It's Hammer time
Cole Hammer, 15, prepares to tee it up at the U.S. Open
June 16, 2015
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Cole Hammer, 15, prepares to tee it up at the U.S. Open
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. -- His buddies call him "Hammer Time."
Not that the slender teenager and his friends have ever heard of the rapper Stanley Kirk Burrell, otherwise known to their parents' generation as MC Hammer.
Not to worry, though. Cole Hammer is quickly making a name for himself in the game of golf and this week -- at the age of 15 years, 9 months and 21 days -- he'll be the third youngest player to compete in the U.S. Open.
Hammer shot rounds of 64-68 in Dallas to qualify last Monday -- making birdies on four of his last five holes to lock up one of the six available spots. The 5-foot-9, 125-pounder is a rising junior at a private Houston prep called The Kincaid School and has already verbally committed to Texas.
"It was a blast," Cole said. "I got to play with a couple of pros in my sectional qualifier, and it was a really cool experience being able to play with them, seeing their game, just kind of what their life is like kind of out on TOUR."
Hammer is too modest to say that he played against -- and beat -- nearly two-dozen players currently competing on either the PGA TOUR or Web.com Tour. But he talks with wide-eyed wonder about hitting balls next to world No. 1 Rory McIlroy on Monday at Chambers Bay.
"He hits it so far, it's crazy," Cole said.
Hammer got to Chambers Bay on Friday and immediately played nine holes. He got in 18 over the weekend and another nine on Monday when he played with one of his idols, Dallas prodigy Jordan Spieth, the reigning Masters champion at the age of 21.
The course, which resembles a moonscape carved out of a gravel mine by the Puget Sound, was something of an acquired taste for Hammer.
"I played the first hole and I was in a bit of shock, I've never seen anything like it," Hammer said. "But then as I got more used to it, I ... really like it now. I think it kind of suits my game.
"A lot of the short game shots I really like around the greens, and I really can't wait to get started."
Hammer's tee time on Thursday is 9:12 a.m. PT and he'll play with Kevin Lucas of Folsom, California, and Pat Wilson of Andover, New Jersey. His gallery will likely include seven friends from Houston in addition to his mother, both sets of grandparents and an uncle and aunt.
"And then my dad on the bag means the world to me, especially on Father's Day," Cole said. "I think that's going to be a cool experience to be able to share together. He's caddied for me before and we work well together. I think we're going to have a great time out here."
Cole Hammer played with Jordan Spieth on Monday. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Turns out, Monday's practice round with the enormously popular Spieth was particularly good preparation for the excitement to come.
"I was really nervous, but I kind of have to channel that into kind of excitement so I can get excited for the first tee shot on Thursday, I guess," Hammer said. "... I don't know, you know, what it's going to be like hitting my tee shot in my first major. I'm really looking forward to it."
Hammer said Spieth, who is not that far removed from the kind of emotions the 15-year-old is experiencing, "embraced" him during their practice round. Ditto for players like Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson, who told Hammer to try to stay patient.
"Everyone's going to make bogeys," Hammer said, remembering the 2012 champ's counsel. "If you're making some bogeys, just know everyone else out there is struggling, especially at a course like this at the U.S. Open.
"And he said he thought that if I play well, I have a chance to compete which gave me a lot of confidence. I really appreciate his advice and I think his advice about being patient is going to be huge out here considering how hard it is."
Hammer has been playing golf since he first picked up a set of plastic clubs when he was about 2 years old. Both his parents are accomplished players in their own right – Hammer’s father winning two River Oaks club championships and his mother capturing three, once with her son on the bag.
"(The trophies) are right in the middle of the house," Hammer said, almost shyly adding his own hardware is stored in his room. His biggest win? The U.S. Kids World Championship in Pinehurst when he was 12 years old.
Hammer was a talented baseball player, too. But he got "burned out" from all the practice and the traveling teams, and Hammer eventually made the decision to concentrate on golf.
"I've never even come close to burning out of golf," Hammer said. "It's always just had a different feel for me. I've just loved golf since I've touched my first club."
Hammer was supposed to play in the Western Junior this week. He also had planned to play in a qualifier for the U.S. Junior Amateur next week in Houston and he has sights set on the U.S. Amateur qualifier in July.
"I didn't really expect for this to happen," Hammer said.
Hammer, whose ultimate goal is to compete on the PGA TOUR, plans to make the best of this week at Chambers Bay.
"I'm just glad to be here," Hammer said. "But I definitely want to try my best to make the cut, see what happens. I feel like my game is in a good place right now. So hopefully I'll be able to play pretty well, I guess.
"I don't know what Thursday and Friday are going to bring, but I'm excited for the challenge. I'm excited to see how the golf course reacts in a tournament round. But overall I don't have many expectations, I just kind of wanted to go out there and have fun, just experiencing my first major.