LITTLETON — Charlie Soule could’ve spent every waking moment with a golf club in his hands.
After all, the University of Denver golfer and Longmont High School graduate had the 2005 U.S. Open sectional qualifier at Columbine Country Club looming on the horizon. The winner of this 28-person event automatically earned a spot for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club on June 16-19.
Instead of living on the practice range, Soule went camping and hiking in Moab.
“I just decided to go have fun,” Soule said.
Wise decision. A rested and relaxed Soule finished Monday’s 36-hole event at 4-over par. He fired a morning round of 73 and followed that with a 75.
Soule finished the sectional tied for 10th with Dustin Primm of Draper, Utah, and soon-to-be Southern California golfer Tom Glissmeyer, who qualified for the 2003 U.S. Open. University of Colorado golfer Derek Tolan, who played in the 2002 Open, finished ninth.
“It was a grind out there,” said Soule, who fired a course-record 64 at Colindale Golf Course in Fort Collins two weeks ago to earn a place at sectionals. “It was a little rough.”
The automatic bid went to Rapid City, S.D., native Wil Collins, who played in Soule’s threesome. Collins shot 3-under par for the day. Good thing Collins won because he’d already bought a ticket bound for North Carolina.
“I had some airline credit on Southwest so I took a chance,” said Collins, 26, who played collegiately for the University of New Mexico. “I’m excited to be going.”
Soule battled his swing most of the day. He couldn’t find his rhythm.
“I can’t tell you how many strokes I left out there,” Soule said.
Not that you’d know it from his demeanor. Not even back-to-back bogeys on the front side or a double bogey on the final hole of the afternoon could wipe the smile from his face.
Soule was constantly talking to the gallery and joking with his caddy and friend, Brett Kaup.
“I offered to switch positions with him,” Kaup said. “He could carry the bag and I’d play.”
Soule even introduced his father, David Soule, to some of his college friends as he walked off the 10th tee. He made the most of the moment. He had fun.
Denver golf coach Eric Hoos appreciates Soule’s even-keeled disposition. Soule, who was cut from the Pioneers team his freshman year before making the squad last season, never frets over a bad shot.
“He’s such a tough competitor,” Hoos said. “He’s a great mental player, and his game keeps improving.
“If he keeps progressing, by his senior year he ought to be an all-American for us.”
Too bad caddying for Soule would’ve violated NCAA rules. Hoos would’ve offered friendly advice.
“We’re working on course management,” Hoos said. “What types of shots to hit and when. We’ll sit down and talk about some of his shots.”
Soule knew instantly to what shot Hoos was referring. On the fifth hole, Soule used a 3-wood off the tee and drove it too far. His next shot was on a downward slant, and he sand-wedged it over the green, missing a golden birdie opportunity.
“I’m still learning,” Soule said.
Soule birdied two straight par 5s on the back nine, and learned a valuable lesson from that stretch.
“I play my best golf when I’m relaxed and having fun,” he said.