Hammer, 15, aims to nail tips when he tees off with big boys

 PHOTO: REUTERS
Cole Hammer is too young to drive the courtesy car. PHOTO: REUTERS

UNIVERSITY PLACE (Washington) - Cole Hammer had dreamed to one day play against his golf idols Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. He never expected that day to come this week.

Cole is the third-youngest man to qualify for the US Open. The 15-year-old American is trying to learn as much as he can from watching the professionals before returning to a junior golf circuit and his Houston high school, where he will be a sophomore.

He earned a spot by finishing second in a 36-hole sectional qualifier in Dallas at Northwood Club which hosted the 1952 Open. On his first 18, he carded a 64.

It was three shots off the course record, and two off the 62s posted there by Major winner Justin Leonard and six-time Tour winner Hunter Mahan.

Cole followed it with a 68.

"I think it's amazing that he's here," said Spieth, 21, the Masters champion from Dallas. "He's had a smile on his face every time."

Cole is so young he barely shaves - "a little bit, sometimes," he said sheepishly - and cannot drive a courtesy car that he received the keys to when he registered for the tournament.

His father, Gregg, will be his caddie when the tournament starts today. After playing 54 practice holes, both father and son are feeling more at ease with their surroundings. "This has been an amazing experience for both of us so far," Gregg said.

His son, he added, "seems to be handling everything OK".

Spieth said he was excited to see how the teen plays this week.

"He's getting better experience than I had at his age," he noted.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2015, with the headline 'Hammer, 15, aims to nail tips when he tees off with big boys'. Print Edition | Subscribe