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Qualifying for last year's US Open did wonders for Cody Gribble's career. He's back in the field for the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay
For the world's top players, qualifying for any Major Championship is a given; merely an inevitability that barely registers in the consciousness until tournament week rolls round. But these players represent the overhwelming minority of professional golfers.
Take the US Open, for example. Some 9,982 people applied for a spot in the 156-man field this year. While the start list is usually comprised of recognisable names, a few unheralded players - usually youngesters not long out of college or veteran club professionals - normally manage to book their ticket to the big time.
One person who seems to be making a habit of US Open qualification is Cody Gribble. Who, you're probably asking? He might not be a household name, but he's someone with a compelling story. His performance last year at Pinhurst went largely unnoticed, but it was the catalyst that kickstarted his fledgling career.
When the 2013 University of Texas graduate turned up at last year's local qualifying event in San Antonio - one of 111 such events - he had no status on any professional golf tour. He also went into the tournament with the potentially destructive knowledge that he'd tried, and failed, to get through local qualifying on four previous occasions.
No matter. He shot a 68 to progress to the sectional qualifier in Memphis, where he was paired with PGA Tour winner Frank Lickliter and 2003 USPGA Champion Shaun Micheel.
After admitting being 'terrified' initially, Gribble carded rounds of 71 and 65 to earn his berth in the US Open proper. Not only did he go on to make the cut, he compiled a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 21st - his best on the PGA Tour to date.
That earned him entry into the second stage of Web.Tour Q-School at the end of last year. He finished second, and went on to earn a card for the 2015 season via final stage. So far this year, he's earned more than $40,000, and a strong end to the season will see him participate in the Web.com Tour finals for the chance to earn a PGA Tour card.
And, on Monday, Gribble came through sectional qualifying to secure his place in the US Open at Chamber Bay for the second consecutive year.
Had he not qualified for the 2014 US Open, he could still be a nomad, trying desperately to earn enough money to make a career as a professional golfer a viable option. Now, he's one big week away from making it to the promised land of the PGA Tour.
If you look below the star-speckled surface, some the storylines that emanate from the US Open are both uplifting and inspiring.
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Nick Bonfield joined Golf Monthly in 2012 after graduating from Exeter University and earning an NCTJ-accredited journalism diploma from News Associates in Wimbledon. He is responsible for managing production of the magazine, sub-editing, commissioning and feature writing. Most of his online work is opinion-based and typically centres around the Majors and significant events in the global golfing calendar. Nick has been an avid golf fan since the age of ten and became obsessed with the professional game after watching Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel win The Masters and PGA Championship respectively in 2003. In his time with Golf Monthly, he's interviewed the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel and has ghost-written columns for Westwood, Wayne Riley, Matthew Southgate, Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell. Nick is a 12-handicap golfer and his favourite courses include Old Head, Sunningdale New, Penha Longha, Valderrama and Bearwood Lakes. If you have a feature pitch for Nick, please email email@example.com with 'Pitch' in the subject line. Nick is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade M1 Fairway wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Hybrid: Ping Crossover Irons (4-9): Nike Vapor Speed Wedges: Cleveland CBX Full Face, 56˚, Titleist Vokey SM4, 60˚ Putter: testing in progress! Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
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