Jeff Curl’s 2012 is just getting up to speed.
A litany of injuries have kept the recently transplanted Birmingham resident from fully meeting his potential, but Tuesday the 33-year-old set the course record at Hoover Country Club with a bogey-free 7-under-par 65 to win the local qualifier for the U.S. Open.
“It’s been crazy,” Curl said. “I usually don’t start really grinding until about now. I’m getting a little older here; we need to start capitalizing.
“Usually I have one or two good breakout rounds and then it just becomes easy. I shot 66 twice early in the year and thought that was it … but I just didn’t feel that confident. I’m hoping this is the breakout round that gets my year going.”
Curl, whose father Rod played on the PGA Tour for more than 20 years and won the 1974 Colonial, has had full status on the Nationwide Tour the last four years, but health issues kept his schedule “spotty.” He has had two shoulder surgeries, knee and ankle injuries and, on Nov. 5, after getting through the first phase of Q School, learned he had five fractured transverse processes in his back.
“You’ve heard them say when you turn 30 you start to break down,” Curl said. “Well, that’s me. … For most people the year’s midway through. Mine is just beginning.”
Once his back healed, he skipped the Nationwide’s season-opening South America swing to Monday qualify for the PGA Tour. He made the cut in Puerto Rico and missed the cut at Houston by a shot.
While things couldn’t have gone better for Curl Tuesday, it was a tough day for the Calhoun County players in the field. None advanced to sectional qualifying.
Ryan Howard was the low local with a 1-over 73. Jaylon Ellison shot 74 with three three-putts, while Garrett Burgess (with five birdies and three doubles) and Pine Hill pro Cory Etter both shot 76, and Marcus Harrell shot 79.
“I hit it good, just a lot of pars,” Howard said. “It was out there. I had a lot of opportunities and didn’t convert.”
“I played good enough to make a number, but too many squirrelly shots,” Burgess said.
Will Golden (67) of Auburn and Richard Douglas (69) of Mountain Brook also advanced to sectional qualifying, while former JSU player Hunter Hawkins of Fort Payne and Chip Deason of Augusta, Ga., survived a five-man playoff (70) for the final two spots.
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.