In an Open that featured a 14-year-old qualifier from China (Andy Zhang) and a 17-year-old La Jolla (Calif.) Country Day School grad (Alberto Sanchez), who reached the supposedly unreachable 670-yard 16th hole in two, Beau Hossler was the ringleader of the Kids Who Stole the Open.
Hossler, also a 17-year-old Californian, from Orange County's Santa Margarita Catholic High, became the first prep golfer since Mason Rudolph, in 1951, to qualify for consecutive Opens. Even better, Beau rolled in a 12-footer for birdie last Friday on the 1st hole, his 11th of the round, to pull ahead of Tiger (oh, yeah!) and into the solo lead. "I was pretty excited about it," Beau admitted, "but then again, I had another 40 holes to play."
Even the name—Beau Hossler—sounds like a golfer's. He looks like one too, with a Mack-truck frame reminiscent of a young Jack Nicklaus, the upright swing of Colin Montgomerie, the cool demeanor of Fred Couples, the putting stroke of a fearless teenager and the braces of, well, Marcia from the first season of The Brady Bunch. Not to worry, Beau. This, too, shall pass.
If Beau has a pulse behind those baby-faced cheeks, you can't tell by looking. Beau's reign atop the world ended shortly after it began when he double-bogeyed the 4th hole. On the 5th tee he screamed one right, into a bunker by the 4th fairway. His path to the green was blocked by an array of trees. Caddie and godfather Bill Schullenberg wanted the safe play, a chip-out. Beau opted for a six-iron shot that skirted the limbs and left him a wedge to the green. He made bogey, but what a gutsy shot. "I asked how close he was when he cleared those trees, and he said, 'About three inches,' and then he smiled," Schullenberg said. "I said, 'You're going to give me a coronary.'"
Beau plans to play college golf at Texas, where he could be a teammate of Jordan Spieth, 18, who just finished his freshman year for the NCAA champion Longhorns. When Hossler stumbled to a 76 on Sunday, Spieth, who shot 139 on the weekend, wound up as low amateur, but he never held the lead and never had a bona fide shot at winning the U.S. Open. Hossler did. So is Beau the Next Big Thing? Is Spieth better? Who knows, but the burst of precocious talent is fun to watch. After Hossler's superb even-par 70 on Saturday a hillside packed with fans rose and gave a thunderous ovation to a smiling 17-year-old.
Here's looking at you, kids.
SI GOLF RANKING
PLAYER (FIRST-PLACE VOTES)
Webb Simpson (7)
Jason Dufner (5)
Lee Westwood (1)
Luke Donald (1)
Rory McIlroy (1)
For expanded rankings, go to Golf.com/ranking
GOLF MAGAZINE TOP 100 TEACHERS POLL
If you were Beau Hossler's coach, would you advise him to turn pro after high school?
CHILD'S PLAY Hossler finished 29th, but a double bogey on the 72nd hole knocked him from low amateur.