Rancho Santa Fe native Will Appleby qualifies for U.S. Amateur on home golf course
On July 18, local golfer Will Appleby qualified for the 122nd U.S. Amateur at a 36-hole qualifier at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club.
The 32-year-old Rancho Santa Fe native, who now lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, will join the 312-man field at the tournament at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey on Aug. 15-21. Appleby was one of more than 8,000 players from around the world who try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, the oldest USGA championship and the premier amateur golf tournament.
Appleby won the qualifier on his second wedding anniversary, his wife, Megan, with their four-month-old daughter Campbell in tow, on the golf course where he grew to love the game. As a junior golfer, he was at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club nearly every day after school (and sometimes before) and was the junior club champion a few times in the early 2000s.
The son of longtime Rancho Santa Fe residents Scott and Susan Appleby, Will attended R. Roger Rowe School and played golf at Torrey Pines High School from 2005 to 2008. He played one year of college golf at St. Edwards University before transferring to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
“I am considered old in the world of amateur golf,” said Appleby, who has been playing in U.S. Amateur qualifiers since he was 15 years old.
Being a new dad and having a full-time job as a project manager for JB Pacific, he thought his competitive golf days were behind him. But when he saw that his home course was hosting a qualifier, he thought it would be the best shot he would have for a long time. He signed up and tried to get ready the best he could, enlisting his brother Andrew as his caddy.
Appleby said Andrew makes a great caddy because he knows him so well, he knows when to give him a hard time and when to step back and motivate.
“His golf IQ is very high, we both share a passion for golf,” Appleby said. “He understands where I’m coming from and where my golf game is. He keeps me in line.”
The Rancho Santa Fe golf course proved to be one of the toughest qualifying spots in the entire country with the score of 145 (+3) for 36-holes advancing. Most other sites required an under-par score to advance. Only three players shot 145 (+3) and were tri-medalist (lowest score) and advanced to U.S Amateur from the RSF qualifier.
The Rancho Santa Fe course underwent a full renovation over the last year and Appleby said he loves how it plays.
“It’s more challenging for the better golfers,” he said, noting that it’s fun to see changes added to the course that he and his friends envisioned years ago.
Playing the course he has played so many times over the years, a buzz started to build about the local golfer in the mix at the qualifier. A couple people started following him early in the day and as he got his head in the game, the crowd swelled around him as he reached the final holes.
After four-putting his 31st hole for a double bogey, he was seven over with four holes to play. “I tried to give it away,” he said. “My back was up against the wall and if I wanted to keep the dream alive and the story going, I needed to do something quick.”
He birded the next three holes and with one hole left, number 9 on the course, he hit a drive right down the middle.
“It was that perfect light in Rancho Santa Fe, there were cotton candy skies, the shadows were starting to get long and I was feeling really good,” he said. “My brother said ‘Look around and soak this all in.’ I was walking past Rowe, down the fairway and I thought ‘I came all this way to do this, let’s make it happen.’ I was trying not to get emotional walking down the fairway.”
His only goal was to get the ball in the back shelf and give himself a good putt. He watched as his final 25-foot putt was still outside the hole six inches out and starting to lose speed. But it curved and kept rolling, sitting on the lip for a dramatic moment before falling in.
“My world went silent at that point,” he said. He can’t quite remember what happened next but he knows there was a hearty fist pump and the crowd of RSF Golf Club members, fellow players and family cheered.
When he handed in his score card with a 72 having birdied the last four holes, the scorer gave a little smirk and told him: “You’re going to the U.S. Am.”
“That’s when it all set in and I started crying,” he said. " I’ve been trying to qualify for a USGA event for over 17 years now. To do it and to have my wife, daughter and family there and to do it on the golf course I grew up playing as a kid was very, very special.”
With his ticket punched to the U.S. Amateur, Appleby has looked at the Ridgewood Country Club course online and is expecting it to play really hard. Just getting off paternity leave this week, to prepare he will continue chipping, putting and playing golf when he can in the afternoons. Regardless of the outcome at the tournament, he said there’s no pressure: “At the end of the day I’m still a dad and husband and I still have to go to work.”
To win it would of course be ideal, but Appleby said he will be proud to represent Rancho Santa Fe and Cardiff and all those people who have said they will be watching and rooting for him back home. And he will have his brother Andrew alongside him as his caddy, which will make it even more special: “I’m excited to continue writing this awesome story.”
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