It was 1985 when Chris Stein last got his crack at a chance to play in the U.S. Open.
He was 22 then, and in the Southern California city of Temecula for the Open sectional qualifier. Stein needed to shoot 3-under-par in his last nine holes to advance.
“Didn’t quite do it,” Stein said. “But here I am back now.”
Today at TPC Harding Park and Lake Merced Golf Club, the 49-year-old Burlingame-born and bred Stein, who has been the head golf professional at San Francisco’s Olympic Club since 1999, will attempt to fulfill what he started 27 years ago.
“Knowing you’ve got a chance — 36 holes from possibly playing in the U.S. Open that you’re the head professional at, it’s quite a thrill,” Stein said. “You don’t get this chance very much in your lifetime.”
But in vying for one of six coveted slots into the U.S. Open at his home course on June 14-17 of a 129-player sectional field, Stein is employing a “we’ll see what happens on Monday” attitude.
He enters today’s contest nursing a bulging disk and nerve issues he sustained while playing in a tourney in early March. But despite his lumps, the local pro is looking to swing smart and often.
“I’m going to go out there and give it my best shot and just hope that I can stay calm, and play well enough to possibly do it,” he said.
Stein reckons he’ll have to shoot 2-, 3-, or 4-under-par to succeed.
But for the Burlingame High School kid who picked up the game at 15, making it this far is a success of sorts.
High school was when his buddy Joby Ross, then a top player on the school golf club who will be caddying for Stein today, peculiarly inquired about Stein’s athletic life.
“‘Why don’t you go out for the golf team,’” asked Ross. Stein responded, “Look man, what are you talking about? I don’t even play golf.”
It wasn’t long after that when Stein picked up a hand-me-down set of clubs and started displaying his talents.
“They call me the natural every now and then,” he said.
Maury Ver Brugge, head golf pro at Burlingame Country Club, later helped nurture Stein’s game. But it was Ross’ advice that Stein followed onto the golf course.
And with Ross acting as his caddy today, Stein will continue to heed his advice.