BALL GROUND — Strong finishes on the back nine made the difference as Stephan Jaeger and Alex Smalley each punched their tickets to the U.S. Open, each shooting 7-under par at the U.S. Open sectional qualifier Monday at Hawks Ridge Golf Club.

Jaeger and Smalley each entered the afternoon round in contention – with Jaeger one stroke back after an opening round 67 and Smalley two back after 68 – and they hung near the lead until each was able to string together three straight birdies on the final nine to qualify.

Both players said they wanted another birdie, but avoiding bogeys proved important, as Dru Love — a member of the Alabama golf team and son of PGA Tour player Davis Love III — and J.T. Griffin, a former member of the Georgia Tech golf team, each finished a stroke back. Love, will be the first alternate after rounds of 67-71, and Griffin (66-72) the second for the U.S. Open June 12-18 at Wisconsin’s Erin Hills Country Club.

Jimmy Stanger of Tampa, Florida, and Nicholas Reach of Scranton, Pennsylvania, finished tied for fifth at 5-under and Benjamin Shipp of Duluth and Michael Nagy of Knoxville, Tennessee, each finished at 4-under.