PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — For some players, U.S. Open qualifying can be one of the toughest days of the year.
It's the one test Andy Pope keeps passing.
Pope closed out his fourth U.S. Open appearance with an even-par 71 to tie for 58th and leave with hope, if not satisfaction. This was the fourth time in his last five years the 35-year-old Pope qualified for the U.S. Open.
In three of those appearances, including this year, he had to go through 18-hole local and 36-hole sectional qualifying. For someone like Pope, who has never earned a PGA Tour card, making the cut at Pebble Beach means more than a check for $25,350.
He doesn't have to go through local qualifying for the U.S. Open next year. It also gets him into the second stage of Q-school for the Web.com Tour. It also means he no longer has to go through pre-qualifying to even try to Monday qualify for PGA Tour events.
"So I can chase these guys for the next five weeks," Pope said.
It's been a chase he won't give up on, and four U.S. Open appearances in five years can only serve as motivation. Perhaps it was only fitting that he played the final round of the U.S. Open with Kevin Kisner, who also had to toil on the mini-tour circuit before reaching the big time. Kisner now is a three-time PGA Tour winner, including his first World Golf Championships title at the Dell Match Play.
"I've played with Kevin going back to Hooters Tour days," Pope said. "Watching him trying to hit the same stuff I'm doing, we're kind of carving our way around the golf course. You get to some Web events, and it's whoever can hit it the farthest and wedge it the closest.
"We're hitting the same distance, doing a lot of the same things," he said. "To see a guy like him having the success he's having is great for myself. It gives me motivation to keep on chasing it."
Pope has played 76 times on the Web.com Tour through the years, with four straight years (2012-15) playing at least 12 times a year. His goal is to earn enough points to be among the top 200 on the PGA Tour or the top 75 on the Web.com Tour to get into a four-tournament series with a PGA Tour card on the line.
He earned five FedEx Cup points from the U.S. Open, which won't go very far. But by making the cut, he'll try Monday qualifying the next three weeks on the PGA Tour.
It's a tough road, and a tough game, which Pope knows well.
At the U.S. Open, he was putting for birdie six times in his opening seven holes and was 1 over, and then hit from the left rough into the ocean on No. 8 and made triple bogey. The final round, he didn't hit the ball particularly well and shot even-par 71.
"Funny game," he said.
Even more maddening is all the experience he's piling up at U.S. Open, which he hopes one day will pay off.