ERIN, Wis. – When Mason Andersen took his unofficial visit to Arizona State, he didn’t get to meet Jon Rahm, but he remembered seeing the former All-American hitting balls on the range and being in awe.
That day, Andersen “tried to just stay out of his way.” But on Monday at Erin Hills, Andersen found himself teeing it up in a practice round alongside Rahm, now a PGA Tour winner and the world’s 10th-ranked player.
“It was amazing,” said Andersen, 18, who will make his first major start at this week’s U.S. Open. “He’s such a great guy, and he had so much advice for me, too. Just to talk to him and pick his brain; I can see why he’s at the top of leaderboards week in and week out.”
Andersen, a Chandler, Ariz., native who will begin college at Arizona State this fall, hopes to one day be just like Rahm, playing on the PGA Tour. Their games are already similar. Rahm’s agent and former Arizona State coach, Tim Mickelson, recruited Andersen and said Andersen, like Rahm, doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses.
Andersen’s coach at Hamilton High School, Steve Kanner, agrees.
“He is a complete player who is able to overpower most golf courses,” Kanner told the Arizona Republic.
Overpowering 7,741-yard Erin Hills, though, may be difficult for the young amateur. Instead, Andersen plans on taking advantage of the greens – he said his speed control has been great so far this week – and playing like he did when he sectional-qualified for the U.S. Open last week in Newport Beach, Calif.
“Sectionals taught me a lot,” Andersen said. “I just stayed out of my own way. … It was a really stress-free round of golf that first round. It felt like a 72 but it was a 64. I just let things happen. Especially on this course, you have to stay patient.”
Staying patient was one of the things Rahm stressed to Andersen.
“I told him, listen, this is a marathon,” Rahm said. “It’s going to be mentally exhausting. It’s going to be a long week. Take it easy. … Don’t play 18 holes every day because you’re going to run out of steam when you get to Thursday.”
It will surely be a whirlwind week for Andersen. His dad, Rick, will caddie. A large group of family – including Andersen’s sister, Abby, an ASU softball commit – and friends are in Wisconsin, too, as is Andersen’s swing coach of more than two years, Ben Weir.
And then there’s the hundreds of fans who could be surrounding the first tee when Andersen tees off Thursday afternoon.
Andersen admits he’s nervous. He told Rahm that on Monday.
“It’s the atmosphere that gets me and I asked him, ‘What do you do?’” Andersen said. “He’s like, ‘You know what? Don’t worry about those people. Just do your thing and block it all out.”
Rahm’s advice to Andersen on that first tee shot?
“I was like, ‘You know, Mason, you get to that first tee, you’re going to be absolutely terrified … it’s going to be the scariest thing you’ve ever faced,’” Rahm said. “I told him to grip the club soft and hit it as hard as you can.”
Luckily for Andersen, that first hole at Erin Hills is a par 5.