Pro’s Vacation Detour Earns U.S. Open Spot

Sam Saunders packed up his wife, two kids, four bikes and cargo carrier onto the family vehicle on May 26 and pointed the GPS north to this week’s RBC Canadian Open.

En route, however, the Saunders family stopped at Clemson University — Sam and wife, Kelly’s alma mater, a theme park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, spent Memorial Day Weekend in the North Carolina Mountains and then stopped outside of Columbus, Ohio this past Monday before heading to Niagra Falls.

All of those stops seem to have something to offer a fun-loving family of four with two sons under 10 years old with the exception of Columbus.

While Saunders wasn’t in the field at last week’s Memorial Tournament, he was on the tee sheet on Monday at the 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier at Brookside Golf & Country Club and Scioto Country Club.

Saunders put himself in ideal position through nine holes on Thursday, firing a 7-under par 29 to kick off his sectional qualifier. He would play the next 27 holes in 2-under par, which was plenty to punch his ticket to Pebble Beach next week for the U.S. Open.

As Saunders explained to’s Tim Rosaforte, Pebble Beach doesn’t only represent a great family history — his grandfather, Arnold Palmer, was instrumental in the restructuring of the Pebble Beach Company in 1999 — but a great opportunity for him to secure his PGA Tour card for the 2019-2020 season.

“It was a special place for (my grandfather), in golf and in business, as well,” Saunders told Rosaforte. “It’s a very meaningful spot. I just love Pebble. It’s nice to play a U.S. Open where I’ve played so much.”

Before the Saunders’ get to Monterey, California, Saunders will reach his original destination in Hamilton, Ontario for this week’s RBC Canadian Open. At 185th in the FedEx Cup Standings, Saunders needs to climb at least 60 places in the season-long rankings by the end of the regular season, which ends in less than two months.

Saunders’ upcoming schedule could be hectic with his job security on the line, so the vacation was a nice breather with the race to the finish upcoming. After this week’s Canadian Open, the Saunders family will fly to Pebble for the U.S. Open and then to Hartford, Conn. for the Travelers Championship.

Then what?

“I’m going to keep (playing) until I don’t need to play anymore,” Saunders said.