PEBBLE BEACH — Brandon Wu was aware all spring that this could be an issue. Graduation at Stanford University was scheduled for June 16. And so was the final round of the U.S. Open. The 22-year-old product-design major knew he had a spot in the field in the former, but was desperately hoping to grab one in the latter, too.
He did it at Sectional Qualifying in Ohio, and then spent the last three days looking like he belonged at Pebble Beach. Opening rounds of 71-69 allowed him to start the weekend in a tie for 19th place. And an even-par 71 on Saturday put him two strokes ahead of Viktor Hovland in the race for low-amateur honors.
So it is that on Sunday, rather than walking with his fellow Cardinal in gap and gown, Wu will be walking the fairways of Pebble Beach, golf shirt and khakis, once more. And it doesn’t sound like he minds all that much.
“This is a pretty cool experience, too,” Wu said. “I wish I could graduate with my classmates, but I think they’ll understand and be cheering for me.”
Wu had been dreaming of playing a U.S. Open at Pebble since he was a 13-year-old in the stands with his dad when the championship last was played on the Monterey Peninsula in 2010. “I came out here, me and my dad sat on that grandstand on No. 7 and watched everyone come through and struggle on that hole a little bit,” Wu said. “So it's honestly just been real fun getting to play and experience that for myself.”
Really fun would be an easy way to describe the past few weeks for the Stanford senior who had the low stroke average on the squad this past season. He helped the Cardinal win its final five college events, capped by their exciting victory at the NCAA Championship. Less than a week later, he got through U.S. Open qualifying, and then days later played for the U.S. in the Palmer Cup, college golf’s version of the Ryder Cup, before coming to Pebble.
While some pressure came off when he made the cut, one of four amateurs to do so, that didn't make Saturday's round easy by any means.
“Today was a little tougher,” Wu said. “I feel like I've been putting well all week, and today I missed a couple six-, eight-footers to start. So that led to a few bogeys, missed a few birdie putts. That was kind of tough. We missed a few reads, greens were bumpier, hit a few bad putts.
“But overall I stayed patient, stayed confident. I knew I was hitting it good, so wasn't too worried about that. But tried to enjoy it.”
Unlike Hovland and some of the other big names from the college class of 2019, Wu says he’ll remain an amateur through the summer in hopes of playing for the U.S. Walker Cup team in September. Qualifying for the U.S. Open will go a long way to help his cause. Being low amateur will help as well.
So what about picking up that diploma?
“They said they'd mail it to me, so hopefully I get it in the mail.”