BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. (WOOD) — Nick Carlson was a two-time state champion golfer at Hamilton High School. Last year as a freshman, he led the Michigan Wolverines to the NCAA Regionals. Now, he is fulfilling a dream by playing in the 116th U.S. Amateur.
Oakland Hills is the host venue and it is a club filled with rich history and tradition. Its been the site of six U.S. Open tournaments, as well as three PGA Championships.
Hosting prestigious golfers and events is nothing new at Oakland Hills, but for 312 players, preparing for the daunting North and South courses is a new experience, no matter how many rounds of golf they have played.
“Being able to play this golf course that has so much history is really cool to me,” said Carlson. “You got guys like Tiger and Phil, played here in the Ryder Cup, Ricky Barnes won the U.S. Am here in 2002. Hopefully I can carry on that tradition and make West Michigan pretty proud of me.”
Carlson will begin stroke play Monday on hole No. 1 of the South course at 7:40 a.m. When he plugs his tee into the fresh cut turf of the tee box, it will be a dream turned into reality.
“I’ve always dreamt of playing in this. In terms of when I say the U.S. Am or think of the U.S. Am, I’m thinking of great players,” Carlson said. “I’m thinking of Tiger Woods, last year’s Bryson DeChambeau. I’m thinking of just guys that are on the Tour now, making money for a living and doing what they love for a living. Hopefully, if this tournament goes well, I can do that one day.”
That day could come sooner rather than later for Carlson. The top-two finishers in the U.S. Amateur earn automatic exemption to the Masters and U.S. Open. With the stakes high, it only enhances the goal.
“To win. The expectation is to be playing on the weekend, so be in the semifinals and finals. That is the expectation,” said Carlson’s caddy, Chad Kamphuis. “Obviously the first goal is to get through the stroke play into match play and just take it one round at a time. To not start worrying about Sunday and the finals when we’re hitting the first tee shot on Monday.”
The profound confidence heading into the 116th U.S. Amateur stems from their unique “caddy-player” bond, as Carlson and Kamphuis traveled to Guatemala on a mission trip with Hudsonville Reformed Church in 2015.
“That certainly elevated our relationship from what it was before. I think it just gained a level of respect,” Kamphuis said. “As far as on the golf course and trusting each other with decisions and stuff, thats just grown as we’ve gone through more tournaments together.”
That trust will meet arguably its most difficult test yet. But the mentality Carlson takes into play has served as a winning formula and just might continue to do so.
“He [Kamphuis] hold me before the U.S. Am qualifier that, ‘Hey, you’re the best player you know. So just take that mindset and go with it,'” said Carlson. “So hopefully Monday I can take that same mindset and say, ‘Hey, I’m the best person out here and I’m the best player I know.’ Let’s just go play my game and whatever happens, happens.”