By Mike Dougherty
PURCHASE – Lee Janzen was playing it safe, waiting until the last few scores were officially posted before exhaling.
It was only a matter of time.
Janzen played his way back into the U.S. Open, winning medalist honors Monday with a 4-under total of 137 during sectional qualifying at Old Oaks and Century. It’s been a long time between visits. Janzen won the U.S. Open in 1995 and 1998, but has not played in the national championship since 2008.
Attempts to qualify each of the previous six years have been unsuccessful.
Janzen isn’t going to Chambers Bay thinking about stealing headlines from the new generation of stars, but the sense of satisfaction was obvious.
“I’m not going out there thinking wild, crazy thoughts that I’m suddenly going to start hitting the ball 320 and I can compete for the win,” he said. “Now if there’s a chance I can hit it the distance I hit it and have a chance to compete, great, but I’m not worried about it. It will just be fun to play.”
Janzen missed by two here a year ago.
The other three spots were claimed by Web.com player Jamie Lovemark (139), reigning New England PGA champion Rich Berberian Jr. (140) and former St. John’s University standout Pat Wilson (140).
A little rain and wind kept things interesting.
“I love Westchester,” said Janzen, 50, who won the Buick Classic at Westchester Country Club in 1994. “I love the area. I’m a member at Baltusrol now, and I love spending time there.”
Johnson Wagner, a former Garrison resident, came back to the area looking for some mojo, too.
“I haven’t qualified for a U.S. Open since 2007,” said the former MGA player of the year who is familiar with both venues. “I know Old Oaks like the back of my hand, so I decided to change things up a little and come here.”
He got close despite an uncooperative driver, finishing at 142.
“I couldn’t hit a fairway today, but everything else is pretty sharp,” Wagner said. “The short game is good. The irons are good. I just have to figure out how to get the driver in the fairway. I was like Tiger Woods out there. I couldn’t sniff a fairway.”
The 35-year-old has conditional status on the PGA Tour, but a playoff loss at the Shell Houston Open in April helped get him pointed in the right direction.
“I’ve just been wanting to be happy on the course and play when I get the opportunity,” Wagner said. “I was fortunate enough to get a number of starts on sponsor’s exemptions and took advantage of a couple of them, had some good weeks and now I’m going to start getting into almost every event and it’s time to start playing some good golf.”
He continues to work with Old Oaks head pro Bobby Heins, who followed along Monday.
“We’re going to have a long conversation, I think, in the next 30 or 40 minutes,” Wagner said. “The wind this afternoon was a little more difficult. The rain this morning was irritating, but man, these are two great courses. It was nice playing 36 holes in 70-degree weather. I’ll be coming back to this site for years to come.”
Michael Miller, a Brewster native who’s playing on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, missed by three. He opened with a 70 at Century and closed with a 73 at Old Oaks. Cameron Young, a Scarborough resident who’s heading for Wake Forest in the fall, carded a 75 at Century and shot a 72 at Old Oaks and was seven shots off the number.