Taylor Funk makes a name for himself at U.S. Am
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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – It runs in the family.
Taylor Funk, son of eight-time PGA Tour winner Fred Funk, advanced to Wednesday’s Round of 64 at the U.S. Amateur after a 4-under 68 during the final round of stroke play qualifying.
After making the turn at even par for the day – 1 over for the tournament – Funk brought the heat on the back nine, running off four birdies on the 7,381-yard, par-72 Riverside course at Atlanta Athletic Club.
“It was a pretty solid day,” Taylor said. “My putting, actually all of my short game, was really good today.”
Not only was it a big day for Taylor as he advanced to match play in his first U.S. Golf Association Championship, but it was also an emotional day for the whole Funk family. Fred, who was at Atlanta Athletic Club on Monday, receives text updates from his wife, Sharon, when he’s not at the course to watch, and Tuesday was no different.
“It’s unbelievable, just beyond words right now,” said Fred via telephone from Endicott, N.Y., site of this week’s Champions Tour event. “I was a nervous wreck for most of the morning.”
PHOTOS: 2014 U.S. Amateur (Tuesday)
View images from Tuesday's stroke play on both the Highlands Course and Riverside Course at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
“Unfortunately he had to leave early, but he gets a lot more nervous than I do out there,” Taylor said of his father, whom he caddied for from age 15-18. “He was texting my mom today and saying how he can breathe now after I made pars and stuff.
“It’s funny watching him watch me because when you’re playing you can control it, but when you’re outside the ropes it’s a totally different thing. Now he gets to feel how I felt growing up.”
Taylor's youth was much different than that of most other kids. From a young age, he traveled on the PGA and Champions Tour with his family to watch his dad compete, and he was homeschooled by his mom.
Taylor was around the best of the best all the time – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus – week in and week out. So it was only natural for Taylor to pick up his dad's sticks when he was old enough.
Taylor mentioned caddying in groups that included Champions Tour players Bernhard Langer and Fred Couples as his most thrilling experiences. Not only did he get to walk alongside some of the game’s greats, he could also learn from them on a daily basis.
“I learned course management, which I didn’t do great yesterday but much better today,” Taylor said. “And just how to mentally be right, especially for these national championships. You have to hit greens, make putts and eliminate the bogey, which I did today.”
Fred said that as Taylor caddied, he found out that these high-profiled players weren't any different from other people. They were just better at golf.
"I think he saw that, and realized that he can do it, too," Fred said. "He's not awestruck about anyone."
Fred believes that his son has the same drive as he does.
“He’s very passionate,” Fred said. “He has the drive to get it. A goal of mine when I was younger was to try and get through college and see how good I can get, and I think Taylor has taken on a similar role, and now his game has skyrocketed.”
Advancing to match play was a bit of a double bonus for Taylor, too, as Texas head coach John Fields is using the U.S. Amateur stroke play segment as the first qualifier for the team’s first fall college tournament – the Fighting Illini Invitational at Olympia Fields outside Chicago.
There are six Longhorns in this week’s field – only five compete for a college team per tournament – and Taylor has secured a spot in the Longhorns’ opening lineup.
As for Fred, he’s not sure about his Champions Tour schedule next month, but he did guarantee this: if he has a week off, you can bet he’ll be there to support his son in his first collegiate tournament.
"I am just so proud of him," Fred said.