It's (Cole) Hammer time at Houston Open for Texas sophomore

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

It's (Cole) Hammer time at Houston Open for Texas sophomore

PGA Tour

It's (Cole) Hammer time at Houston Open for Texas sophomore

By

Cole Hammer remembers what it was like to attend the Houston Open as a kid. The 20-year-old Houston native scored a prized parking pass to the 2013 rendition, and waited by his parents’ car to talk to Charles Howell III and get Rory McIlroy’s autograph.

“Rory was definitely my favorite golfer at the time, so spent an hour on the range watching him beat balls, which was pretty special,” Hammer said. “And I remember I was out on the third hole, the dogleg left around the water, watching Lee Westwood hit a 3-wood. To this day I think it’s the purest golf shot I’ve ever seen hit in my life. He just smashed it; it was unbelievable.”

This week Hammer, 20, ranked second in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, is playing against the pros at Golf Club of Houston in the event where he used to play rounds before the tournament with the empty bleachers and dreaming of this day.

“We were probably 10, 11, 12 years old, I can’t remember,” he said. “We were probably playing like the ladies tees out here and looking back at the back tees thinking, man, how do they hit the ball so far?”

Houston Open: Leaderboard | Tee times | Updates

This isn’t Hammer’s first taste of the big time. At age 15, he made a big splash with his boyish grin and precocious game, qualifying for the 2015 U.S. Open. He shot 77 in the first round and beat Tiger Woods by three strokes that day.

As a freshman at the University of Texas last season, Hammer notched three collegiate victories, and last month represented the victorious United States team at the Walker Cup, a biennial competition between amateur male golfers from the U.S. and Great Britain and Ireland. The sophomore sensation also missed some class time for two other college events, but he couldn’t pass up a sponsor invite into his hometown event.

“My teachers aren’t loving me right now, but I guess that’s the way it goes,” he said.

Hammer made a double bogey on his second hole, No. 11, and hit only six of 14 fairways, but his putter served him well and he rolled in eight birdies en route to a 5-under 67. That left him three strokes off the pace of co-leaders Austin Cook and Talor Gooch after the morning wave. Cook played bogey-free and hit all 18 greens in regulation while Gooch carded 10 birdies, including holing a 63-foot putt at No. 9.

An amateur hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since Phil Mickelson at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open, and Hammer wasn’t about to allow himself to start thinking ahead about such lofty goals.

“It was a great start, just what I wanted,” he said.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home