He didn't arrive at the Honda Classic by helicopter or fire
engine. Truth is, he didn't even rate a courtesy car, which on
today's PGA Tour means you're as obscure as they come. Tim
Herron was a nobody's nobody, a fat-cheeked rookie fill-in fresh
from Q school, here only to round out the field. "When he came
into the pro shop on Wednesday," says Scott Gray, the head pro
at Eagle Trace in Coral Springs, Fla., where they played the
Honda last week, "I didn't even know he was a player."
Gray must not get out from behind the counter much because the
next day he still didn't have a clue. And this was after Herron
had blistered the much-feared Eagle Trace for a
When Gray ran into the pleasant, chubby kid he had seen in his
shop, he stopped and wondered obliviously, "Can you believe
somebody shot 62 today?"
"Yeah," said Herron, "it was me."
March 18, 1996
"I was so embarrassed," Gray said later, "I didn't even want to
For the next time you run into him, Scott, here's the lowdown.
The guy's name is Tim Herron. He's 26, from Wayzata, Minn. Hits
the bejeebers out of the ball. Could be the next people's
choice, like Daly. Went wire-to-wire to win easily in Coral
Springs, and no rookie has done that since Nick Price.
Fact is, except for the baby fat and the goofy grin, Herron
didn't look or act much like a rookie all week. Maybe that has
something to do with the way they grow 'em in the great white
North. You know, cool as ice, strong, sturdy Nordic types who,
like Tom Lehman and 1993 U.S. Amateur champ John Harris, don't
freeze up in the clutch. Normally they're late bloomers, which
stands to reason since the ice-fishing season doesn't give way
to spring and golf until after the first hatch of mayflies.
And Herron seems to have something special, some extra quality
beyond North Country stoicism. It's more than just hitting the
ball farther than John Daly.
"He's different from all the other kids," says Harris. "He
doesn't know how much talent he's got. He's not made from the
same cookie cutter. Being the same doesn't work out there.
You've got to be different to be successful, and by different I
mean unique. Tim doesn't take himself or the game too seriously.
He just tries to hit it where he's looking."
Herron has always been that way, with mostly good results. He
grew up in a golfing family, about a nine-iron shot away from
the 5th hole at Wayzata Country Club. His paternal grandfather,
Carson Lee, won state titles in Minnesota and Iowa, while his
father, Carson, is the reigning club champion at Wayzata. Herron
took the customary route through junior and state events. In
1988 he was the Minnesota junior player of the year. "He may
look country-clubbish and spoiled," said Carson, "but he's a
Herron was good enough to catch a full ride to New Mexico, where
he blossomed into an All-America, winning five times against the
likes of David Duval, Justin Leonard and Phil Mickelson. The
highlight of his amateur career came in 1993, when the Walker
Cup was held at Interlachen and Herron went 3-0 before the home
folks. Harris will never forget one of those matches. He and
Herron were teamed in foursomes, and they came to the final hole
protecting a one-up lead. Harris pulled his approach shot into
the woods. It looked as if Herron were dead, but he saved the
point by hitting a flop shot through the branches and onto the
green, stopping the ball inches from the hole. "It took nerve to
hit that shot," Harris says.
End of highlight film. In the fall of 1993, Herron didn't make
it past the first stage of Q school, and he spent most of '94
bouncing around the Australian and Canadian tours before taking
another crack at the Tour school. He did well enough to qualify
for the Nike tour, where last year he wound up 25th on the money
list--and with the reputation as a guy who might not have won a
tournament but was untouchable in the long-drive contests. "The
players called him Bam Bam because he was as long as Fred
Couples," says his sister Alissa, who was an All-Big Ten golfer
at Wisconsin. Last December, while Carson was coming in second
in an American Seniors Golf Association tournament at PGA
National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Tim was finishing in a tie
for ninth in the Tour's Q school final at nearby Bear Lakes.
All of which does not even come close to explaining why he was
able to manhandle a muscular field at the Honda, which included
the world-class foursome of Greg Norman, Price, Nick Faldo and
Bernhard Langer. Herron, 5'10" and 210 pounds, was playing in
only his eighth Tour event and arrived at Eagle Trace ranked
115th on the money list with a paltry $16,924. His best finish
had been a tie for 24th in San Diego. No one expected the 62. No
one expected him to shoot a 17-under-par 271 for the tournament.
And no one expected him to run lead dog for 72 holes without
missing a step on a golf course peppered with trap doors and
banana peels. Everyone expected the worst on a miserably rainy
Sunday, but Herron birdied four straight holes on the front
side, shot 69 and won by four strokes over Mark
McCumber. Price was five back, along with Payne Stewart and Lee
Rinker. Norman and Faldo were no factor. Langer missed the cut.
Herron had a simple explanation--"It was time for me to step up,"
he said--but this was more like a huge leap.
On Thursday you could have taken bets that Herron wouldn't stand
up, even after he capped the 62 by chipping in at 18 for his
10th birdie. But because that day Norman and Price made their
grand entrance in the Shark's helicopter and then were rushed to
the clubhouse in a truck from the Coral Springs fire department,
Herron's fast start hardly caused a stir. Price saw Herron's
number on the leader board and figured that either his total was
left over from the best-ball in Wednesday's pro-am or the
electronic scoreboards had blown a circuit. He had no
recollection of meeting a Mr. Herron. "Sorry to say, I've never
heard of him," Price said.
The over-under on Herron's second round was set at 75. At the
Nortel Open he went 66-79 and missed the cut, but this time his
short game bailed him out. Herron saved par six times from off
the green and shot 68 to open a six-stroke lead. Still, no one
believed. Outside the scoring tent a TV reporter stuck a camera
and mike in Herron's face and asked, "Who are you?"
That night at the Minneapolis airport, waiting to catch the next
flight to South Florida, Carson was telling anyone who would
listen about his son, stopping strangers to show them the local
paper with Tim's name in the headline. One of those innocent
bystanders happened to be a football coach. He pulled out a
legal pad and wrote: "Tim, Great Going. 62-68-?-?. Best of luck
in your career. Barry Switzer, XXX."
Herron erased those question marks on the weekend. Following a
72 on Saturday, which gave him a three-stroke lead, he was
paired in the last group on Sunday with another phenom, Michael
Campbell (box, previous page), the 27-year-old from New Zealand
who led last year's British Open on the final day. Herron had
ample opportunity to collapse. But while Campbell was repeating
his St. Andrews fade, Herron made the turn with a five-stroke
lead, rebounded from a bogey at the 13th with a birdie at 14 and
saved bogey at the 17th with a 12-footer from the fringe.
McCumber, who shot four rounds in the 60s, was not among the
doubters. "Tim was a young man who didn't back down," he said.
"I never discounted him. I said on Friday that he could win
going away, and that's what he did."
Herron's play was of the steely sort usually turned in by a
veteran, not by some rookie contending for the first time. Where
did that attitude, that extra ingredient, come from? Maybe
Gerald McCullagh, Herron's teacher, provided it. The week before
the tournament, he adjusted Herron's ball position, moving it
even with his spine. That allowed Herron to swing freely yet
keep the ball in the fairway. From there Herron put the ball on
the green almost automatically, and once on he never seemed to
miss, averaging 27 putts per round. "I was rolling the pill," he
said. The final stats said it all. Herron led in driving
distance (Daly was second), was No. 2 in greens hit in
regulation, ninth in putting and 20th in driving accuracy, which
had been his undoing. Herron came into the Honda ranked last
among the 128 players listed in the fairways-hit category.
All the numbers and sudden acclaim hit Herron at once on Sunday
night in the clubhouse at Eagle Trace, where he smoked cigars
and drank imported beer with his father and friends from
Minnesota. Norman and Price had already completed their
helicopter commutes home; they had separate choppers for the
weekend. Outside, Herron's rented Chevy Lumina was waiting (he
didn't know that part of his prize was a car--he could pick the
model--made by Honda). Already comparisons were being made with
Daly and his legendary 1991 PGA triumph.
Yes, this new kid who hits the ball so big might be as good.
It's also possible that we might never see him again. That sort
of thing happens in golf. Remember Price? Yes, he went
wire-to-wire as a rookie in 1983, and then he didn't win again
for eight years.
But now was not the time for such worries. It was a time for
Herron to marvel at all that he had gained. There will be a trip
to the Masters, invitations to all the winners-only events and a
precious two-year exemption. There will even be a courtesy car.