u.s. open

U.S. Open 2024: How a high school science teacher punched his ticket to Pinehurst

Adam Scott, Joaquin Niemann, Zach Johnson. These three golfers have more than 1,000 PGA Tour appearances and quite a few wins combined. And yet on “golf’s longest day,” they didn’t have enough to snag a bid for the U.S. Open. Instead, one of those much-sought-after 44 spots (out of 687 players competing at the 10 sites) went to Colin Prater, a high-school science teacher at Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs.

The 29-year-old amateur will get a crack at Pinehurst No. 2 and take on some of the best pros in the world after shooting a 68-73 at Pronghorn Resort’s Nicklaus Course in Bend, Ore., surviving by one stroke to nab one of the two berths available in the 44-player field. That’s a hell of a story to tell when school’s back in session and certainly a good way to win over your students.

“It’s been a dream of mine since being a kid to play in a major, and to fulfill that dream is amazing,” Prater said.

It’s not as if Prater walked out of the lab and onto the course for the first time. He’s a strong golfer in his own right and has won the Colorado Golf Association Player of the Year twice. He coaches the Cheyenne Mountain golf team and played at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. In 2020, Prater became just the second golfer since 1985 to win the Colorado Golf Association’s Amateur and Match Play in the same year.

During his two trips around Pronghorn’s back nine, Prater made seven birdies, including three on his final six holes, to move inside the cut line. Prater then needed bogeys from Trevor Simsby and Davis Bryant down the stretch to avoid a playoff for the second/last spot and complete his golf dream. Prater finished two strokes back of medalist Joey Vrzich.

Colorado 11 News reported that Prater tries to get “30 minutes of chipping and putting practice in every other day,” ultimately following the basic fundamentals he preaches to his players. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working. Hopefully, he has similar chemistry with Pinehurst No. 2.