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Former Stanislaus golfer finishes U.S. Open as crowd favorite

POSTED June 22, 2010 9:20 p.m.

Cal State Stanislaus and its surrounding areas are about 125 miles away from Pebble Beach. But during a recent four-day stay, Erick Justesen felt like it was 2007 and '08 again, when he was building his golfing legacy at Stanislaus.

The 25-year-old was playing at one of the world's grandest sporting events, the U.S. Open. And every time he did something remotely interesting, he heard cheers. Some people hollered “Go Warriors!” and others shouted “Go Stanislaus!”

It was a form of support that raised eyebrows during an eyebrow-raising affair, one with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson within shouting distance for many spectators.

“Guys looked at me, like, 'Who is this guy?'” recalled Justesen.

Well, Justesen was the guy with the hometown appeal during the four-day premier event at Pebble Beach, a golf course along the Pacific coastline where he was once a caddy. It’s a place he visited about once a semester while at Cal State Monterey Bay, before he transferred to Stanislaus and became a two-time All-American and an NCAA Division II national runner-up.

This was his first PGA Tour experience, and he still beamed about it days after the U.S. Open ended Sunday — with Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland winning the whole thing with an even par total of 284 to outlast golf greats such as Mickelson, Woods and Ernie Els.

In his first U.S. Open, Justesen finished with a 301 with three solid rounds. On his first two days, he prevailed with matching scores of 3-over 74, enough to make the third round cut. But it was there that things went a little off.

He shot an 80.

“I wanted to be a little aggressive and it ended up costing me,” he said.

Justesen then went on to finish the tournament with a 73, his best score during the four-day run in front of many supporters. “Every time I make a putt or do anything of value, people were cheering,” he said. He won't get much of that kind of fanfare from this point on, as he continues playing on the Canadian Tour.

He will also look to earn his PGA Tour card beginning in the fall.

But it'll be hard to forget his U.S. Open experience.

“It's something I work so hard for,” said Justesen, who's a second-year pro. “It gives (me) an opportunity to compete at that level. It feels really good. It feels like the hard work has paid off. It's feeling comfortable at that level and feeling like I belong.”

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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