Deere mpany : Small-town tourney suits them just fine
As a young journalist, lessons are learned with every story. What I learned Thursday is -- like all good golfers -- the art of the scramble.
In my research, I narrowed my interview targets to four players:
The 31-year-old Merritt was born in
"My family comes out in full force for this event, and they have a great time," Merritt said. "It's really the only chance I get to see most of them all year. It's a big one for me to make every year."
In his sixth year as a regular on the
"It's a very fun golf course," Merritt said. "Every week is different, from the tournaments everybody knows about to the smaller ones. The course is in great shape; it always is. It's a tournament I'll never miss for as long as I'm playing."
After Thursday's round, Merritt sits at 2 under with a solid first round of 69. He was 1-over after the first nine, but finished with three birdies on the back.
Watson, a native of
I caught Weekley (a native of
Points, an Illinois boy from
With that, I searched the grounds as the sun started to set for just one more player from a small area who could relate to the Tour's stop in
That player was
On Monday, Lawrence received the call of a lifetime. He was being awarded a sponsor's exemption to play in his hometown tournament, on his home course.
He rushed down from
"Those smaller tours are kind of the minor leagues, so this is like getting the call-up to the majors," Lawrence said. "I feel comfortable here because I've spent so many long weeks here. I know what to expect."
Stepping up to the No. 10 tee for his first shot, Lawrence resorted to cracking a joke to ease some of the pressure he felt.
"I just wanted to get it airborne," Lawrence said. "I joked with my caddie and said, 'All right, let's just make contact here.'"
The 27-year-old ended up bogeying the par-5 10th, but settled into a good rhythm on the holes afterward. He even got into red numbers with consecutive birdies on 16 and 17, but bogeyed 18 to finish his front nine at even-par.
His second nine featured two bogeys, two birdies and a double bogey. At 2-over and 10 shots behind leaders Charles Howell III and
"It's very humbling to know there's so much support behind me," Lawrence said. "Getting the same excitement from the crowd as some of the big names is awesome. It makes me realize that this is what I want to do week in and week out."
At the end of my interviews with Merritt and Lawrence, they both asked me, "See you tomorrow?"
I told them no, but their exact same responses made me smile much larger than my frowns at Watson and Weekley.
"Darn. Well, it was nice to meet you. Drive back safe," they said.
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