Roy McAvoy put is best during “Tin Cup.”
“Not just the biggest golf tournament in the world; the most democratic.”
The U.S. Open is, ahem, open to anyone who can get through qualifying, and that annually makes for some tremendous stories. The best of those in 2015 is Cole Hammer, the 15-year-old who became the third-youngest golfer in history to qualify for the tournament.
Hammer wasn’t able to make the cut at Chambers after opening rounds of 77 and 84 (plus-21 overall), but his story is worth exploring nonetheless. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about the youngster.
1. He Qualified in Spectacular Fashion
Playing at Northwood Club in Dallas, Hammer went up against a field of 78 players during sectional qualifying, knowing that he had to finish in the top six to make the U.S. Open.
During the morning round, he hit zero bogeys and put himself in first place with a scorching six-under 64. His bogey-less streak ended at No. 7 during the afternoon round, however, and after another at No. 12, he had dropped to five-under and was in danger of falling outside the top six.
Then he responded like a seasoned veteran, carding birdies on four of the last five holes to secure second place.
“I didn’t know where we stood until No. 17 and then I told him, ‘We need one more birdie,'” his father and caddie Gregg recalled.
Hammer answered that request with this gorgeous approach on the final hole:
And just like that, with rounds of 64 and 68, he had qualified for the U.S. Open.
2. He Is the 3rd-Youngest Player in U.S. Open History
When Hammer tees off Thursday, he will be 15 years, nine months and 21 days, to be exact. Only two players in the tournament’s 115-year history have done so at a younger age: Andy Zhang (14 years, eight months) in 2012, and Tadd Fujikawa (15 years, five months) in 2006.
The youngest player to make the cut at the U.S. Open is Beau Hossler, who, at 17 years old, led midway through the second round and ultimately finished 29th in 2012.
3. His Dad is His Caddie
Hammer, whose parents, Gregg and Allison, have both won multiple club championships at their home course in Houston, had his father on the bag during qualifying and will do so again at Chambers Bay.
It will be a special moment during the tournament that has become synonymous with father-son relationships due to the final round falling on Father’s Day.
When asked about having his dad as his caddie, Hammer said it “means the world to me, especially on Father’s Day. I think that’s going to be a cool experience to be able to share together.”
4. He Is Verbally Committed to the University of Texas
Hammer just finished his sophomore year at Kinkaid High School in Houston, but he has known his college choice since eighth grade. In December 2013, he verbally committed to Texas, one of the top-ranked programs in the nation.
His dad made the following statement:
He loves Austin, Texas, and has always wanted to go to college at UT and play on the golf team. The golf program at UT has a great history, and over the last several years the team has consistently been at or near the top. He had several unofficial visits to UT and was very impressed with the on-campus and off-campus facilities. Most importantly, Cole really likes Coach (John) Fields and Coach (Ryan) Murphy.
5. Jordan Spieth Is one of His Role Models
It’s not a really surprising that Jordan Spieth, who attended Texas and at 21 has already established himself as one of the best players in the world, is a role model for a young prodigy like Hammer.
He’s getting better experience than I had at his age. He maybe didn’t expect himself to be out here testing his game this soon, but it just shows how the game is growing, how much better it’s getting at a young age, and Cole’s the living image of it. And I’m interested to see how he does this week. I think with really no expectations, it could help him. And on a golf course like this, you just never know.