LACC golf director gets the U.S. Open experience of a lifetime

Tom Gardner, director of golf at the Los Angeles Country Club, was allowed to play at the US Open on Saturday and almost skipped down the fairways behind the ropes to the cheers of his many fans.

His scorecard meant nothing. The experience meant everything.

Gardner, with his familiar boater’s hat and almost constant smile, was the face of the tournament. A marker is an uncompetitive player who rounds the field if an odd number of players make the cut. He doesn’t keep a card – except maybe as a souvenir – and sometimes doesn’t even finish every hole, although Gardner did. He played with Ryan Fox from New Zealand.

“I was very conscious of not getting in the way of Ryan or throwing him off rhythm,” Gardner said. “We had a great time.”

That is perhaps an understatement. Gardner walked on a cloud.

“To be able to say I got to play a US Open setup over the weekend and see what it’s like,” he said, “and the energy of the crowd and the pins and the firmness and the rough and everything that goes to see.” Also, it’s… I can’t really describe it.”

His caddy was Rory Sweeney, the club’s head professional, and the two pinched each other to get the numbers right to get them on track. Both had tried unsuccessfully to survive the US Open qualification.

“Of course we all dream of playing in a stadium like this,” said Sweeney, who grew up on the west coast of Ireland, “and to share it with one of my best friends is very special.”

Gardner, who had learned a week earlier that if the numbers matched he would win the bid, was confident Friday night that an even number of players would make the cut and there would be no marker.

France’s Paul Barjon had to play the last three holes on Friday for even par or better to make the cut – eliminating the need for Gardner.

Barjon parried #16 and then birdied on #17.

“At that point I’m like, ‘I’m out of here,'” said Gardner, who had been monitoring the scores on his phone from behind the 18th green. “I met my wife for a cocktail party.”

He went to the dressing room, changed his clothes, said goodbye to his friends at the club and jumped in his car.

So he wasn’t there to see Barjon double-bogey on the 18th, slammed his drive into the woods, jumped out of a bunker on the green, and then hit a 10-foot bogey putt.

Suddenly the breaking news: Gardner was spot on.

“I get a text message from a member and he says, ‘You’re in,'” he said. “I immediately called him and said, ‘No, I’m not. This guy made 17 birds.’ He says, “No, he doubled 18.” All of a sudden I was getting a lot of text messages and emails and the club emailed the members.”

On Saturday morning, Gardner was treated like a star – or at least a hint of cheers and “Let’s go Tommy” shouts wherever he was on the track.

He smashed his drive at No. 1 and hit it 285 yards down the middle. He holed a par putt of at least 30 feet in court 10, right next to the members’ tent. More cheers. And on the par-3 15, he hit a beautiful tee shot that just missed his birdie putt.

And all that, and he didn’t have to keep a card.

“The best way to play golf,” he said.

As of Saturday night, no one had withdrawn. For Sunday there was still an odd number of participants.

Tee off again, Tom.

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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