Watching the U.S. Open this weekend, recent high school graduate and former Silver Creek golfer Jackson Solem will have a different perspective on the annual major championship.
Last month, Solem, a Longmont native, shot a 3-under 68 to medal in U.S. Open Local Qualifying at CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora and qualify for the sectional round of qualifying. While he did not finish high enough at the sectional level to qualify for the U.S. Open, Solem was reassured at coming within 36 holes of making the field as an amateur.
And though Solem spends most of his summer days working on his current skills, when he takes a break to check in on this year's U.S. Open, he will be able to use that time to reflect on how close he came to playing in it and what his prospects might be for the not-so-distant future.
"It's a really cool thing," Solem said. "It didn't play very great at sectionals. But to be able to play with tour players and some of the best guys in the world was awesome. To come that close was really encouraging. I'll watch as much of the Open as I can, as always, and it'll be fun to think about maybe having another shot at it next year."
After finishing top three in Local Qualifying in a tie with Colorado professionals Jacob Lestishen and Rick Lash, Solem carded a 6-over score of 76-72-148 to tie for 46th place in Sectional Qualifying at Lakewood Country Club in Dallas, Texas.
Solem has been playing golf ever since his father, Brian Solem, placed a set of junior golf clubs in his crib shortly after he was born. The pair has annually watched the U.S. Open together and both were thrilled by Jackson's near realization of one of his lifelong dreams.
"I've been incredibly fortunate to get to be a part of his golf," Brian Solem said. "I don't think people realize how much work goes into reaching that level so to see him succeed and come so close was a really proud moment for me."
Solem graduated from Longmont Christian School but played his prep golf at Silver Creek since Longmont Christian did not have its own team. He won the Class 4A state championship in 2015 and was the state runner-up as a senior this past fall.
Trying to play the best players possible, Solem is currently playing in the Southwestern Amateur at The Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he will face mostly collegiate competition, and he will play in the state match play when he gets back to Colorado. Competing nearly every weekend, Solem's non-tournament-day summer routine will consist of a 7 a.m. workout, three or four hours of practice and a full round with his younger sister Julia Solem or another Fox Hill Club pro or member. Then, he usually practices some more.
At the end of all this summer play and practice, Solem is determined to hit the ground running when he begins his collegiate golf career at the University of Denver in several months.
"I'd like to get to the U.S. Amateur and play well at the Colorado Open," Jackson Solem said. "But I've been working harder than ever so that I'm ready to go when it's time at DU."