Beljan shoots 6-under 64; five trail by four shots

Updated: August 22, 2005, 9:49 PM ET
Associated Press

ARDMORE, Pa. -- University of New Mexico junior Charlie Beljan shot a 6-under 64 on Monday at Philadelphia Country Club to take the first-round lead in stroke-play qualifying for the U.S. Amateur Championship.

Texas A&M senior Andrew Parr, Kent State senior Ryan Yip, Duke senior Ryan Blaum, Saint Mary's College (Calif.) junior Chandler Cocco and New Mexico senior Jay Choi were tied for second after 68s, all at Philadelphia Country Club.

Mark Strickland of Woodstock, Ga., and Todd Mitchell of Bloomington, Ill., had the only under-par rounds on the more difficult Merion Golf Club course, opening with 69s.

The players will switch courses Tuesday, with the low 64 in the 312-man field advancing to match play on Merion's historic Hugh Wilson-designed East Course. The 36-hole final is Sunday.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Beljan, the 2002 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, had nine birdies and three bogeys. He recently returned from a two-month break because of two bulging discs in his back.

"My first tournament back was the qualifier,'' Beljan said. "I knew if I could get out to a great start, things would get rolling. I didn't hit it that great today, but I made the putts. I made the up-and-downs. Everything fell together. Other than the finals of the Junior, this is one of my best.''

Canadian Jason Lepp, the 2005 NCAA individual champion from the University of Washington, shot a 70 at Merion.

U.S. Junior Amateur champion Sihwan Kim and young Walker Cup players Oliver Fisher and Brian Harman also got off to good starts. The 15-year-old Kim, from Fullerton, Calif., shot a 70 at Merion, while the 18-year-old Harman, the youngest player on the winning U.S. team, had a 71 at Merion, and the 16-year-old Fisher, the youngest player in Walker Cup history, shot a 70 at Philadelphia Country Club.

Pat Youngs, the husband of space shuttle Discovery commander Eileen Collins, shot a 76 at Merion. "It's an awesome experience,'' the 47-year-old commercial pilot said. "It's so rich in history.''

Canada's Richard Lee, the youngest player in the field at 14, opened with a 71 at Philadelphia Country Club, and 58-year-old Greg Reynolds, of Grand Blanc, Mich., the 2002 Senior Amateur champion, had a 72 on the Philadelphia layout.

Danny Green, the 1989 runner-up at Merion, had a 74 on the course. The 48-year-old Green lost 3 and 1 to Chris Patton in the '89 final.

"This tournament now is a kids tournament,'' Green said. "It's about college-age players and how far they can boom it. But if the course gets firmer and faster, it will play into my hands. If a kid drives it 40 yards past me in the rough, that's not an advantage for him.''

Last year, Ryan Moore won the last four holes to beat Luke List 2-up in the final at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Moore turned pro after the U.S. Open.

List opened with an 80 on Monday at Merion.

Divots
Bobby Jones won the 1924 and 1930 tournaments at Merion, also the site of Ben Hogan's 1950 U.S. Open victory. ... The 2006 tournament will be played at Hazeltine National in Minnesota and the 2007 event is set for The Olympic Club in San Francisco.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press