What 2 amateurs learned from U.S. Open practice round with Collin Morikawa

Collin Morikawa hits a shot during his Tuesday practice round at the U.S. Open.

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BROOKLINE, Mass. — Collin Morikawa paced the fairways of The Country Club on Tuesday morning, and the droves of fans following along showered him in praise. He’s a two-time major winner, after all, and one of the most universally well-liked players in pro golf. He used to that kind of treatment.

Playing alongside Morikawa, however, were a couple of unfamiliar faces. Instead of playing with fellow Tour stars in prep for the U.S. Open, the 25-year-old latched on to a couple of amateurs — Nicholas Dunlap and Michael Thorbjornsen.

Not that you would know they were amateurs by the look of them. Both players are rocking staff bags this week — just like the pros — and their approach to the practice rounds looked professional, as well. On each hole, they prepared for every conceivable scenario — chips from unusual spots, lag putts from the far corners of the putting surfaces and the proper lines to blind landing areas.

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Then there was the way they hit the ball.

Dunlap and Thorbjornsen each have that sound when they make contact, and they outdrove Morikawa on a number of holes. If power is the way the game is trending, the next gen is doing its part. These guys can smoke it.

“[Michael] is a great player,” Morikawa said. “He has a great future ahead of him if he still wants to keep doing it … It was just a lot of fun to see him and Nick and just kind of go back to how it was three, four years ago trying to just take everything in.”

Morikawa is not the only one who came away from the day impressed. After their nine-hole jaunt around The Country Club on Tuesday morning, GOLF.com caught up with the two amateurs to get their takeaways from playing with a two-time major winner.

Here’s what they had to say.

Nicholas Dunlap

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Nicholas Dunlap is among the top junior golfers in the country, and his win at last summer’s U.S. Junior Amateur earned him a spot in this week’s field. It’s an opportunity he isn’t taking for granted.

“It’s eye-opening,” Dunlap said. “You’re an 18-year-old and you’re playing on the grandest stage of golf with a major champion. It’s pretty cool.”

Dunlap said the biggest learning he took away from the day was getting insight into how to manage his schedule as he makes the jump from junior golf to amateur golf (and, eventually, pro golf).

“I just picked his brain about time management,” Dunlap said. “Especially on weeks like this. I think that’ll really help me going forward.”

Michael Thorbjornsen

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Even at the ripe old age of 20, Michael Thorbjornsen has a decorated resume. He’s already made a cut in the U.S. Open (2019) and his marquee wins include the U.S. Junior and the Western Amateur. Yep, he’s got some serious game.

But even with a CV that most amateurs would kill for, Thorbjornsen knows he has a lot to learn. And he took that mentality with him into his practice round with Morikawa (who he calls his “favorite player”).

“I asked [Morikawa] on our fourth hole today, ‘What’s the one thing you would tell me to get better — to get to the next level? Because I’ll do it,'” Thorbjornsen said.

Morikawa’s answer was simple: reduce your three-putts.

“It’s something that I already knew, but hearing it from him it means more,” Thorbjornsen said.

The lessons didn’t end there.

“He also gave me some advice to play with the biggest players that I can, the ones that I look up to the most,” Thorbjornsen said. “Because that will make it feel more normal out there. Like it’s just another round of golf.”

Consider that mission accomplished at The Country Club.

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.