A Lifetime Experience
July 1, 2009
By Larry Watts
If this is what life is like as a professional golfer, David Erdy welcomes it.
For the past two months, the 19-year-old Boonville, Ind. native has put together a whirlwind agenda. The month of May kicked off with the Big Ten Championships in State College, Pa. Eight days later, he was teeing off at the local U.S. Open qualifier in French Lick, Ind. After two off days, he was competing with Indiana in the NCAA Southeast Regional in Sorrento, Fla. In between, there were stops back in Bloomington, where Erdy was completing his freshman year of study.
A victory at the local U.S. Open qualifier put him in the sectional field in Dayton June 8, where he finished in a six-way tie for the first alternate spot. The top four finishers automatically qualified for the U.S. Open, but a playoff had to determine the top alternate position.
"We all figured there was going to be a six-way playoff for the fourth position, but one of the golfers from the final group came in with a card beating us all by one stroke," he says.
After the first hole, the six-man field had been cut in half. Then Erdy birdied the second hole to claim the top alternate position, but he figured he was going to have a couple of weeks off to prepare for the Indiana Amateur June 23-26.
That all changed with a phone call on the morning of June 15. One of qualifiers from the Dayton sectional had opted out of the U.S. Open and Erdy was headed to Farmingdale, N.Y. to play on Bethpage Black, one of the most prestigious courses on the PGA Tour.
"Playing in the U.S. Open is something a golfer always thinks about, but I was not dwelling on it," he says. "It was just a goal and I was fortunate enough it happened. That phone call actually woke me up. What a perfect wakeup call!"
But by the time Erdy arrived in Farmingdale late Tuesday, it was too late to get in his first practice round. His first time on the course was Wednesday's practice round.
"It was a beautiful day, sunny and 75-80 degrees," he says. But that would be the last time in the next three days golfers would see the sun as rain and cold weather set in.
"It made things pretty interesting," Erdy said of the weather. "I felt like I was in the middle of Big Ten golf weather. But I figured I'm 19 years old at the U.S. Open, so I wasn't about to complain about anything."
Erdy was paired with professionals Lee Westwood and Zach Johnson, a Drake graduate who is a big fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes, for the first two rounds.
"Westwood is nice guy, but very quiet," he says. "Zach talked quite a bit. He was willing to talk about whatever topic was on his mind."
Erdy, who bogeyed the first hole, admits he was a little nervous when he stepped up to the tee box on the opening hole.
"Probably one the scariest moments of my life," he says with a laugh. "All these people were around. It was pretty intense, but exciting as well. Then things started to click and I was having fun."
According to Erdy, it also helped to have his father, Gary, along as his caddie.
"My dad was there to carry the clubs and say 'good shot,"' he says. "My dad doesn't golf much, so we just tried to enjoy every moment of it. He did try to calm me down when I got nervous, but I actually think he was more nervous than I was most of the first round."
Because of the rain and early darkness setting in, Erdy's threesome only got in seven holes on the first day. They were back out at the crack of dawn Friday to complete the round and then got part of the second round in later in the day. After finishing the first round with an 8-over 78, he finally completed the second round Saturday with a 74, but failed to make the cut.
One of the big highlights of his play came on the next-to-last hole, the par 3 No. 8, on Saturday. He drained a 35-footer for birdie.
"Westwood then stepped up and sank a 25-footer and the crowd just went nuts," he says.
According to Erdy, the New York crowd was very supportive of the amateurs. Using his Indiana University bag with head covers and wearing Indiana polo shirts along with a huge IU belt buckle, he found quite a few Hoosier supporters when he birdied the 14th hole in the second round.
"All of a sudden several people started doing the Hoosier chant when I made that putt," he says. "That was pretty cool."
Although he didn't make the cut, Erdy was very satisfied with his performance and was especially impressed with the course.
"Bethpage is a really nice course," he says. "I wish I could have played a little better. It's a very demanding course, but very rewarding if you hit good shots. The greens are pretty flat, so you can make a lot of putts. I was lucky enough to make a few and hung in there."
While he would have liked to have made the cut, the extended stay in New York threw off his preparation schedule for the Indiana Amateur, which ran June 23-26 in Peru. He flew into Evansville and then made the six-hour drive to Evansville in order to get in his practice round before the tournament opened.
"It's tough to schedule around the U.S. Open, especially with not knowing if I was going to be there or not," he says. "I was really tired. It probably wasn't the best thing to do, play in New York and then have another tournament a couple of days later in northern Indiana. But that's no excuse; I just didn't play well."
Erdy did manage to make the cut. However, he wound up with a four-day total of 306, 24 strokes behind the winner.
But before he can enjoy a three-week period to recover and relax, he first must get through the North-South Amateur this week in Pinehurst, N.C.
"What is there to complain about?" he asks. "I'm traveling all across the nation and playing in golf tournaments on some of the most prestigious courses.
"I thought I had a successful freshman year at Indiana. I won a tournament in California, placed second in another and had six top-25 finishes. I may not be the most consistent golfer, but my best golf is as good as anyone else's. I just need to work on making my bad golf better; then I'll be a pretty good player."
Erdy plans to major in psychology at Indiana, but he has bigger plans for his future.
"You never feel like you have gotten everything out of your first year of collegiate golf, but I feel like I'm headed in the right direction," he says. "I'm seeing where I want to be and I think that's attainable now.
"People keep telling me playing in the U.S. Open is a once in a lifetime experience, but I plan on making it an annual trip."