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Hossler, 16, soaks in experience

BETHESDA, Md. -- Youthful phenoms burst onto the sports world fairly regularly, although non-contact sports such as golf and tennis see more than pro football. In tennis, there is always room for a pony-tailed girl, and golf's Bobby Jones debuted at the national level at age 14 in 1916. More recently, Tiger Woods, Michelle Wie and Alexis Thompson have drawn attention as teen golfers.

Another youngster played with the big boys this past week on one of golf's biggest stages, the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. Sixteen-year-old Beau Hossler of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., missed the 36-hole cut, but the adventure was priceless.

"It's good to see all the great players and learning from them, how they prepare for the tournament is especially cool," he said after his second round. He also explained that his goal is to make the PGA Tour, and he viewed this week as a sneak preview of his dreams.

His fondest memory of the tournament is of the first hole in the first round, the daunting par-3 10th on Congressional's Blue course. That day it played at 199 yards, with a lake in front, bunkers behind, and thousands of fans everywhere. "Pretty difficult hole to start with," he said afterward, "but I hit a good shot in there, so it was pretty neat."

Understatement is such a wonderful virtue.

Hossler earned a spot in the 156-"man" field through sterling play in both local and sectional qualifying tournaments. Considering 8,300 players attempted to qualify, and to paraphrase a late 1980s Nike ad campaign, Beau knows golf.

A busy 10 days led up to his flight from Los Angeles to the East Coast on June 12. Beginning June 3, he passed his driver's license test, shot a 67-71 -- 138 in Glendale, Calif., to qualify for the Open, sparked his high school golf team to a fourth-place finish in the California state championship, and wrapped up his sophomore-year finals at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. Whew!

He seems quite the normal high schooler -- braces on his teeth, some adolescent skin challenges, and a bit of gawkiness arising from a recent growth spurt of six inches. But once he laces up those Foot Joys, he morphs into a national championship player.

"This is pretty cool," he said during one of his practice rounds. His playing partner was Angel Cabrera, an Argentine with two majors.

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