Open road for Nelson Local golfer and new father ready to take on U.S. Open

Ryan Nelson, of Charleston, has qualified to play in the U.S. Open Golf championship June 13-16. (Paul Zoeller/

Over the last few weeks, Charleston golfer Ryan Nelson has discovered how quickly even the best-laid plans can unravel.

Not that he’s complaining.

On May 24, Nelson’s wife Michelle gave birth to their second son. Sandwiched around that eventful day were two successful qualifying tournaments for this week’s U.S. Open.

Instead of trying to qualify for the tournament this week in Wichita, Kan., or playing in an eGolf mini-tour event somewhere in the Southeast, Nelson was scrambling as he made travel plans for Ardmore, Pa., where Merion Golf Club is located.

His parents, who were planning to travel to Charleston from Oregon this week to visit their new grandson, also had to make alternate arrangements.

“It’s exciting,” said Nelson, who also qualified to play in the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club but missed the cut.

“He’s a good player. He’s a very confident kid. He’s continuing to chase the dream,” said Danny Stewart, the head teaching professional at the Country Club of Charleston.

“He’s been there before. We hope this year he’s prepared to look at it as a tournament rather than the overwhelming moment of the U.S. Open.”

Nelson’s first step to the 2013 U.S. Open was a 7-under-par 65 at Secession Golf Club in Beaufort during local qualifying. He tied for first with former University of South Carolina golfer Mark Anderson and was one of five to advance to the next level, a sectional qualifier at Hawks Ridge Golf Club in Ball Ground, Ga.

On the same course where two years earlier he qualified for the Open at Congressional, Nelson shot 11-under 133 to share medalist honors and earn a second chance in the U.S. Open.

Nelson, 35, and his wife are both from the Northwest. They moved to Charleston two years ago after a stint in the Houston area where Michelle was finishing up work on her doctorate. They were considering the Raleigh area when Michelle received an offer to work in MUSC’s Hollings Cancer Center.

“I’d heard a lot of good things about Charleston, the golf, the city, the weather,” Nelson said.

Looking for a place to practice and play, he contacted College of Charleston golf coach Mark McEntire, whose team has a practice facility at the Links at Stono Ferry. Nelson also met with Stono Ferry head professional Patrick Brown and now practices and plays at the course in Hollywood. He also was looking for a golf instructor, and Brian Duncan of Mount Pleasant, who plays the eGolf and tours, recommended Stewart.

“I had heard some good things from a couple of other guys about Danny. His approach is more of a coach than a swing instructor. I felt like I was in a really good place mechanically with my golf swing but I needed that extra step,” Nelson said. “We had a long talk about our expectations and how we would go about it.”

Stewart said Nelson has the talent to be successful.

“His confidence is up and he’s starting to shoot some low numbers,” Stewart said. “He qualified (for the Open in 2011), so we know his game is good. He’s building on what we’ve been working on all year.”

Nelson hopes he won’t be star-struck this time around.

“The magnitude of it being the U.S. Open and one of the majors was huge,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll be amped down a little bit and play some better golf than I played at Congressional.”