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 fourth installment:
That honestly was one of the most fun days I’ve ever had on a golf course. Shooting a 2-under-par 70 in my first U.S. Open round. Wow! Unbelievably incredible.
I was so numb when I got to the tee for my 2:42 p.m. starting time. Then I pounded my drive. But I was so amped up. It took me a few holes to settle down. Thank goodness I parred the opening hole, a 613-yard par 5. Then I made a nice 13½-foot birdie on number 2. And I hit a good drive and iron approach on number 3 and made par. But it wasn’t until the fifth hole that my nerves finally subsided and I could get into my normal rhythm.
Greg Talley, my caddie, did a great job of keeping me calm. But I am the type of person who likes to interact with the crowd and tell a few jokes. I need to disengage in between shots. That’s what my sports psychologist, Bill Meyer, tells me to do. Another mentor, Todd Irwin, tells me the same thing. It’s tough to focus for 5½ hours straight, and I frankly don’t like doing that.
So I was talking to fans in between shots and thanking them for their support. The crowds here at Erin Hills are so good. They’re awesome. It’s so cool to have a little kid say: “Good job, Derek. Go get ’em. Keep it up, Derek.” That’s not why I play professional golf, but it’s nice to have that.
I tell you what, it was tough waiting around all day to play. My wife Madi and I had a great date night on Wednesday in downtown Milwaukee. We went to Café Benelux and I had a couple of Spotted Cows. It’s a beer brewed and sold only in Wisconsin, and I fell in love with it when I came to Green Bay last fall to attend a Packers game against the Seahawks at Lambeau Field.
I woke up at my normal time, 6 a.m., and I played with my phone and checked Instagram. Then I turned on Golf Channel and was listening to commentator Frank Nobilo talk about how scoreable the course is due to the rains we had earlier this week, and that the wind wasn’t howling. That made me a bit more nervous.
I was antsy until my friend Kyle Pederson arrived around 8:30. Then my parents got there, and we went to the course. Kyle recently became a father and coming to Wisconsin to watch me compete in the U.S. Open was his Father’s Day gift. We got him a family pass, so he was able to watch all of these superstar golfers walk by. He was starstruck. But that also distracted me a bit as well. It took my mind off the first round for a little bit. At least until we got to the first tee.
I just battled all day. I missed a couple of good birdie chances, but I also made a nice up-and-down on 17 for par after hitting it right off the tee into the fescue.
While the course measured 7,845 yards for the first round, it didn’t really play that long. You can cut corners and you are not always shaping shots with the hole. Number 10 is a perfect example. If you hit a drive 280 yards, it’s going to run another 70 yards. All of a sudden, you hit it 350. Same on 11. You can chew off yardage, and those downslopes make a huge difference.
There were a few times today I just turned around and said, “Dang, this is so fun and so awesome.” And I am playing some decent golf. Not many guys can say they shot under par in their first round of a U.S. Open. Heck, even some of the veteran guys struggled today. Now that I have a feel for some of those tee shots and what the wind is doing, I think I can maybe open it up a little bit on Friday if I am feeling good.
I certainly would take three more rounds of 70 right now. I’d do it in a second and go back to Tacoma as happy as a clam. With that said, I think I have got something in the mid- to upper-60s. Perhaps a 66 or 67. If I make a couple of more putts today, I am right there, or if I play the par 5s better. I didn’t birdie any of them in Round 1.
We go off the 10th tee at 8:57 a.m. on Friday. Hopefully we get the same conditions, but you never know what the setup will be like. I’m just excited and ready to play another round.