Derek Barron, 32, of Tacoma, Wash., is making his major-championship debut this week in the 117th U.S. Open Championship at Erin Hills. Barron, who ran his grandfather’s hydraulics company and was a construction foreman before turning professional six years ago, represents the “open” nature of this championship. He advanced through local qualifying at Wine Valley Golf Club in Walla Walla, Wash., and shot 7-under 135 on his home course, Tacoma Country & Golf Club in Lakewood, Wash., to earn sectional qualifying medalist honors and a place among the world’s greatest players. A rookie on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada, Barron has agreed to write a daily diary about his U.S. Open experience. Here is his first installment:
What a whirlwind week it has been. Five minutes after finishing my sectional qualifier, I turned on my phone and there were 45 to 50 text messages. Everybody was congratulating me. That’s the best feeling. You really don’t know how many people are behind you until you do something like this.
After playing this past weekend and shooting a final-round 64 to finish tied for 12th in the Mackenzie Tour’s event in Victoria, British Columbia, my wife (Madi) and I drove back to Tacoma. We got home at 8 p.m., packed until 11 and got about three hours of sleep. I am a little whooped. We flew from Seattle to Denver to Milwaukee. I think I got about 10 minutes of sleep. I don’t sleep well on airplanes.
Maybe it’s because I’m so excited for this. It’s going to be a blast and I am going to enjoy it.
I am trying to tell myself it’s just another tournament, although I know it’s one of the biggest events in the world. But at the end of the day, I am just playing golf. I’m doing my best to keep everything in perspective.
I did chat with my sports psychologist, Dr. Bill Meyer, last week. He’s from Bellevue (Wash.) and works with other athletes in the area, including PGA Tour player Kyle Stanley. I told Dr. Meyer I’m getting anxious and excited. He told me we’ll talk again on Friday night, depending on my position. But right now, he told me I’m a small fish in a big pond. Five million people will be watching this and how many will care what you shoot. That was a valid point.
We finally arrived late Monday and registered. We’re going to play the course for the first time on Tuesday with another Seattle guy, Michael Putnam. My caddie (Greg Talley) and I also got in touch with Marquette University rising senior Austin Kendziorski, who caddies at Erin Hills. We’re going to try to get some pointers from him.
We’ve also reached out to Tacoma-area resident Michael Greller, who caddies for 2015 champion Jordan Spieth.
Just from my first impressions, this golf course looks similar to a course at home called Wine Valley, where I played my local qualifier. I’m hoping it plays like it. At Wine Valley, the wind can blow, and I’m a good wind player.
We’re also staying with a host family not far from the course. One of the owners is a radio personality for WTMJ (in Milwaukee).
But I do love Wisconsin. I came to Green Bay last season for the Seahawks-Packers game. That was an embarrassment (the Packers won, 38-10). I hope I play better than my Seahawks did that day. But I loved Lambeau Field. I’m coming back to Green Bay in the fall for the season opener against the Seahawks.
I know I don’t have the professional or USGA championship experience like most players in the field. I used to think that was a disadvantage, but now I think it’s to my advantage. I’m still getting used to the whole travel and playing deal. I’m 32, but I don’t feel 32. I feel as hungry as someone in their late teens/early 20s.
I just can’t wait to get started with my first practice round on Tuesday.