La Jolla, Calif—Harry Rudolph III used to routinely beat Phil Mickelson on the golf course. Now, he serves up one of the best breakfasts in La Jolla.
With a little luck, and a lot of skill, Rudolph just might have breakfast at Pebble Beach on the morning of June 17 and then play along with Mickelson at this year's U.S. Open.
NCAA national champion at Arizona, and played on several minor league pro golf tours all over the world.
Now, he's the owner of Harry's Coffee Shop in La Jolla, a Rudolph family diner for 50 years.
"It's a part of our family history," Rudolph said in between manning the cash register and clearing lunch plates. "It's a part of the history in La Jolla, so it's important to me to keep this establishment running. I think we're the oldest restaurant in La Jolla - 50 years running here - and people kind of count on us here. So I enjoy it and I like the history of it. I like the tradition of it."
Another tradition Rudolph looks forward to: qualifying for the U.S. Open. Any golfer with a USGA handicap of 1.4 or lower can try to qualify for the 156-man field.
Rudolph gave up on his pro golf career in the year 2000 to focus on the family restaurant. But then last year, he got the bug again and actually made it through the U.S. Open local qualifier, advanced to the sectional qualifier, and missed out on the U.S. Open by just two strokes.
"It's a big motivating factor to do it again," Rudolph said. "I pretty much thought about it the entire year, but at the same time trying to not really get into the expectations of that. Do I expect to make it? No. There's 9,000 golfers trying to qualify for the U.S. Open this year. It's an extremely difficult tournament to try to get into. But I have dreams and hopes and aspirations of playing at Pebble Beach."
The 40 year-old father of two now plays as an amateur and on Monday, he teed it up at this year's local qualifier at Barona Creek Golf Club. He'll need to finish in the top five out of 90 golfers to advance to the next step.
"Boy I'd like to see him make it. I'd like to see him make it," said Gilbert Harrelson, a regular at Harry's Coffee Shop.
But advance or not, Harry will be back at the coffee shop at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning, ready to catch up with his loyal customers.
"He's one of the most humble, unassuming guys you will ever meet," said Harry's caddy and loyal customer Bruce Taub. "Which is part of his charm and why I love him so much. I do. He's a great, great guy."