All eyes on 15-year-old Cole Hammer at U.S. Open
Beau Hossler, the 20-year-old incoming junior at Texas, will be playing in his third U.S. Open this week. Simply amazing. But even he cracked a joke when introducing the latest teen sensation, 15-year-old Cole Hammer, to a friend on the Chambers Bay practice range.
“Cole’s going to be Class of 2028 or something like that,” Hossler said, a smile creasing his face.
Hammer, who committed to Texas at age 13, sported a Texas belt buckle and laughed as he corrected Hossler. “No, I’m going to be a sophomore,” said the Class of 2018 commit from Houston.
He can’t even legally drive a car, but he can drive a golf ball well enough to play in the U.S. Open after shooting 64-68 at Dallas’ Northwood Club in U.S. Open sectional qualifying to become the third-youngest player to earn a spot in the national championship.
“I thought it would be really cool if I were to one day qualify for this,” he said.
"One day" came a lot sooner than he or his parents expected. Hammer had his father, Gregg, on the bag for the 36-hole qualifier, but even dad admitted he merely provided encouragement.
“I just let him go,” Gregg Hammer said of his son. “He doesn’t need me out there.”
The elder Hammer always wanted to caddie for his son at a big event, such as the U.S. Amateur. But Cole failed to qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur last summer. Get this: the U.S. Open will be his first USGA championship.
“We kind of got it out of order,” his father said.
You think? Cole signed up for the qualifier to see how his game compared against the pros'. There were a lot of Web.com Tour players in the field, because they had played the previous day in nearby Lewisville. “I showed I could," he said. "I just played great.”
Hammer celebrated that night at a Mexican restaurant and stayed up reliving his barrage of birdies until 1 a.m. He was scheduled to play in the Western Junior this week.
“But I qualified for this so I didn’t go to that,” he said, drawing laughter from a roomful of writers.
Instead, six days after punching his Open ticket, he played a practice round with Webb Simpson, one of those pros whom he is used to watching on TV and listened to him preach patience. That same day, Tiger Woods, whose fist pump on the 18th green at the 2008 U.S. Open is Hammer’s first memory of watching the championship, chipped next to him.
On Monday, Hammer warmed up on the range next to Rory McIlroy and stole a glance at every third swing by the World No. 1.
“He hits it so far it’s crazy,” Hammer said.
Then there was an afternoon date for nine holes with former Texas teammates Cody Gribble and Jordan Spieth, and Hossler. The past, present and future of the Longhorns program converged. Spieth, 21, was eager to have a look at the game of the young whippersnapper with the perma-grim, who may shatter some of his records before too long.
“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,” Spieth said. “I’m interested to see how he does this week.”
So will many golf fans. He weighs all of 125 pounds, but there he was signing his first autographs, excluding a few that he scribbled for his parents’ friends. The winner of the 2012 U.S. Kids World Championship at Pinehurst has a simple plan to channel the excitement of playing in the tournament that didn’t seem possible for the precocious teen until he watched Spieth win the Masters in April. Hammer said he just wants to enjoy the moment, but in a moment of youthful innocence – or was it naivete? – he already was looking forward to Father’s Day. That, of course, is Sunday, or two days after the field is cut to low 60 and ties.
“I think that’s going to be a cool experience to be able to share together,” Hammer said.
Nerves? This kid doesn’t play like any kid. When he steps to the first tee on Thursday, expect Hammer to nail it.
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