LAKEWOOD RANCH - Despite the raindrops, Monday was one of the most historic days in local golf history. The Ritz Carlton Members Club in Lakewood Ranch was one of 11 sites nationwide hosting the U.S. Open golf qualifying rounds, in what's called 'The Longest Day in Golf.'
It's the kind of golf you usually don't see in person; 56 of the best golfers in the world were all vying to be among the three who go on to play in the U.S. Open later this month in Marion, Ohio.
It was a first for the Ritz, and a first for the area.
Among the most emotional stories there: Brad Schneider, a young golfer out of Brandon who doctors weren't sure was going to walk again; an accident playing touch football five years ago left him unable to walk.
His father held back the tears. “Pride doesn't even come close to it. He went through a horrific accident a few years back, and he’s worked his butt off to get back here,” said Jim Schneider.
The threat of rain kept many fans away, but not Sarasota's Tim Holt. “I've played this course a couple of times, and it looks totally different from the tee they’re playing at... they’re doing a great job and it’s fun to watch it.”
But no one was happier that the U.S. Open qualifying was held at the Ritz than operations director Glen Murray. “No question, it's exciting for our members, for our staff.”
Murray says it's quite an honor for an 8-year old club to host such an event.
They played 36 holes Monday with one 90-minute rain delay.
Kevin Phelan, an amateur out of Ireland, led the qualifiers at nine under par. Ohio's John Hahn was a stroke back.
And darkness suspended the playoff between two others vying for the third and final spot in the U.S. Open; David Snyder and John Nieport will pick it up again first thing in the morning.