The U.S. Open golf tournament had its qualifying events this week, where nearly 600 players vied for 55 spots.
Rivet's Christian Steininger and South Knox's Cameron Chattin weren't among that group, but the county duo are facing similar odds when they play at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in the Washington Regional.
They qualified for the regional by finishing in the top three among non-advancing teams at last week's sectional. Steininger and Chattin have to place in the top five of non-advancing teams to reach the state finals. But with 18 teams ascending on Country Oaks on Thursday along with 16 other individuals, only 20 of the 108 golfers are going to be state-bound, with 15 of them on Thursday's top three teams.
With so many players and so few spots, both are going to have to shoot lower than they did last Friday in the Vincennes Sectional at the Country Club of Old Vincennes. Steininger was second among the non-advancing teams with a 79 and Chattin was third with an 80. The last time the Washington Regional was played, in 2019, it took a 1-over-par 73 to get into a playoff for the final two individual spots.
What plays in favor for the local duo is that both have played nearby Country Oaks many times, knowing the course as well as anybody in the field.
Steininger can draw on the experience when he qualified for the regional two years ago as a freshman. He shot 90 that day.
"Two years ago, nerves set in. On the first hole, he put it right on the green, then three-putted from 15-feet. I knew right then it was nerves," Rivet coach Chris Steininger said. "The nice thing about this time is that it's not going to be the 'shock and awe' experience. He knows what it's like."
Steininger bought a membership at Country Oaks with Thursday in mind, to play well enough to qualify for the state tournament. Coach Steininger said his son was not always a fan of the course.
"At first, Christian was very intimidated by Country Oaks. But a year with that membership, he learned where not to hit the ball, that you can't short-side yourself, that you can't go over the greens. He's learned to play it short when he's had to," Steininger said.
The coach said his son has to shoot around par to advance.
"He got away with his B-game at the sectional. He can't do that at the regional," Steininger said. "It's going to be a matter of keeping it together mentally. If he has a bad hole, he can let it define the round. He might double bogey a hole, but there's holes that he can birdie, holes he can attack. I told him if it gets down to the nitty gritty, he might have to start shooting at pins."
Chattin, like Steininger, qualified for the regional in his first attempt as a freshman. He's the son of former state finalist Ryan Chattin, who accomplished the feat at North Knox.
"He's put a lot of time each day there since the sectional. Going through each hole, playing multiple balls, trying different strategies," South Knox coach Zach Abel said. "It's nice that he has a dad like Ryan who has played in it before and knows what to expect."
Abel said Chattin has played even par for nine holes there before. He noted that the regional course is stretched out a lot longer than it normally plays.
"Cameron has played pretty well at Country Oaks. He has to be cautious on the first few holes, being a freshman who's in the regional for the first time. If he can get out of those first four holes without big numbers, I think he can have a good round.
"It's a course where you have to avoid all the hazards. They have water and bunkers on multiple holes, and a lot of rough. They're playing the ball down, unlike last Friday, so Cameron needs to keep the ball in the fairway.
"Being a freshman, he shouldn't put a lot of pressure on himself. I want him to go out and just play."
In the 18-team event, the only ranked squad in the field is honorable mention Evansville North. The teams that made it out of the Vincennes Sectional are champion Washington, Barr-Reeve and Gibson Southern.
The state finals are next Tuesday and Wednesday at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel.