Golfer Jesse Mueller Hopes to Build on Strong Showing at U.S. Open
By Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau
The first “U.S. Open moment” for Jesse Mueller came on Monday leading up to last weekend’s tournament in San Francisco.
The Mesa resident and son of Grand Canyon University CEO Brian Mueller was walking toward the practice range at Olympic Golf Club with his head down when he looked up and noticed Tiger Woods was on his left.
“That was just different, I wasn’t used to that,” said Mueller, who was competing in his first event alongside PGA Tour golfers. “I don’t know that I had seen him in person before.
“But just to be out there with all the other guys I hope to be playing with someday, that was fun.”
The second “moment” came on the eighth hole of the third round.
“The hole runs right up next to the clubhouse, a long par 3, and there were a lot of fans there,” Mueller said. “I made a 45-footer for birdie. That was probably my best moment of the week.”
Those two snapshots were a microcosm of Mueller’s tournament. There admittedly were some nerves playing in his first U.S. Open, but when he’s on his game Mueller feels he belongs on the big stage.
“I can definitely compete on the highest level when I’m playing well,” said Mueller, who not only made the cut at the Open but closed with a 1-over-par 71 on the final day to finish in a tie for 51st at 13-over 293. “I hit some good shots but still felt like I left some shots out there.”
Mueller opened with rounds of 75 and 73, which led to some tense moments leading up to the cut line –where the field is cut in half for the final two days. The cutoff came at 8 over par, which meant Mueller survived while such golfers as Bubba Watson, Vijay Singh and fellow Arizona State University alum Chez Reavie missed the cut.
“I got done early on the second day so had a lot of waiting around,” said Mueller, who returned to the hotel after completing his morning round to wait for the announcement of the cut line. His wife, Jessie, who serves as his caddie, was with him.
“It came down to the last couple groups. … I wasn’t really watching the scores; I was just walking around trying not to think about it. Jessie was watching; she gave me updates. That was pretty nerve-wracking for a couple hours there.”
After calling family members – both Jesse’s and Jessie’s parents were on hand, as was Jesse’s brother – with the good news, Mueller went back to work on the weekend with a round of 74 on Saturday before closing with the 71 on Sunday. That left him at 293 for four rounds – 12 shots behind winner Webb Simpson.
The weekend was the stuff of memories for the Mueller family. Jesse is the oldest of four golf-playing sons of Brian and Paula Mueller.
“It was good for his mother and me,” Brian said. “He has been playing since he was 3 and competing in tournaments since he was 9. He’s worked really hard at it, and it was good to see the results.
“We’ve spent a lot of years watching golf, and it was great that everyone could be there together.”
Mueller’s toughest holes were the opening holes each day.
On hole No. 1, he had double-bogeys Saturday and Sunday, and a bogey on Thursday. On Friday he began on No. 9 and shot bogey.
“The first hole of the day I played 6-over-par for the week, so half my over-par was that first hole,” Mueller said. “If I just play those holes even, I finish in the top 15.
“I was a little bit nervous, but the first hole is also the hardest hole on the golf course. It was a combination of the two. … Besides the first couple holes, I felt pretty comfortable.”
The positive showing at the Open gives the 29-year-old Mueller renewed confidence as he tries to secure a full-time spot on the PGA Tour. The former Red Mountain High School and ASU golfer has tried to make it through qualifying school seven times and has reached the third and final stage of qualifying twice before coming up short. His finish at the Open is expected to secure a first-stage bye this year.
He also has played briefly on the Nationwide Tour, making the cut in five of 18 tournament appearances. And he’s currently atop the 2012 money list after nine events on the National Pro Golf Tour. This week, he’s off to a tournament in Farmington, N.M.
He qualified for the Open by shooting 1-under through 36 holes of a sectional qualifier in Columbus, Ohio.
“The last couple months, my game has started to come around so I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of year,” said Mueller, who sported a purple GCU shirt for a local TV appearance Tuesday morning.
“If I can play like this, I feel like I have a good chance to get all the way to PGA Tour.”
Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.