Open,” he said. “That’s a pretty cool distinction.”