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Allred had motivation to make it to U.S. Open

Jason Allred had already planned to be in the vicinity of the U.S. Open before he teed it up in a sectional qualifier Monday in Dallas.

In fact, when play was done, the 35-year-old professional golfer from Ashland was to fly directly to the Puget Sound area of Washington and catch up with his wife and kids.

Allred's wife, Kim, is from Auburn, which is about a half hour from Chambers Bay, where the U.S. Open will be played Thursday through Sunday.

“We were going to have time together as a family,” said Allred, “and I was really hoping I'd have a golf tournament to play in next week.”

He has a tournament, all right.

With that booster pack of motivation, Allred — who was exempt from the local qualifying stage because of his world ranking (currently 360th) — tied for third place in the sectional at Northwood Club. He was one of six players to earn a spot in the second major of the PGA season. He'll tee off with two of those players, Kyle Jones and Cody Gribble, in the fifth group at 7:22 a.m. in the first round.

Allred has shown a knack for elbowing his way into major championships. Even though he's had just two full PGA seasons in a pro career that began in 2002, this will be his third national championship and fourth major. He advanced to U.S. Opens in 2010 at Pebble Beach and 2006 at Winged Foot and also played in the 2005 British Open at St. Andrews.

“I've been at this for a long time,” said the Scottsdale, Ariz., resident, “and to have another chance to chase one of my dreams means a ton. I'm very excited and looking forward to the opportunity.”

This will be his first time at Chambers Bay. He hoped to get some rounds in this week in advance of next week's scheduled practices.

Allred has had his ups and downs as a member of the Web.com Tour this season.

He's 53rd on the money list and has three top-25 finishes in 10 tournaments, but he missed the cut in the two events immediately preceding the sectional.

That made Monday all the more rewarding.

“Sometimes it feels like (your game) is a long ways off and it can change quickly,” he said, “and sometimes you think you have it figured out and it can go the other way.”

The competitor in him makes him feel like he should have finished off some tournaments better, he said, but he's not disenchanted with his form.

Allred is quick to admit there have been “a ton” of qualifiers that he didn't make it through.

Still, whether it be the old Q school, or PGA Tour Monday qualifiers or, as was the case this week, the grind of beating out most of the field over 36 holes in a one-day qualifier to advance to the U.S. Open, he has the fortitude to pull through.

So much so, he's trying to take the same approach to regular tournament play.

“There's something in those qualifiers where I play with a little more freedom,” he said, “and I realize I have nothing to lose. I think I play slightly more aggressive, play with a little more fire in me. Trust me, it's there in the tournament, but when you think about a four-day tournament, it's a long stretch of time for you to be on.”

The qualifying mentality of having one round to make something happen “has served me well,” he said.

He tapped into it — and his Rogue Valley roots — on Monday.

Allred shot a 3-under-par 67 for his first 18 holes, then started on the back nine for his afternoon round. (The initial perception was he started on the first tee and had a strong finish to secure his spot.)

He birdied his first hole to get to 4 under, then “just made a couple of sloppy bogeys, and sometimes that happens in golf.”

When he let an opportunity slip by by not making birdie on the easy par-5 14th, his fifth hole, he had a chat with himself on the way to the 15th tee box.

“I just reminded myself that I still had a chance to play in the U.S. Open,” said Allred, who marks his ball with an Oregon quarter. “I literally thought back to all those days in the Rogue Valley, or wherever I'd go as a kid, and pictured myself with a chance to play in the U.S. Open or win the U.S. Open. That adds a lot of joy to the challenge.

“It doesn't always mean the results are going to follow.”

This time, they did.

He birdied three of the next four holes to make the turn at 5 under, then mixed in a birdie on his 12th hole with pars on the rest of the back nine.

With a second straight 67, he tied three others for third place and avoided a playoff. He made a couple nice up-and-downs the last two holes for par.

At his 17th, he short-sided himself on the par 4 but made a nifty pitch and sank the 7-foot putt.

“You never know what the (cut line) number is going to be,” said Allred, “but I had a sense I was probably close. I could have been safe by one or two or outside by one or two. I definitely felt the butterflies, in a good way, and knew I needed to make that putt.”

It was a stroke he hopes to remember a long time.

“I hit it like I was a little kid at Rogue Valley (Country Club),” he said, “firm and right in the back of the hole. It was a really fun putt to make in that situation.”

On his final hole, a 218-yard downhill par 3, he left a 5-iron short right but made a beauty of a pitch to a severely sloping green and sank the 4-foot putt.

Allred was in the first third of the field of 78 players and had a long wait as others came in. He showered, changed clothes, grabbed a bite and hit the practice range in anticipation of a playoff while his caddie monitored the scoreboard.

“As much as I would have been excited about being in a playoff to make the U.S. Open, I was excited to not have to do one, too,” he said.

His attention now turns to Chambers Bay.

Although it's been a while, Allred believes his experiences at Winged Foot, where he played poorly, and at Pebble Beach, where he was in the top three midway through the second round before eventually falling to 47th, will help him.

“I do feel like I'll be more prepared than I've ever been,” he said.

He's seen pictures of Chambers Bay — “It definitely looks like it's straight out of Ireland or Scotland,” said Allred — and has gotten a sense of the links-style course from friends.

Ultimately, he said, “It's still just golf. Whatever style of golf course it is, a good shot is a good shot.”

He expects creativity and imagination to come into play, but the biggest factor for many players will be how they comport themselves.

“I'm guessing, as with every U.S. Open, a good attitude and a lot of determination and patience will go a long ways,” said Allred. “I'm going with all my heart to prepare the best I can, but there's no guarantee how you're going to hit the ball or whether putts will go in. I know whatever happens, I can control my attitude and my decisions. Also, how much fun I have with the whole opportunity.

“I feel like that gives me a good chance to perform the best I can. That's going to be my No. 1 goal. My U.S. Open is being great in these categories.”

Then he’ll take time for that vacation with family.

Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@mailtrbune.com