Families have a storied legacy in the U.S. Open. Tyson Alexander, Tim Herron and Dru Love became third-generation competitors. Sam Saunders followed the path of his legendary grandfather, 1960 champion Arnold Palmer, while U.S. Open champions Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Hale Irwin saw sons Gary, Andy and Steve, respectively, qualify for the championship.
Jay and Bill Haas competed in the same U.S. Open in consecutive years (2003 and 2004), both making the 36-hole cut in the latter at Shinnecock Hills, capping an idyllic Father’s Day weekend on the eastern end of Long Island.
This week at Torrey Pines, Eric Cole carries his own family legacy. His mother, Laura Baugh, won the 1971 U.S. Women’s Amateur at 16 – then the youngest to do so – and two years later was named the LPGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year, launching a 25-year career that saw her post 71 top-10s, including 10 runner-up finishes. Her best finish in 14 U.S. Women’s Open starts was a tie for eighth in 1979. His father, Bobby Cole, a native of South Africa, won the 1966 Amateur Championship conducted by The R&A at age 18 before enjoying a fruitful pro career that saw him win the 1977 Buick Open and eight titles on the Sunshine Tour. Bobby competed in seven U.S. Opens (with a best finish of T-12 in 1970 at Hazeltine National) and tied for third in the 1974 PGA Championship and 1975 Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Eric, 33, of Delray Beach, Fla., is still trying to find his way to the top echelon of professional golf. A mini-tour legend – he has won 54 Minor League Golf Tour titles, according to Monday Q Info’s Ryan French – Cole has made 26 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020-21 and ranks 106th on the money list. Qualifying for his first U.S. Open – and major championship – could become his breakout week.
With two parents who currently teach the game – Laura in the Jacksonville, Fla. area and Bobby in south Florida – Eric has never sought outside instruction. Maybe Eric will find some karma on the challenging South Course at Torrey Pines, where 52 years ago, his mom captured the Girls 13-14 Division of the Junior World Championship.
Now that would be quite the U.S. Open legacy.