Garrett Osborn, a U.S. Open rookie at 32 years old

Getty Images

Garrett Osborn, a U.S. Open rookie at 32 years old

PGA Tour

Garrett Osborn, a U.S. Open rookie at 32 years old

ERIN, Wis. – Garrett Osborn didn’t start playing competitive golf until after he graduated from Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, Ala. He was 18. For perspective, the youngest player in this week’s U.S. Open field is 18-year-old Mason Andersen of Chandler, Ariz. Since 1997, 15 players ages 18 and under have advanced through local and sectional qualifiers.

Osborn is a U.S. Open rookie at age 32. That’s the beauty of the worldwide qualifying system: Dreams come true on all different kinds of timelines.

Growing up, Osborn played a “once a month Saturday dogfight” round of golf in Birmingham, Ala., with his father and brothers. Otherwise, he was leading his 6A school to a 13-1 record as quarterback. He planned to play baseball in college until changing his mind one week before graduation.

That’s when University of Alabama-Birmingham coach Alan Kaufman stepped in with a scholarship offer for the golf team. His stipulation: play everything this summer.

The retired coach remembers the outgoing, affable Osborn struggling to fill out a form for the Press Thornton Future Masters because he had no tournament history to report.

Kaufman, whose grandson is PGA Tour player Smylie Kaufman, took a chance on Osborn because his older brother Payton played on UAB teams that qualified for the NCAA Championship in 2000 and ’01. Payton also received a scholarship to play baseball at Mississippi State but was sidelined with elbow surgery. He switched to golf at UAB and was teammates with 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.

Payton qualified for the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock and competed on the Web.com Tour. He’s on the bag this week for his little brother.

“I’d never be here if it wasn’t for him,” said Garrett.

Payton said sister Lynn Ellen might be the most athletic one in the family. The former gymnast decided on a whim to try out as an Ole Miss cheerleader and made it – with no previous experience.

At UAB, Garrett was understandably green. The aggressive, uber-competitive player knew only one gear: hard.

Course management would come later. He learned some things the hard way. Kaufman recalled a time during Osborn’s freshman season when he posted a double-digit score on a hole because he didn’t know the rules. What rule was it?

“I forgot, but he did something dumb,” Kaufman said, laughing.

Garrett Osborn, shown in college at UAB

Osborn ended his freshman year ranked 768th by Golfweek. Two years later he had risen as high as No. 2 in the country, winning the Jerry Pate National with rounds of 62-65-69. His 197 total tied McDowell’s school record. The 62 set a new 18-hole scoring mark for UAB. Not bad for a guy who played in tennis shoes.

It also happened to be same week Osborn injured his wrist on a rock in a bunker that ultimately kept him out of the NCAA postseason.

Osborn’s luck didn’t get much better as a professional.

“I’ve kind of been a walking ambulance,” he said, referring to the ruptured disc in his back.

Osborn, who has only played in 10 Web.com events since the 2010 season, Sunday-qualified for last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic after shooting 67 and claimed a spot in a 6-for-2 playoff. The next day he shot 65-68 in Memphis, Tenn., to qualify for his first major championship.

There was no time to let the accomplishment sink in until Osborn arrived on Sunday. He’s a late-bloomer again at Erin Hills, but has already proven to be a quick study.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home