Three of coach Jason Preeo's former players at Valor Christian High School had advanced to U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying in the last eight days, and he didn't want to be left out of the party.
So the 38-year-old from Highlands Ranch not only earned a Sectional berth of his own on Tuesday, but he shared medalist honors in the U.S. Open Local Qualifying tournament at Collindale Golf Course in Fort Collins.
Preeo, who made the cut in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, carded five birdies and shot a 4-under-par 67 to tie for the low score at Collindale with former Colorado State University golfer Parker Edens (pictured) of Greeley. So Preeo will be joining his former Valor players Jake Staiano, Josh Seiple and Ross Macdonald in advancing to 36-hole Sectional Qualifying, which will be held on June 5 at 10 sites in the U.S. The U.S. Open itself is set for June 15-18 at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis.
"I've got to keep up with those (former Valor) guys," said Preeo, an instructor at the MetaGolf Learning Center in Englewood. "We've had three of them get through, so I couldn't let them show me up today."
Five players in all -- out of a field that originally numbered 84 -- from the Collindale qualifier will be headed to Sectionals. In addition to Preeo and Edens, advancing on Tuesday were 2015 5A state high school champion Hunter Paugh of Fort Collins, the University of South Dakota golfer who lives on the course at Collindale and shot 69; former University of Colorado golfer David Oraee of Greeley (71); and CSU senior Blake Cannon (72).
Edens has been a fixture among those who advance from the Collindale qualifier, having made it to Sectionals from the site four consecutive years, twice claiming medalist honors. On Tuesday, he did the trick with a bogey-free 67 that included birdies on all three of the par-5s.
"I've always played good here," said the 26-year-old, who has conditional status on the Web.com Tour this year. "I've kind of got it figured out. I feel pretty comfortable here" after playing the course roughly 100 times. "I putted well today, but I always putt well here. I can be putting bad (in general) and come here and putt well.
"It's been a tough winter and I came back here and this place is always good to me. My game's been coming around, and it came around at the right time."
A year after Edens and Oraee survived a seven-man playoff to land the final two spots from the Collindale qualifier -- and later finished one and two shots, respectively, out of Sectional playoffs for berths into the 2016 U.S. Open -- there was a six-man playoff on Tuesday. Two days after shooting a 62 at nearby Ptarmigan Country Club, Cannon won the playoff at Collindale. After Andrew Moore of Loveland pitched in from 23 yards for birdie on the first extra hole, Cannon sank a 5-foot birdie of his own. Then Cannon prevailed on the second playoff hole with a routine par after Moore drove it into the left trees for the second straight time, then pitched out and eventually settled for a bogey.
"In a six-man playoff, obviously the odds are low," said Cannon (left), a resident of Mesa, Ariz., who won two individual college titles in a week for CSU earlier this season. "Going to (hole) 10, you have to make birdie. Andrew hit a great chip -- it's not how you expect someone to make a birdie, but he did -- and to make that 5-footer on top to extend it was fun. Then I played 18 really solid. I had a lot of good shots under pressure.
"It feels good to have an opportunity (to qualify for the U.S. Open). You can't make it unless you get there (to Sectionals), so it's just one step at a time."
Like Edens, Paugh used his expansive knowledge of Collindale to pay dividends on Tuesday. The 19-year-old sank two 40-foot putts and chipped in from 20 feet.
"It was really nice to come back to this course, which I played growing up," said Paugh, who estimates he's played Collindale 200 times in his life. "I know the course, I know where to hit the ball, I know what to hit off the tee, so I feel like it gave me a great advantage going into it. Being familiar with the course is a big deal."
As for Oraee (below) -- a past winner of both the CGA Amateur and the CGA Match Play -- after having to survive the seven-man playoff last year at Collindale, he desperately wanted to avoid the logjam at 72 on Tuesday, and he did that with a one-birdie, one-bogey round.
"The goal is always to play in the U.S. Open, so to have that opportunity is nice," said the 23-year-old, who made it to the round of 16 at the 2015 U.S. Amateur. "I think I'm a lot better player than last year, so hopefully I can save a couple of shots here or there (at Sectionals) and get the job done. The goal today was obviously to get through; that's all you're thinking about. It's my first tournament in a while, so it's good to get the feet wet and get ready for tournament golf."
This will be roughly the sixth Sectional Qualifying for Preeo, who on Tuesday was playing just his fourth round of the year; the fourth Sectional for Edens, all from Collindale; the third for Oraee; and the first for Cannon and Paugh, who was attempting to qualify for the first time.
Preeo remembers well being in 16th place at the midway point of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach (75-70--145) before struggling the last two rounds, shooting 82-84 on the weekend to finish 82nd.
"It was cool, but it was very bittersweet to have played decent golf the first couple of days, then play so poorly (on the weekend)," he said. "That's the biggest motivation -- to maybe play a little differently or do some things differently.
"It's exciting just to get another chance. Having been through the whole process, you have an opportunity and hopefully you play well."
Three professionals -- Preeo, Edens and Oraee -- and amateurs Paugh and Cannon made up the five players who advanced on Tuesday.
Tuesday's round was delayed by about two hours in the afternoon by lightning, with 17 golfers sticking around to resume play after having their round interrupted.
Last week at the first Colorado-based Local Qualifying tournament at Walnut Creek Golf Preserve, Zahkai Brown of Golden, Seiple of Castle Rock, Staiano of Englewood, Pat Grady of Denver, and Jon Lindstrom of Broomfield earned spots into Sectionals. Lindstrom originally was the first alternate, but he advanced when Chris Thayer of Golden withdrew the day after qualifying for Sectionals.
Then on Monday at CommonGround Golf Course, advancing were Rich Lash of Denver, Jackson Solem of Longmont, Jacob Lestishen of Lone Tree, Macdonald of Castle Pines and Andy Connell of Denver.
ELSEWHERE (Updated May 17): Meanwhile, other players with strong Colorado ties have advanced to Sectionals from Local Qualifiers outside the state.
-- PGA Tour player Shane Bertsch of Parker tied for third place with a 70 at the Dallas Athletic Club on May 17.
-- Amateur Greg Condon of Monte Vista shared medalist honors with a 70 in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M., on May 2.
-- And former University of Colorado golfer Justin Bardgett was medalist in Raymore, Mo., on May 15, firing a 70.
U.S. Open Local Qualifying
At Par-71 Collindale GC in Fort Collins
ADVANCE TO SECTIONALS
Jason Preeo, Highlands Ranch 34-33--67
Parker Edens, Greeley 34-33--67
Hunter Paugh, Fort Collins 34-35--69
David Oraee, Greeley 36-35--71
Blake Cannon, Mesa, Ariz. 36-36--72
ALTERNATES (in order)
Andrew Moore, Loveland 39-33--72
Tony Aguilar, Arvada 36-36--72
For complete results, CLICK HERE.