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Jim Meehan: Alex Prugh crew descends on Pebble Beach to watch their favorite compete in U.S. Open

UPDATED: Fri., June 7, 2019, 5:48 p.m.

I finally gave the refresh button a break after 40 fruitless minutes tracking the closing holes of U.S. Open sectional qualifying Monday and sent a text to someone in the know.

Steve Prugh responded promptly that son Alex had indeed earned a berth in the U.S. Open after surviving a three-man playoff for two spots at RattleSnake Point Golf Club in Ontario.

Prugh encountered similar issues waiting for online updates, but he had an infallible source: Alex’s wife Katie texted him with the good news.

Steve had researched flights in case Alex or son Corey qualified. When he found out Alex’s status, he quickly finalized his flight itinerary, adding to the Prugh crew that will be on hand at famed Pebble Beach next week.

Alex, 34, will be playing in his second U.S. Open, 12 years after competing as an amateur at Oakmont. Katie and the couple’s two young kids are making the trip, as is Alex’s sister Hillary, her husband Tommy and their child.

Steve will wear numerous hats as a spectator, husband, father and grandfather. Wife Susan, via her role on the United States Golf Association Junior Girls Committee, has served as a rules official at nearly every type of USGA stroke-play event over the last 12 years except the U.S. Open. That changed a few months ago when she learned she’d be working the Open at Pebble Beach.

“Pretty exciting,” Steve said. “It’s a passion of hers and she loves it. She travels a lot with high school events and WJGA events that we’re both involved in. She just did two NCAA Division I women’s regionals and the finals.”

Alex moved back to Spokane from Las Vegas about two years ago, a decision that seems to have meshed well with his golf game and family life. He earned his PGA Tour card last August and returned to the big tour for the first time since a three-year stretch from 2014-16.

Prugh has made nearly $224,000 on the strength of eight top-60 finishes in 17 tournaments. He’s No. 172 in the FexEd Cup standings.

“For the overall demeanor of his life, happiness at home and on the road, being here in Spokane has been a great thing for him,” Steve said. “I think it’s helped his game. If there’s a foot of snow on the ground and he needs to hop on a plane, he goes to Vegas and gets his practice in.”

Alex’s 12-year gap between U.S. Opens is a bit deceiving. The Ferris High and University of Washington graduate didn’t attempt to qualify for several years when he was grinding on the Web.com Tour.

“If he was on the Web.com, the money he would make at the Open is meaningless to him. It doesn’t help him reach his ultimate goal of reaching the PGA Tour,” Steve said. “Whatever he earns this time goes to help his (PGA) standing.”

Father and son squeezed in rounds a few weeks ago and when the weather cooperates in the winter, occasionally going to the Lewiston or Clarkston, if necessary.

“His game looks very good,” said Steve, who retired in 2015 after 33 years as the pro at Manito but still gives lessons. “We played a couple times recently when he didn’t get into the Charles Schwab Challenge. His ball-striking tends to be fine all the time and I thought his putting was very good.”

Alex has valuable experience from several appearances in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, including a tie for 53rd in February.

“He’s played well most of the time and he knows the course,” Steve said. “Obviously, it’ll be set up a little different than it is in the winter.”

The Prughs try to watch Alex play a couple of times a year. They attended a few Web.com tournaments last year while their last time at a PGA Tour event was in 2016. “I look at it this way, he’s an adult and he’s at work,” Steve said. “If we’re in town, he feels obligated to go to dinner with us or make plans around us. I look at my friends and say, ‘Do you go to your kid’s work?’ ”

Of course, there are exceptions, such as a U.S. Open at an iconic venue on the scenic Monterey Peninsula. It’s about as big as golf gets in this country and the Prugh clan can’t wait to take it all in.

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