\‘Top Cop\’ comes oh-so close in Open Challenge

        With his TV debut set for Sunday at 9 a.m. on NBC, Phoenix police officer Larry Giebelhausen, “America’s Top Cop in Golf’’ was licking his wounds Saturday after his big week at Bethpage Black in New York.
        “I’m still recovering,’’ said a dejected Giebelhausen, who had earned a spot in the U.S. Open Golf Challenge sponsored by Golf Digest alongside the more celebrated Michael Jordan, Ben Roethlisberger and Justin Timberlake.
        “I got off to a bad start, and I guess the pressure got to me. I was good on the range but I just couldn’t take it to the first tee. When (Mark) Rolfing announced my name, the moment just kind of overpowered me.’’
         As a result, for the second straight year the “average guy’’ in the national contest failed to break 100, although Giebelhausen came oh-so close with a 101. Last year, Joe Atkinson, the original winner from Omaha, shot 114 at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
        “I guess I came a little closer (than Atkinson),’’ Giebelhausen said of the challenge laid down by Tiger Woods two years ago when he said a “10-handicapper’’ couldn’t break 100 on a U.S. Open layout.
         “All week long, I’ve been playing it back in my head . . . ‘could of, should of, would of,’ ’’ Giebelhausen said. “I was so close but the (sextuple bogey) 10 (on No. 16) just killed me.’’
         The U.S. Open Golf Challenge was recorded on Friday, June 12 and will be played back from 9 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. Sunday. Conditions were similar to what players have gone through this week at Bethpage Black.
        It started raining on Giebelhausen’s group on the third hole – “it was really coming down’’ – and it lasted until the 15th hole. As the Phoenix lieutenant mentioned, his start was cruel as he went 7-4-8 before the wet stuff came.
       “When I got to (No.) 16, I was pretty exhausted,’’ said Giebelhausen, who was selected from 73,581 contests for his answer to a six-word essay: “I’m a cop. I’ll shoot low.’’
         Giebelhausen did peal off his raingear at the 16th tee, “But I was drenched, and then I started off by hitting my drive into the rough and losing the ball.
       “It all added up to the 10, and I still had a chance to break 100 if I could have parred the last two holes. But I didn’t get it done. . . .’’
      The highlight of the week was playing the practice round the day prior to the actual competition, Giebelhausen said.
      “That was the most fun, as everyone was relaxed, and I played pretty well, probably shot 90,’’ Giebelhausen said. “But all the guys were great, and Anthony Kim actually joined us, which made it even that much more pleasurable.
        “We had some good-natured trash-talking, and I really enjoyed the company of Fred Couples (who caddied for Jordan), who was a really nice guy. In fact, he tried his best to calm me down (during the real competition) and I appreciated that.’’
        Giebelhausen said all he hopes for today when NBC airs the competition is that “they show at least a couple of my good shots.’’
       “It was very discouraging, but it is what it is,’’ Giebelhausen said of the 101, which was 31 over par. “Overall, it was a great experience, but I’ll have to live with that score forever.’’