What’s it like warming up next to Rory McIlroy as a 15-year-old amateur?
Cole Hammer had no idea what he was getting himself into when he teed it up at Chambers Bay seven years ago. Hammer famously qualified for the 2015 U.S. Open as a 15-year-old amateur, making him the third-youngest qualifier in history.
He was a big name in junior golf coming in, as he had previously committed to the University of Texas as an eighth-grader. He shot 77-84 and missed the cut, and Hammer, now 23, broke down those crazy few days in Washington on this week’s GOLF’s Subpar podcast.
“I kind of describe it as a circus. The closest thing I could relate it to was like a U.S. Junior qualifier,” Hammer told Subpar co-hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz. “When I was that young that’s all I had to go off of, and then when I showed up at the U.S. Open my eyes were opened and haven’t shut since. It was wild. One of my range sessions I was hitting next to Rory, and obviously I idolize Rory growing up. To turn around as a 15 year old and see Rory McIlroy hitting balls next to you and you are actually hitting balls next to him is pretty wild.”
Hammer also made sure he got an up-close look at Tiger Woods — even if he had to work for it.
“The range at Chambers is pretty big, but Tiger didn’t want to hit balls next to the rest of us so he took his bag of balls and hit on the other side of the fairway bunker,” Hammer said. “Me being a 15-year-old and curious, I walked over there and hit some balls out of the fairway bunker just to watch him hit. I just soaked it all in. Going in I was a stubborn 15-year-old and thought I could win the tournament, but looking back on it, when I couldn’t reach two of the fairways [from the tee], I pretty much didn’t have much of a shot.”
Hammer has conditional Korn Ferry Tour status for 2023, which he secured via help from the PGA Tour University Velocity Global Ranking. He’s also coming off his best two-week stretch as a pro. He made his first PGA Tour cut last month at the Houston Open, and a week later he tied for fifth at the RSM Classic.
You can listen to Hammer’s complete Subpar interview here.