Local golf pro aims for U.S. Open spot

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Jason Preeo has had to make some inconvenient alterations to his vacation plans.

Preeo, the Highlands Ranch teaching golf professional who works for MetaGolf Academy at Broken Tee at Englewood and the Colorado Golf Club in Parker, is taking his wife and children on a trip to Southern California to visit friends and relatives and go to Disneyland.

However, Preeo will have to modify a few plans since he will be playing June 3 in the 36-hole U.S. Open Sectional qualifying tournament, which will be held at the Newport Beach Country Club and the Grand Canyon Country Club.

“We were going out there so this was all planned,” said Preeo, who is also the head boys golf coach at Valor Christian. “I chose California knowing that I would be out there anyway. It worked out.

“We had to change a day of flights. It sounds funny, it is definitely a little bit of an inconvenience in terms of what we had planned and were trying to do. I won't be around quite as much trying to arrange practice rounds and things. It is another week of inconveniences but hopefully it will be a good one.”

Preeo carded a three-under-par 68 and survived a playoff in a local U.S. Open qualifying tourney May 13 at Collindale Golf Course in Fort Collins to advance to the California Sectionals. It will be the fifth time in seven years that Preeo, a 2010 Open qualifier, has played in the second phase of U.S. Open qualifying.

“You really can't get too far ahead of yourself,” said Preeo. “You have to get through the first 18 to 27 holes and see where you are at and decide what you have to do from there. In terms of performance, it always helps to putt well. That will keep you in and give you opportunities.

“I don't know if it's about mentally preparing for it. I think about it a little bit. Some of it is, with any of these stages, you don't have to play as well as you think you do. You just have to play solid. The previous experiences of being in that environment and seeing the scores that will ultimately get you through, it's good golf but it's not great golf.

“The prize is so much greater in these events, it is easier to get ahead of yourself,” continued Preeo. “Even to win a local tournament around here, it's neat to do but it's not quite the same as playing well and getting yourself into the U.S. Open.”

Preeo hasn't had time much time to polish his game. He played only two rounds of golf prior to the Collindale tournament and has spent more time teaching than playing in preparation for his “vacation” golf outing.

“I wouldn't compare it to riding a bike but it's similar in that fashion,” he said. “I've hit it in the trees enough that I'm comfortable having to hit a shot around them, left or right or whatever I need to do. So even though I haven't played in a while, it's something that comes back to you.

“You might not be quite as sharp but you still have a fighting chance. I'm hoping to just get practice rounds at both places. I think I can accomplish that but I don't think I have much time for more than that. As long as I'm familiar and have a plan for both courses, I'll be as prepared as I can be.”

There will be 13 Sectional qualifying tournaments to help determine the field for the June 13-16 U.S. Open that will be played at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

Preeo, a 34-year-old who stopped playing mini tour events six years ago, is hoping to qualify so he can wipe out the lingering bad flavor of playing in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

He fired a first-round 75 and followed with a one-under-par 70 to make the cut and tie for 16th place at the halfway point of the championship. His final two rounds were 82 and 84 and he wound up 82nd.

“Under par on Friday was pretty neat and making the cut,” said Preeo. “But such a poor performance over the weekend, getting tired and frustrated and everything else, there was a sour taste left in my mouth at the end of the week.

“So it would be real nice having another opportunity to get out there and replace that. I just have to go out there and play well for one day.”