Commentary

From toilet cleaner to Open qualifier

Updated: June 5, 2012, 1:14 AM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

GLEN ELLYN, Ill. -- Some things you can't make up.

You can't make up the U.S. Open qualifying story of journeyman Anthony Summers, an Australian touring pro who 10 years ago was cleaning toilets and vomit at Sydney's cricket and football stadiums for extra money.

"Easiest job in the world," he said Monday afternoon.

Sure, anything is easier than trying to squeeze into next week's U.S. Open field at Olympic Club. But the 42-year-old Summers, who has never played in a PGA Tour event, much less a major, secured one of the two precious spots available at the sectional qualifying at the Village Links of Glen Ellyn course.

[+] EnlargeTim Herron
David Cannon/Getty ImagesTim Herron, who qualified Monday for next week's U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, is a third-generation competitor in his national championship.

Summers shot 66-67 for a 133 total, one stroke better than the other qualifier here, PGA Tour pro Tim Herron. Nobody else in the 48-player field was closer than five shots out.

Then again, nobody else had to go through what Summers went through to get here. Forget about the gruesomely long flight from Australia to Chicago, or the jet lag (he was wide awake at 1:30 a.m. Monday), or the pull-out couch he's been sleeping on since arriving late last Thursday at his buddy's one-bedroom apartment near downtown Chicago, or a quickie scouting session at Village Links. That's nothing.

The hard part is turning pro at age 18 and grinding the next 24 years in the business, even if that meant having to mop up urine and vomit at the Sydney Cricket Ground and the Sydney Football Stadium as a second job. The hard part is smiling through missed cuts, the OneAsia Tour, a bulging neck disk and still saying, "I've had a great life" -- which is what Summers did after recounting his career.

His life got a lot better Monday, thanks to those two rounds in the mid-60s on a 1-club wind day. Summers did everything well, especially roll his putts. And on the 195-yard, par-3 17th hole, he stung a 4-iron low into the stiff breeze to within 4 inches during his afternoon round.

A year ago Summers was scheduled to try to qualify for the U.S. Open, but missed his connection while trying to fly from a OneAsia Tour event in China. But he knows the 2011 winner, Rory McIlroy.

"Played with McIlroy when he was a kid," said Summers of the 2007 Australian Masters pairing. "I just went off and said, 'I don't have what he's got."'

But McIlroy, the world's No. 2-ranked player, now will be in the same U.S. Open as Summers, ranked No. 830.

"Playing in a major is the pinnacle of our profession," said Summers. "I'll be smiling all week."

Herron, also 42, had a grin on his face too. He last played in a U.S. Open in 2006. He showed up at Village Links on Monday morning without the benefit of a practice round.

"I just drove around the course," said Herron, whose best finish this season has been a T-11 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in late March.

It worked. Almost every decision he made during those 36 holes worked. He changed putters between the morning and afternoon session and shot 66, two strokes better than his opening round.

"Best I putted all year," he said.

The Herron family is used to playing in U.S. Opens. Tim has played in multiple Opens. Herron's father, Carson Jr., played in the 1963 Open. Herron's grandfather, Carson, played in the 1934 Open.

And you can't make that up, either.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter