I had the opportunity to play in one U.S. Open. And fortunately for me, it just happened to be at Pebble Beach.
Way back in 1992, I was playing on what is now the Hooters Tour. I was having a good year and was starting to feel my game improve. I survived local qualifying and managed to play very well in the sectional qualifier to punch my ticket to Pebble. The feeling you get as a mini-tour player who somehow gets a ticket to the Big Show is almost overwhelming. It somehow validates not only the work you have been doing on your game but your career choice as well.
Qualifiers can start practicing at noon on Sunday before the U.S. Open. I had never played Pebble Beach so I was sitting in the pro shop beside the first tee at 9 a.m. The staff took pity on me and let me out at 10 a.m.
Playing a practice round for the U.S. Open is a very nice way to see Pebble Beach for the first time. I was so enthralled with the golf course that I actually played six rounds before Thursday. I had blisters on my feet and my hands were sore. You don't think about conserving energy at a major when you are playing the mini-tours.
I was scared to death on Thursday but managed a solid round. I was actually 3 under through 7 holes and hit it to about 2 feet at No. 8. That was when reality set in. I didn't touch the hole with my birdie attempt and then plugged my second shot to No. 9 in the front bunker and made double bogey. I did shoot even par in that first round and hit 17 greens in regulation. I was on the cut line most of the day Friday until I double bogeyed 17 and missed the cut by two shots.
Even though my U.S. Open ended on Friday, it was a week I will never forget. And Pebble Beach will forever have a special place in my heart. And by the way, I still have scars from the blisters I got from those six practice rounds.