Former New England Patriots RB Danny Woodhead advances to local round in US Open qualifiers

Former NFL player Danny Woodhead, who spent a decade in the league with the New York Jets, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens, has taken on a new sport. Spoiler alert: he’s pretty good at it too.

Woodhead hit a par 71 at the Omaha Country Club this week to move from local qualifying to sectional qualification for the US Open in June. He was one of five golfers to advance from the 84-player course, surpassed only by amateur Conner Peck (-1) and professional Corbin Mills (-4). Woodhead’s scorecard was straightforward: four birdies, four bogeys and 10 pars.

This isn’t Woodhead’s first foray into a USGA event. Last year, he partnered with Michael Wilhelm in the US Amateur Four-Ball. The pair missed match play cut by nine after shooting 71-73, but Woodhead’s experience was one he was grateful for.

“That’s why I think some guys struggle with (life after football),” Woodhead told the News Tribune last year. “They really don’t know what to do, you know? I was lucky enough to jump right in. And I don’t miss anything about football. I gave it everything I had. I just don’t miss it. I found a passion… I like it as much as I liked play football. It’s kind of my football now, you know?”

Sectional qualification for the year’s third major takes place at 11 locations in Japan, Canada and the United States on May 23 or June 6. Competition will be much tougher for Woodhead to advance to the event, which will be held at Brookline Country Club in Boston, near his former home with the Patriots. Many pros are already exempt from sectionals without having to go through local qualifiers like Woodhead, and he’ll have to play 36 holes against guys who do to live on a big course with limited spaces available.

Woodhead has been a hit in the NFL, and while he’s not as good at golf as he is at football — he’s amassed nearly 5,000 rushing and catching yards and 32 touchdowns over the course of his career — he’s still better than most amateurs in the States. United. That was evident as he passed the local qualifier in his home state of Nebraska this week. The number of people who try to qualify for the US Open annually usually runs into the five digits. However, only 10% of those who enter the premises pass to the sectionals, and the same number that arrive at the sectionals passes to the real at the end of June.

Golf remains undefeated when it comes to stories like this. There’s no equivalent to going the other way – imagine Brian Harman trying to play semi-pro football – and many athletes in other sports find their competitive salvation in golf long after they retire. There will be plenty of good stories flowing from the sectional qualifying over the next few weeks, but Woodhead’s is sure to be one of the best. If he somehow manages to do the unthinkable and compete for a spot at the US Open in Boston, that would be the sporting story of the year.

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