Jason Millard’s dream is to play in the U.S. Open. Jason shot a 68-68 in a sectional qualifier in early June, good enough to claim a spot in the Open. The stage was set for Jason to play in his first U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N. C., and have the opportunity to honor his late father Eddie that Father’s Day weekend. All that separated Jason from realizing this dream was an 8-hour car trip from his home in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
He had his bags packed and was on his way to Pinehurst when he suddenly had a change of mind and a change of heart. Jason thought there was a sliver of a chance he had committed an infraction during the qualifier. Although unintentional, he may have touched the sand with his club before hitting a shot out of the bunker, an offense that carries a two-stroke penalty. With the penalty, Jason would not have qualified for the U.S. Open even though no one saw him commit the violation.
Jason wasn’t even sure his club had touched the sand. There were no pictures or video from the tournament showing whether or not he committed the infraction. Jason’s conscience, however, would not let him continue. “Right about the time I was taking my swing is when I saw what I think was an indentation in the sand,” he told the Associated Press. “That little image (kept) popping up in my head. But it happened so fast—I really don’t know.”
Jason’s friend and caddie, Ryan Pierson, recalled for ESPN the conversation they had. “We were in the car heading to Pinehurst, about 30 minutes in, and it was really tearing Jason up inside. We discussed it for 45 minutes, and we agreed that it was weighing on his mind so much that no matter how he played (at the U.S. Open), it wouldn’t be the week he wanted it to be.”
Jason and Ryan pulled into a nearby gas station and started making phone calls – desperately trying to reach a USGA official. Jason finally reached someone and confessed to something he may or may not have done. Either way, the mea culpa was complete and Jason’s U.S. Open dream was again on hold.
After losing his father Eddie to leukemia in 2013, Jason wanted nothing more than the opportunity to play in the final round of the U.S. Open on a special day for his dad. “Jason can’t bear guilt,” Pierson said. “He has high morals and great character. I’m just surprised it took as long as it did. But I think one reason it took as long as it did was Jason wanted to play the U.S. Open for his father on Father’s Day.”
Jason’s selfless act earned him the respect and admiration of Sam Love, the golfer who placed second in the June qualifier. “It’s one of those things that nobody knew about. I mean, he could have easily just played in this tournament and nobody would have known. He had some doubts about it and called it into question and ended up disqualifying himself. And it’s very honorable of him. So, I have a lot of respect for him.”
Jason Millard may one day play in the U.S. Open. If and when that day comes, he can compete knowing he achieved his dream fairly and honorably.