Collin Pratt is looking for the best belated birthday present a golfer can get.
Monday he tries to earn a spot in the U.S. Open less than a week after turning 23.
The Desert Academy graduate is vying to be one of four qualifiers from a pool of 70 competitors to make it through the 36-hole marathon session at the Bear’s Club Golf Course in Jupiter, Fla.
Making it through to the 115th U.S. Open June 18-21 at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., would go a long way in helping him toward his dream.
“I’m trying to make golf my career,” Pratt said. “I quit my job to play golf full time. My ambitions are to be on the PGA tour.”
Pratt had been working at the Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe as a teaching pro before deciding it was time to take a crack at making the tour.
“I’ve been playing as much golf as I can,” he said.
Pratt shot a 2-under 70 last month at the Twin Warriors Golf Club in Bernalillo to advance to the sectional round of the qualifying process.
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “I didn’t really play that great, but to get through local qualifying is a good sign that my golf game is coming around.”
Now he has his eyes set on a far bigger prize as he returns to the state where he lived until he was 11, when the family moved to Santa Fe.
“I kind of look at it like, it’s really anybody’s day,” Pratt said. “It’s just one day for the next round. If you play well, you’re going to get through and be playing in the U.S. Open. A little bit of luck in how well you play that particular day. It doesn’t seem too farfetched.”
Given Pratt’s journey thus far, it doesn’t really seem too farfetched at all.
He ever so briefly teed it up for New Mexico State, then went on to William Woods University in Missouri for a short spell before returning to Santa Fe, where he picked up the gig at the Links.
But the lure of the game he played since he was three was too strong to ignore. Pratt won the small Wyoming Open in 2014 and has played through some of golf’s mini-tours, even taking an ill-fated stab at gaining his European card.
“Now I’m back at it again to see if I can make something happen,” he said. “I personally believe I have enough golf game to play out there with anybody, especially when I’m playing well. I know I can beat a lot of guys when I’m playing well.”
For Pratt, who knocks it long and straight out of the tee box, that means getting the short game in order and dropping the putts. Those are the areas of the game Pratt has focused on since landing a spot in the sectional.
“I’ve been practicing more and working on the parts of my game that need the most help: putting and short game,” he said. “I can get my fundamentals and swing a little more sound before I go down there. There’s some stuff I have to work on there.”
One of the challenges that will be most difficult to overcome is the conditions. Playing at humid sea level will restrict the flight of the ball by as much as 10-15 percent, Pratt said. And the Bermuda grass course plays differently than a local course, with a coarser texture that can wreak havoc with putts in particular.
Still, simply turning in a good showing Monday will go a long ways in the confidence factor.
“It would prove to myself that I can compete out there,” Pratt said. “Even if I got close to qualifying, I knew I can compete out there. If I actually get through, that opens more possibilities. Then it all depends on how well you do in the U.S. Open.”