Rolla golfer to compete in secdtional on June 2.

For Chad Saladin, it was certainly worth putting off a couple of college final exams for a day.

Saladin, of Rolla, overcame cold, rainy conditions to shoot 2-under-par 68 and win the 120-player U.S. Open Qualifier held at Missouri Bluffs Golf Club on Tuesday, leading a group of six golfers who advanced to U.S. Open Sectional competition.

He will be competing in a sectional qualifier on June 2 at a yet to be determined site. The United States Golf Association (USGA) will assign each qualifier his sectional location.

Saladin, who is sponsored by Mid-America Bank and Trust, said he expects to be informed which sectional qualifier he will be sent to in a few days. There will be 11 sectional sites around the United States on June 2.

“I put down Ohio as my first choice,” said Saladin, age 39. “And I think I put Memphis down as my second choice. But they can send you anywhere they want. I’ll probably know soon.”

Wherever Saladin is placed for U.S. Open Sectional play, he will be attempting to earn one of that tournament’s three or four berths to the PGA’s 114th U.S. Open, to be held on the No. 2 Course at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, N.C. June 12-15.

Saladin was solid throughout most of his round Tuesday, holding a four-stroke advantage at one point. He birdied three holes on the back nine to hold off Skip Berkmeyer of St. Louis, one of the top amateurs in the nation who qualified runner-up with 69. Berkmeyer has competed in 24 USGA championships, including the U.S. Amateur, and is a three-time Missouri Amateur champion.

In all six players advanced to the sectional round from the Missouri Bluffs qualifier Tuesday.

The others were Kevin Kring of Springfield, Mo.; former Missouri State player Jordan McLaurin, and Nevada-Las Vegas player Blake Biddle - all at 71 - and Paul Imondi at 72. Imondi survived a three-player playoff for the final qualifying spot.

“Missouri Bluffs is very difficult,” said Saladin, a former standout NCAA Division I player at Southeast Missouri State. “And it was very cold and very rainy all day. I drove the ball well and hit my irons well.

“And my putting is really becoming a strong part of my game. That has typically held me back. But I’m rolling the ball well now. I’ve been working with (another Rolla resident) John Stevens and he has really led me to break through in putting.”

Saladin, a 1993 Rolla High School graduate, attributes Tuesday victory to lots of people, including Mid-America Bank, his caddy...and a couple of his college professors.

One of Saladin’s longtime playing partners and fellow RHS alum, Jeff Parker, served as his caddy Tuesday. “That was a big factor,” Saladin said. “The caddy is always key to success and Jeff was great.”

A full-time student at the Drury University campus in Rolla, Saladin had two finals scheduled for Tuesday night. Fortunately his teachers for those classes are understanding and allowed him to reschedule. They were Kelly Long - himself an athlete during his days at Rolla High School (he also has served on the Rolla Board of Education and is currently a member of the Rolla City Council) - and Darren Facen, whose son, Damaris, is currently a standout athlete for the Rolla High track team.

“I thought I was going to get back in time to take the finals Tuesday night,” Saladin said. “But when the tournament drug on I emailed my instructors and they were very understanding and that made it possible (to stay and win the tournament).”

Saladin is attempting to be the first local golfer to play in a PGA Major - or any other PGA Tour event - since current Oak Meadow Country Club General Manager Kent Dinsdale participated in the PGA Championship as a club pro in 1995.

Dinsdale’s PGA Championship appearance and a berth in the U.S. Amateur by Greg Doss in 1976 are the most prestigious golf tournaments played by Rolla golfers in recent years.

Saladin’s win Tuesday was impressive. The 120 players came from 11 different states and was comprised of top amateur, collegiate and prep players as well as several professionals.

He has attempted several U.S. Open qualifiers in the past.

“I’ve been doing it since I started this in 2004,” Saladin said of playing in U.S. Open qualifiers. “A couple of times in Tuscan I missed by one shot.

“This is very exciting. At the sectional qualifier there will be all kinds of big names there - former PGA players; former winners on tour. It will be a lot of fun. I can’t wait to experience it.”

When he is informed where he will be placed for the sectional, Saladin said he will begin his preparation.

“I’ll wait and see where the site is,” Saladin said. “If I get sent down south, it will be played on Bermudagrass, and I’ll have to go down there and play on some Bermudagrass. If it’s around here, we have bentgrass greens.

“Wherever it is I’ll have to get acclimated to the different putting surfaces.”

Saladin has had some success in pro golf tours in the past. Last year he finished 22nd in the 120-player Buffalo Run-Prairie Moon Casinos Classic in Miami, Okla. on the Adams Tour - his first Adams Tour event since 2011, when he underwent neck surgery. He also won the 2010 New Mexico Open in the Gateway Tour Desert Series, won on the U.S. Pro Golf Tour in 2006 and competed in the Trump Million Dollar Challenge, which was aired on ESPN.

The last couple of years Saladin has been back in Rolla, teaching the game of golf. He gets the skill of teaching golf honest; as his father, Chet Saladin, is the most successful golf coach in Rolla High School history, winning team state golf championships in the 1970s and 1980s.

And if he can get to the U.S. Open, Chad Saladin says it will be yet another example of how Mid-America Bank has improved area golf.

“I’d like to thank Mid-America Bank and Trust,” he said. “They do a lot in the community for golf. For the golf course at Oak Meadow; people aren’t aware of all they they do. Also, they’re a huge supporter of the Dixon golf course (Oak Hills Country Club). They have had a lot to do with the good golfers we have here in this area.”

Here are the qualifiers from the U.S. Open Qualifier held Tuesday at Missouri Bluffs:
68: Chad Saladin, Rolla.
69: Skip Berkmeyer, St. Louis.
71: Kevin Kring, Springfield, Mo.; Jordan McLaurin, Ironton, Mo.; Blake Biddle, St. Charles, Ill.
72: Paul Imondi, Tustin, Calif.