There are 156 golfers at Sand Creek Station this week playing in the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, bringing with them 156 different stories and different versions of a dream to take home the last-ever APL trophy.
They represent a wide range of ages and come from a variety of states and countries, each hoping for a chance in the spotlight.
"I'm just enjoying the whole experience," said Patrick Beyhan of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a college-age golfer who is playing in his first USGA event.
Players began practice rounds Saturday, with stroke play starting Monday and continuing through today.
A total of 43 states are represented in the tournament, including Kansas. Players have come from 13 different countries, ranging from England and Germany to Japan and the Philippines.
Many are playing in their first APL — a total of 105. The average age of the field is 22. The youngest player is Issei Tanabe, 15, of Japan, and the oldest player is William Arnold, 57, of Anchorage, Alaska — who is playing in his first USGA championship.
Although the players share a love for the game of golf, they come from a variety of backgrounds. Herbie Aikens, 32, of Kingston, Massachusetts, started his own electrical business more than a decade ago. His first project was a single electrical outlet for $267, and his company now sees more than $8 million in business annually and has 30 employees. Andrew McCain, 20, of New Port Richey, Florida, has also been a downhill ski racer. Trent Peterson, 27, of Eagan, Minnesota, works the night shift as a registered nurse.
College freshman Corey Eddings of Roseville, California, said this is his third USGA event. He credits his father for his passion for golfing; even though Eddings' father is not an avid golfer, he encouraged his son to pursue the sport.
Eddings said he is looking forward to the challenge playing Sand Creek Station will bring.
"It was very tough," he said of his practice round on Saturday. "You've got to hit it really straight."
While by Wednesday the field narrows down and half the golfers will be heading home, for many of them it will still be the experience of a lifetime.
For Zecheng Dou, this championship brings a chance to grow as a player. The 17-year-old is from Beijing and is playing in his third APL tournament. He plays in tournaments in the U.S. during the summer and has been talking to Arizona State about playing there.
Like Eddings, he appreciates the challenge presented by Sand Creek's course.
"It's hard. It's long for sure," he said. "Greens are tough. The grass is rough. I'm a short hitter. There's more of an advantage for long hitters on this course."
He said golfing is much more expensive in China than in the United States, and the greens are tougher here and a little bit faster.
Regardless of whether he goes home with a trophy, he sees value in the experience.
"I'm improving," he said. "... It's a way to a professional career. You have to be playing these if you want to turn pro."