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Derek Barron Diary: Day 2 – Setting My Game Plan

June 13, 2017 Erin, Wis. By Derek Barron
Qualifier and first-time U.S. Open competitor Derek Barron put together his game plan for Erin Hills by playing 18 holes on Tuesday. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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 second installment:

After a two-hour weather delay, we finally got out on the course and played 18 holes today. I was able to play six holes on the front nine late Monday afternoon after I registered, so now I’ve got a pretty good feel for the layout.

It was terrific to have Erin Hills caddie and Marquette rising senior Austin Kendziorski out there today. He showed my caddie, Greg Talley, and me a lot of the correct lines to take off the tee, especially on the blind shots. If we didn’t have his assistance, I think playing this course would have been much more challenging.

Now I have a really good game plan and a better idea of what clubs to hit off each of these tees; where to be aggressive and where not to be aggressive. It should be fun.

If you can drive it well, you can score here, especially since the conditions are a little soft from all of the rain (1.75 inches in the past day). If it dries out some more, it will be a bit more challenging. The course is long. Luckily, we got to play Erin Hills today with a different wind. It made the long holes even longer. Hopefully, the wind will switch to the normal, prevailing wind by the time the championship starts on Thursday.

I played with good friend and fellow Tacoma-area native Michael Putnam, PGA Tour winner David Lingmerth and veteran Stewart Cink, the 2009 winner of the Open Championship who is making his 20th U.S. Open start this week. What I learned is I can play with these guys. My game stacks up. I feel I’ve put in the work to get to this point. Whether this week goes well or not, I believe that.

One of the best things about the round was signing autographs. It’s great to watch a kid smile, even if they don’t know who I am. I am sure almost nobody out here knows who I am. That’s OK. For me, a relative nobody, it’s an honor to sign autographs. I feel lucky to have this opportunity.

I didn’t go to the U.S. Open when it was in my backyard in 2015 (at Chambers Bay). I was too upset for not making it through qualifying, so I stayed home and watched it on television.

Being inside the ropes and playing in front of all these people is really cool. It’s almost easier when there are a lot of people versus when there’s just a couple hundred like we see out on the Mackenzie Tour. They kind of just drown out everything around you. But it’s cool. Everybody here is so nice and supportive. The crowd laughs with you when somebody tells a joke that is audible.

On Monday night, we settled in and met our host family. John Mercure is an Emmy Award-winning radio host on WTMJ (AM 620) in Milwaukee. He and his wife were so nice. It felt like we had known them for years instead of one day. We drank some beers and watched Game 5 of the NBA Finals before getting to bed. We were pretty exhausted from the flight and playing a few holes.

Madi, my wife of 3½ years, and I hope to get into Milwaukee on Wednesday for a date night. She deserves to enjoy this experience as much as me. We met through her father, Eric Vanalstine, who is a 3-4 handicap and now lives on Tacoma Country & Golf Club, where I am an honorary member, and where I qualified for this year’s U.S. Open. He and my parents, along with an uncle, are coming on Wednesday. They are so excited. They’ve been there for me through the tough stuff, and have rode the waves and constantly told me to keep pushing through, and I did. This is where it brought me. I feel lucky.

My plan is to just play nine holes on Wednesday. We’ll likely play the back nine because I feel that’s the key to having success out here.

Then it’s time to do this for real on Thursday.