E.A. Sports Today

Worth the wait

Former Anniston resident Ellison makes it through U.S. Open local qualifying for first time after all-day wait for scores

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

After 15 years of trying what’s another seven hours of waiting to learn if you can take the next step towards playing in the biggest tournament of your life?

That’s what Jaylon Ellison had to do after finishing his round in local qualifying for the U.S. Open at Stone Mountain (Ga.) Golf Club earlier this week.

The 38-year-old former Anniston resident and 2010 Calhoun County Tour Player of the Year made it through to sectional qualifying for the first time, but not without the agonizing wait that comes with posting a good score early and hoping nobody knocks you out or worse — forces you into an even more agonizing playoff.

Ellison, who now lives in Atlanta, shot 69 to grab one of eight spots available at the qualifier. He is confident, based on the timing of his entry, he’ll get his first choice for 36-hole sectional qualifying June 5, Hawks Ridge CC in Ball Ground, Ga.

He had been trying every year since 2001 without success, even as an alternate. But with a game plan intended to advance instead win and a short game he says is as good as it’s ever been, he made it through with his first round under par in competition since August.

“I knew the chances were there, but with 100 players left you never know,” he said. “We had to wait it out.”

And it wasn’t an easy wait, especially after he missed a two-foot birdie putt on his final hole that could have kept him out again.

Ellison’s score was second low when he posted among the earliest groups out, but it steadily slid down the board as more groups finished. Finally, there was a player in the final group who had the potential to force a three-man playoff for the final two spots, but he bogeyed three of his last four holes coming home and after more than 13 hours at the course Ellison was safely moving on.

“I was on the range hitting balls trying to stay loose just waiting around,” he said. “Sometimes the game gives and sometimes it takes.”

He’s seen it before. At least twice in his previous 15 attempts he recalls shooting what appeared to be a qualifying score and people were telling him he was either going to be in or prepare for a multi-player playoff and neither materialized.

“In those seven hours I tried to keep it in perspective and let the cards fall where they fell,” he said. “You have everything go through your mind and you have to balance everybody’s opinion. I never digested that. I kept an open mind. I told my wife I’d be happy to go in a playoff.”

It’s been a big couple of weeks for Ellison, who maintains a fulltime career as a wealth consultant while pursuing his golf dream. He and wife Lauren welcomed the birth of their first child, Grace Catherine, on April 29 and on St. Patrick’s Day he shot an eye-popping 56 in a corporate outing that is currently being validated by the USGA.

A local tournament official told Ellison the qualifier he played in was one of the most difficult to get through from a numbers standpoint, but the sectional is one of the more forgiving. Still, he hasn’t allowed himself to think about what it would be like make it to Erin Hills.

“It’d be exciting,” he said. “I’m just thankful to have the opportunity, to peg it on the fifth and have a chance that’s all I can really ask. If I get it going and have an opportunity (to advance) it’d be great. If not, it’d be a good step in the right direction.”

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