Brush With Greatness

Jason Preeo Teeing Off at the US Open
GOING THE DISTANCE: After making the cut at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, a chance encounter on the driving range showed Jason Preeo what it takes to be a PGA TOUR superstar. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF JASON PREEO

This is the time when, normally, the excitement would be building for the second major championship of 2020, the U.S. Open. However, because of, you know what, the PGA TOUR calendar has been upended.

Now, the event, being played at Winged Foot Golf Club in suburban New York, is still the second major of the year (following the PGA Championship instead of The Masters)–it’s just been pushed back to September.

As we featured last month, one local golfer, Jason Preeo, was especially looking forward to trying to qualify for the major. It was 10 years ago that Preeo, an instructor at Metagolf Learning Center in Sheridan, not only successfully qualified for the U.S. Open, but also made the weekend cut.

Besides sitting in the Top 20 following the opening two rounds of the tournament, which was played at picturesque Pebble Beach, Preeo says one of the highlights of the weekend came, oddly enough, on the driving range, where he had a brush with greatness that pointed out the difference between the really, really good golfer and a PGA TOUR superstar.

“Being in a tie for 16th after day 2 I had a late tee time on Saturday,” Preeo says. “While I was warming up on the range for the third round, Phil Mickelson came out for some pre-round practice. He was near the lead and teed off about an hour after I did. Being a lefty, and apparently liking the patch of turf I was using, he set his golf balls down within a foot or two of mine. As I was looking down at the balls I was hitting I could see him hitting balls as well. They were featuring him on the Golf Channel preround, and lots of folks have told me that is where they were able to catch me on TV.

“When I was wrapping up my warm ups I hit a few fairway woods out to a green at the end of the range, about 250 yards away. I had hit a pretty good one and as I was watching mine, I heard Phil hit one right after. It made a different sound than any of the others he had hit, and I knew he had hit it perfect. I also knew he was hitting some kind of a long iron in the same direction that I was, so I held the pose on my shot a little longer than normal trying to see if I could spot his ball.

“Mine had landed on the green and I caught his, still in the air with an iron, sailing a good 15-20 yards over the green. I was amazed at just how far that ball had flown. That was my first real look at how far some of the guys can hit the ball…. Later that day I got an even better taste…. On 18, I hit my drive into the left rough, laid up with a 6-iron, and hit a wedge onto the green. Dustin Johnson, playing in the last group, had hit his drive on 18 into the rough too. He took out a 6-iron as well, but instead of laying up, he knocked it right onto the green. That was eye opening! There’s obviously a reason he’s leading the US Open (Johnson would eventually finish T-8) and I’m giving golf lessons.”

This article was also featured in the June 2020 issue of Colorado AvidGolfer.

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