GOLF: Teeing up at Pebble Beach! Cheshire’s Dietrich qualifies for U.S. Open

GOLF: Teeing up at Pebble Beach! Cheshire’s Dietrich qualifies for U.S. Open

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CHESHIRE — Eric Dietrich got a late start on the golf course. The 2013 Cheshire High grad didn’t pick up the clubs until he was a high school sophomore.

Nine years later, the 24-year old is playing in the 2019 U.S. Open in Pebble Beach this week, a thought that was beyond belief during his days at Cheshire and as a freshman at UConn.

“If you would have told me I was playing in the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach when I was a senior in high school, I probably would have laughed in your face,” Dietrich said in a phone interview before a practice round on Monday morning. “It was a dream, but it was so far-fetched at that point … even in my freshman year in college, I had a stroke average of 77.5.

“It’s a dream, but it’s kind of one of those far-fetched dreams that you don’t realize it’s going to come true until it finally comes true.”

Dietrich plays on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada. He punched his ticket into the U.S. Open last week at the Walla Walla, Washington qualifier at Wine Valley Golf Club. Dietrich shot a 67 and 66 in two rounds on June 3. His effort resulted in a 11-under 133 aggregate. Walla Walla was one of 12 U.S. Open qualifiers across the country last week.

“I rolled in like a 20-footer on the first hole of the day; it got the blood flowing,” Dietrich said. “I was never over-par on the day. I made a bogey, but I made an eagle, so I turned a 2-under on the front nine.

Dietrich birdied three holes on his back nine to be 5-under in the first round. He then waited an hour and a half before playing his second round of the day.

“It had the leader’s name up top and I could see I was winning,” Dietrich said. “I didn’t need to see where everyone else was at. I went out the next round and birdied my first hole and got the ball rolling. I turned in 3-under. I birdied my first three of the back nine and from there I was in cruise control. I cruised my way in and I figured it would be good enough. I went in (the clubhouse) with a six-shot lead over four other guys.”

Since then, Dietrich has turned his attention to Pebble Beach.

“It’s pretty surreal,” he said. “I’ve been out there the past two days and it’s been absolutely perfect weather. I guess you can says it’s a dream come true. Hopefully, it’s the first of many. But you only get the first one once. I couldn’t have picked a better spot.”

While at Cheshire, Dietrich was a captain on the golf and basketball teams. He also served as a captain of the UConn golf team as a senior.

“I didn’t start playing golf until I was 15,” Dietrich said. “The UConn coach took a shot in the dark on me. I wasn’t a great junior golfer. I guess he saw some potential. I hit the ball far. I think he liked that.”

The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder has gotten better each year. After posting that 77.5 average as a freshman, he dropped it to 74 as a sophomore. In his junior and senior campaigns, Dietrich sat around 71½.

“If I keep going on that pace, who knows where that can take me,” Dietrich said. “Mackenzie is a level below the Tour. It’s like baseball. There’s a Triple A, Double-A and Single-A. You just work your way up. The plan is to go out here and win the U.S. Open. If I do that, everything will take care of itself. I’m trying to play my best golf day in and day out, and we will see where that takes me.”

Dietrich has company with him in California. He said more than 20 friends and family have flown out to see him first hand.

“He’s put in a lot of hard work and effort into his game,” said Dan Lee, who coached Dietrich in golf and basketball at Cheshire. “I’m very proud of his accomplishments. It’s great to see him follow his dreams and achieve his goals. Only so many people are afforded to play in the U.S. Open. Cheshire is proud of him and we will be following this week.”

Dietrich turned pro in 2017 after graduating from UConn with a degree in Economics. He said he appreciates all of the support from his home state.

“I’ve gotten so many messages from so many people,” Dietrich said. “Everyone’s so supportive. I have a huge group of people coming out this week to support me. I just want to say thank you. And everyone has been awesome and positive. I feel like the whole state is pulling for me, and that’s a good feeling.

“It’s going to be a fun week.”

Dietrich will be in the second-to-last group to tee off on Thursday. He will begin his round at 5:42 p.m Eastern time on Thursday and 11:57 a.m. on Friday. He’s grouped with Guillermo Pereira and Brett Drewitt.