The lure of the U.S. Open returning after a 32-year absence to Merion Golf Club -- Philadelphia's answer to Oakmont -- is probably the reason.
Or it could be that Merion, with two reachable par-5s and six par-4s under 380 yards, will offer a challenge that is more about precision than power -- bringing more potential winners into play.
Whatever the motivation, the United States Golf Association received a record number of entries -- 9,860 -- for the 2013 U.S. Open that will be staged at one of the most historic clubs in the world.
In the Philadelphia area, the entries were so large -- 255 players -- an extra qualifying site had to be added.
Locally, the number of entries for the two local qualifiers is 124, an increase from a year ago. The first of those two qualifiers is today at Westmoreland Country Club in Export, the beginning of what is a long and arduous path to the U.S. Open.
"It's harder than it's ever been," said amateur Sean Knapp, who has never made it to the U.S. Open despite advancing through 10 local qualifiers. "About 25 years ago, there were two rounds, which was better for the better players. A fluke hole wouldn't knock you out. Now you're one round with a higher caliber of player."
Knapp, a seven-time West Penn Amateur champion who won the Pennsylvania Public Links Championship for the fourth time last week, is part of the field of 55 players -- 32 amateurs, 23 professionals -- at Westmoreland. Three qualifying spots are available.
Among the other participants are former PGA Tour player Bob Friend, Web.com Tour player Jon Mills, local PGA professionals John Aber, Rob McClellan, Kevin Shields, Ryan Sikora and Joe Boros, and mini-tour player Mike Van Sickle.
The second local qualifier will be Tuesday at Grove City Country Club, where 40 amateurs are part of the field of 69 players competing for four qualifying spots.
Among the players are Oakmont Country Club professional Bob Ford, teaching professional Gordon Vietmeier, and mini-tour players C.G. Merkatoris of Robert Morris and Adam Hoffman, a former state amateur champ who played at Vanderbilt.
Also in the field is amateur Rick Stimmel, the last player to advance from a local qualifier in Western Pennsylvania to the U.S. Open. Stimmel did that in 2000 at Pebble Beach.
Of the 124 players in the two qualifiers, 72 (58 percent) are amateurs -- and most of those are college or high school players.
"That's been the case for almost five years where amateurs are outnumbering the professionals in our locals," said Jeff Rivard, executive director of the West Penn Golf Association, which stages the qualifiers. "The number of [club pro] jobs where you have playing opportunities has diminished and father time has caught up with a lot of those guys. That generation hasn't been replaced by an equal number of good players."
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.