At 15 years old, most teenagers are focused on their first years of high school, entering driver’s education programs, and maybe playing a sport or two for fun. At 15, golf sensation Cole Hammer is doing all of this — and then some.
On Thursday, Hammer became the third-youngest golfer to ever play in a U.S. Open, at 15 years, 9 months, when he shot a three-over 77 at Chambers Bay golf course in University Place, Washington. He had qualified for the Open two weeks earlier, in Dallas, Texas, by shooting rounds of 64 and 68 on a par 70 course.
Hammer arrived at Chambers Bay on June 12 and immediately got to playing. “I played the first hole, and I was in a bit of shock; I’ve never seen anything like it before,” said Hammer. He added later, “I really like the course now. I think it kind of suits my game...I really can’t wait to get started.”
He got out to a very fast start during his opening round at the Open, and through the first nine holes, he shot a 37 to give him a score of just two strokes over par.
He continued his hot streak over the next two holes but went cold shortly after. On the 12th through 15th holes, he had three bogeys and one double-bogey. Those mistakes brought him to seven-over par, a score that stayed with him the rest of the afternoon.
After the round, Hammer explained his troubles. “If you don’t put your ball on the fairways, some bad things can happen,” he said. “And unfortunately I missed too many fairways.”
The round was not without its positives, however. “I hit a lot of short-game shots, reflected Hammer. “I struck the ball fairly well, other than the drives I missed pretty badly on.”
One of those short-game shots came on the 15th hole, a par-3. After a tee shot into a very deep bunker surrounding the green, Hammer responded with a chip out of the sand that landed just inches from the cup. He was then able to tap it in to save par.
Though Hammer will not make the cut to play the final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday — he enters Friday tied for 134th place — he did get to play in his first major tournament. When asked what it was like to tee off for the first time in the U.S. Open, Hammer said, “I’ve never felt that feeling. It was so different,” he said. “But I liked it. It was kind of a different-like kind of a sweet feeling to have...I can’t even describe it.”
A sophomore in high school in Houston, Hammer has already committed to playing golf at the University of Texas after he graduates. Not only is he a Longhorns fan, but he also loves the Houston Texans and the Houston Rockets — especially their main scorer, James Harden.
When he’s not on the golf course or in the classroom, Hammer is usually hanging out with his friends, some of whom made the trip to the Pacific Northwest to cheer him on. “That will probably calm me down a bit, lighten the mood I guess,” said Hammer. “But they’ve been really supportive.”
Though caught smiling before he teed off on the first hole, Hammer was all business on the golf course. His best days are ahead of him, and he has plenty of time to get there.
Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images