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BY BRADEN JOHNSON/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Former Oregon Duck Sulman Raza makes last-nine charge to earn one of four berths to Shinnecock Hills

COURTESY: STEVE GIBBONS/USGA - U.S. Open qualifiers from Monday's 36-hole sectional at Portland Golf Club are (from left) Michael Block, Christopher Babcock, Sulman Raza and Lucas Herbert.

Lucas Herbert, Christopher Babcock, Sulman Raza and Michael Block qualified for the 2018 U.S. Open at a sectional qualifier Monday at Portland Golf Club. 

Herbert, a native of Bendigo, Australia, took first in the 36-hole tournament at 12-under-par 130.  

Babcock was second at 133. Raza, who played at the University of Oregon from 2013-2017, tied with Block for third at 137. 

Seventy-nine players competed for four U.S. Open berths. The qualifiers secured their spots with strong finishes in the second round. 

Herbert, 22, was near or atop the leaderboard from start to finish. He was tied for second after a first-round, 5-under 66. Herbert then had two eagles and four birdies in a 64.

"Didn't really feel good about my golf swing, not sure where the ball was going, but I executed shots well and was real happy with the way I closed it out," he said. 

Herbert plays on the MacKenzie Tour/PGA Tour Canada and is No. 152 in the world golf rankings.

The 118th U.S. Open is June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York. 

"The U.S. Open is a whole different kettle of fish," Herberg said. "Really looking forward to it and testing myself against the best in the world."  

Babcock, a 24-year-old former Washington Husky from Shoreline, Washington, shot 3-under with four birdies on his final nine holes.

"I played yesterday, and the greens weren't quite as fast as they were today," he said. "So just getting those first few holes under me and getting a feel for the speed of the greens, I got a little more comfortable. Just made a couple birdies and rode the momentum." 

Babcock, who also has played on PGA Tour Canada, had PGC member Gretchen Johnson as his caddie.

Babcock and Johnson met at Sahalee Country Club, Babcock's home course in Sammamish, Wash., through a mutual friend. They played a practice round together two weeks ago. Later, he texted her and asked if she would caddy for him in the U.S. Open qualifier.

"Her knowledge helped a ton," he said. "It was a tremendous advantage." 

Babcock pumped his fist after a birdie on his final hole, then immediately recognized the challenge of playing in the U.S. Open. 

"It'd be all for naught to go there and miss the cut. I'd love to contend," he said. But, he added, "I think you can look up a record of sectional qualifiers who aren't on a tour and see that the record is not very good. 

"I've got a lot of work to do to learn the course and play a major championship at that type of venue." 

Raza and Block benefited from early leaders imploding on their final nine holes.  

Hunter Stewart of Nicholasville, Kentucky, and Daniel Iceman of Shelbyville, Ky., were first and second, respectively, after one round, shooting 65 and 66, respectively. But in his afternoon round, Stewart had a double bogey on the par-5 10th en route to a 74 that left him at 139. Iceman triple-bogeyed the 18th to drop to 140. Iceman missed two short puts that could have forced a playoff for either an Open berth or one of the two alternate spots.

Max Greyserman of Boca Raton, Florida, and Brett Lederer of Lakewood, Calif., each finished at 138, with Greyserman the first alternate for the Open.

Raza, who opened with a 71, turned it on after a lunch break in the clubhouse. He bogeyed the fourth hole to drop to 1-over, but then mounted his charge.

"It was actually a simple fix," he said. "I talked to my caddie, Matt Lemon, and I had mentioned to him that I was forward-pressing my putter a little bit and I was leaving a lot of putts out to the right. 

"I had missed a lot of short putts in the first round. I three-putted three or four times, so that's three or four strokes I could have had back." 

Even more impressive than Raza's quick fix on the greens was that he played the tournament with eight staples in his left calf. 

Raza, who works at Jones Sports Company in Durham, split his leg open when he slipped helping unload palettes of supplies out of a truck on Wednesday. 

"Thought at first it was a burn. Pulled my foot up and saw it was wide open," he said. "I'm screaming 'I just need a band-aid,' but it ended up being eight staples. It's been healing pretty well, and I'm surprised I'm walking as good as I have." 

Raza's performance Monday was his third attempt at qualifying for the U.S. Open since competing on UO's NCAA championship golf team in 2016. He had the largest contingent of supporters following him hole-to-hole. 

Block, a Mission Viejo, California native, birdied four of his last six holes, including two of his final three. 

Block said he knew he needed at least four birdies to have a shot at qualifying after making the final turn at 2-under. He said bogeying the second hole of the second round and pushing his score to 1-over was the turning point. 

"Honestly, from that point, I kind of relaxed because I thought I was out of it," he said. "And then all of the sudden the putts started to drop on the back nine, finally." 

Block qualified for the 2007 U.S. Open and has played in two PGA Tour events this year.  

"I love the PGA Tour to death, but to this day, the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club is the best event I have ever played in my life," he said. "So to say the least, I got the chills thinking I'll have a shot at playing Shinnecock." 

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