So playing in yesterday’s U.S. Open sectional qualifier at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., was almost ceremonial in that it was going to be his last try. It also was a way for him to stay close to his son, Ryan, who also was playing in the qualifier.
When McCormick’s day began, he had one thing on his mind: Watching Ryan qualify for next week’s U.S. Open at Olympic Club.
As the day wore on, a funny thing happened to McCormick: It was he who got into the Open, not his son, a sophomore on the St. John’s golf team that produced Keegan Bradley.
McCormick, a Middletown, N.J., native who shot a 4-under 138, was one of four players to qualify through this section, joined by Cameron Wilson from Rowayton, Conn., and a player on the Stanford golf team (136), Jim Herman (137) of Palm City, Fla., and Rumson (N.J.) Country Club pro Brian Gaffney (138).
“I really didn’t think I had a chance,’’ McCormick said. “I thought Ryan was going to play really well and I was just going to show up and that was going to be it. I’m in fantasyland here. I’ve dreamed since I was a kid to play the U.S Open and this year I was resigned to the fact this was going to be my last year and that it ain’t happening. But life has a way to throwing you a little curveball, man.’’
One of the biggest twists to this tale is the fact McCormick had actually withdrawn from the local qualifying tournament because it conflicted with a tournament at the club where he’s the head pro, Suburban, in Union, N.J.
The father-son dynamic produced some churning emotions for McCormick as the day unfolded in that he was more worried about how Ryan was doing than he was about his own game.
“It takes away from your ability to play because your heart is with him, so it really takes a lot of focus,’’ McCormick said.
When it was over and dad had qualified while his son finished 2-over par and out of the running, Mark McCormick said, “Ryan was so pumped up, he’s happier than I am.
“I felt bad, because I saw him after 18 and he was a little dejected [after shooting 74] and I was feeling great because I had just birdied the last four holes [of his first round] and I was trying to not be excited, trying to comfort him a little bit,’’ McCormick said. “I already had an idea that, if it was me and him in a playoff for one spot, I was going to hit putter off the tee and putt with my driver.’’
Ryan McCormick will be accompanying his dad to San Francisco next week, as will McCormick’s longtime caddie, Vini “Mad Dog’’ Lopez, a founding member and original drummer of Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band.
McCormick had been suppressing any visions of playing in a U.S. Open before yesterday and, as the day wore on, they finally came bubbling to the surface.
“I pictured myself at Olympic, just being there, walking around, hitting shots, playing practice rounds, hitting a 6-iron to a green in a practice round with 2,000 people, hitting it close and hearing people cheering,’’ he said. “I played [Olympic] in 2010; one of our members took me out. It was the hardest course I ever played.’’
* Cameron Young, a freshman at Fordham Prep from Scarborough-On-Hudson, came up just short in his bid to become the youngest player to ever qualify for the U.S. Open. The 15-year-old, with his father Dave, the head pro at Sleepy Hollow, on his bag, shot 72-71-143 and missed qualifying by five shots.
Mark McCormick, McCormick, Mark McCormick, Ryan McCormick, Canoe Brook Country Club