By Beaux Yenchik, UGA Intern
After finally succeeding at his fourth U.S. Open qualifier, local golfer fulfilled lifelong dream by putting on the same green as childhood star.
Rhett Rasmussen, a Draper-native, found himself on the grounds of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club preparing for what may be the first of many major-championship appearances to come. Acclimating to the heat and humidity that surrounded the Long Island course, Rasmussen stood on the practice green just a few feet from none other than Tiger Woods -- the 14-time major champion. Holding his composure, Rasmussen lived out his childhood fantasy -- one he only dreamed of ever happening.
“Growing up, he was my idol,” Rasmussen said. “Putting on the same hole as him was pretty cool.”
Facing his greatest challenge yet, Rasmussen looked to “get the most of [his] experience” as he chased after the U.S. Open Trophy and all the accolades that came with it. From first arriving in the parking lot to the final putt made, the game plan for the Brigham Young University junior was to soak it all in: practice rounds, meeting fellow golfers, and participating in the 118th playing of the tournament.
Not feeling any more nervous than normal -- having already played in quite a few tournaments as a college golfer -- the Draper stud set out to surpass his goal of making the cut at the PGA Tour’s second major of the season. With grandstands the size of the Empire State Building and crowds comparable to rush hour in Los Angeles, Rasmussen strived to “just experience it, and focus on the game, and [my] abilities.”
Prior to his Thursday and Friday pairings with Michael Block and Michael Herbert, Rasmussen got the opportunity to play with hometown favorite, Tony Finau, and this year’s Ryder Cup Captain Jim Furyk. In Rasmussen’s own words, he called Finau and Furyk “two of the nicest guys out there.”
Finau told the Utah amateur to take it easy during the week and not burn himself out before the event started. Rasmussen said Finau also told him to only practice as much as he needed and to rest the remainder of the time because of how taxing the event can be.
For Furyk, a little quieter than the Tour’s first Polynesian player, shared general insights on the transition of becoming a tour pro and the life that’s required for it-- something Rasmussen has contemplated doing.
Heading into round one, outside of playing well enough to make the cut, Rasmussen only had one more expectation for himself: make sure he didn’t have poor shots that stemmed from being nervous.
Rounds one and two proved Rasmussen was in for a rollercoaster ride; each day was the complete opposite of the other. Having four bogeys and three double bogeys on his opening 18, Rasmussen carded a 10-over-par 80.
Bouncing back from a sloppy day one, Rasmussen responded to his seven-made bogeys with three birdies of his own. Though carding a 74 (+4) on day two, Rasmussen fell short to making the cut by seven shots (+7).
“Honestly, I don’t think I played horrible,” Rasmussen said. “Tee to green I played really good. I think was around half driving distance and half the field in driving accuracy.”
Rasmussen’s route to our nation’s open started at a local qualifier held at Alpine Country Club. Just around the “Point of the Mountain,” Rasmussen finished tied for runner up at 5 under par behind former University of Utah star Brandon Kida -- helping him advance to his fourth straight sectional qualifier.
Playing at Lake Merced and the Olympic Club Ocean courses in northern California, Rasmussen knew this time was going to be different from the rest. “He was going to make it” he had told himself. Posting scores of 66-71 at the 36-hole qualifier, Rasmussen finished tied for third and managed to be one of five players good enough to secure their spots in the U.S. Open-- accomplishing something he’s wanted to do for a very long time.
Now getting a chance to ponder his future, Rasmussen now contemplates the journey ahead of him and his desire to play on the Tour one day. As one of the top-amateur players in the state, Rasmussen will continue to attend BYU with hopes of also finishing his exercise and wellness degree with intentions of having a back-up plan.
Rasmussen’s next “major” tournament will be the U.S. Amateur, Aug. 13-19, at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course.