San Bruno’s James Hahn rides momentum to qualify for U.S. Open 

click to enlarge San Bruno’s James Hahn was terrific at TPC Harding Park and Lake Merced on Monday, winning the U.S. Open sectional qualifier. - GODOFREDO VASQUEZ/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Godofredo Vasquez/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • San Bruno’s James Hahn was terrific at TPC Harding Park and Lake Merced on Monday, winning the U.S. Open sectional qualifier.

James Hahn didn’t even want to sleep Sunday night, or Monday morning, more accurately.

He feared shut-eye might make him lose his mojo.

After winning his first Nationwide Tour event at the Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday, Hahn boarded a 7:45 p.m. flight and made a stop in Atlanta before pulling into San Francisco International Airport at 12:30 a.m. Monday.

On just three hours of sleep, the San Bruno resident and Cal graduate shot an 8-under-par 136, the lowest of all 130 competitors, in the 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier Monday at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City and TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.

“I took a page from Ben Hogan,” Hahn said. “He was scared to go to sleep. He was scared he’d wake up the next morning and completely forget how to swing a golf club.”

“Three hours of sleep was too much,” Hahn added with a wry smile.

The Open will be the first high-profile event for Hahn, who graduated from Alameda High School in 1999 and has been a part of the Nationwide Tour since 2010, but he appreciates the streaky nature of the sport and just hopes it continues.

“In this game, it’s all about confidence,” Hahn said. “If you have a bad stretch of holes, it can lead to a bad tournament or a bad year. I learned last year, because I never got any momentum. This year, I just feel like it’s a snowball effect the other way.”

Hahn even admitted that he didn’t try to win the Nationwide event, and had a flight booked for Saturday, assuming he would miss the cut. He cared more about getting back to the Bay Area to qualify for the Open.

“I didn’t even book a hotel for the weekend,” Hahn said. “I was expecting to just show up, show my face and come back here to practice.”

Hahn opened up with a 6-under 66 at Lake Merced, a bogey-free round, then shot a two-under 70 at Harding Park to best a pack of four second-place finishers by a single stroke.

In that group of second-place finishers was 53-year-old Michael Allen, a three-time Champions Tour winner (including a win in the Senior PGA Championship in 2009) and San Mateo native.

Allen, who now lives in Arizona, has played in four U.S. Opens, but as an Olympic Club member since his teens, his qualifying score of 137 fulfills a lifelong dream.

“That was harder than winning a tournament.” Allen said after his round at Harding Park, where he shot a two-under 70. “I just wanted this so bad for so long. That’s why I started playing, to play in The Open at the Olympic Club. To be able to do it at 53 — it’s obviously my last chance to do it there — however well I do there is irrelevant. I just always wanted to play in front of my friends, a home crowd and on my home course.”

Tied with Allen were Alex Cejka of Las Vegas, Scott Smith of Fallon, Nev., and Beau Hossler, a 17-year-old amateur from Mission Viejo.

All four second-place finishers qualified for the Open, as well as Matthew Bettencourt and another amateur, Alberto Sanchez from Nogales, Ariz., who tied for sixth place with a score of 138.


U.S. Open sectional qualifying

Seven players advanced through 36 holes split between TPC Harding Park and Lake Merced Golf Club on Monday and into the U.S. Open:

Player     Score
James Hahn    66-70—136
Alex Cejka    69-68—137
Michael Allen     67-70—137
Scott Smith    68-69—137
a-Beau Hossler    70-67—137
a-Alberto Sanchez    67-71—138
Matthew Bettencourt     69-69—138


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Jeremy Balan

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