- Golfer Benefits
BROOKLINE, Massachusetts – One of the first things Wellesley’s Michael Thorbjornsen and his high school best friend and caddie Drew Cohen did when they arrived at The Country Club last Thursday was buy matching T-shirts with the silhouettes of Francis Ouimet and his caddie Eddie Lowery and the year 1913 printed on the front.
Thorbjornsen’s appearance in this year’s U.S. Open is loaded with coincidences to Ouimet, the 20-year-old amateur from grew up across the street from The Country Club in Brookline and beat the world’s best players in the 1913 U.S. Open in one of the greatest upsets in American sports history. Though their paths are 109 years apart, Ouimet and Thorbjorsen qualified for the U.S. Open at age 20 as amateurs and were defending Mass Amateur champions with the opportunity to play the U.S. Open at The Country Club.
“I’ve watched “The Greatest Game Ever Played” maybe eight times. [It’s] one of my favorite movies,” Thorbjornsen said of the Disney film that brought Ouimet’s story to the big screen. “I think it’s really cool the position that I’m in and how it emulates Francis a little bit, but I’m a different person than him. I’m going to try to do the same thing that he did and just hope for the best.”
During his 18-hole practice round Monday in front of an enthusiastic gallery of local supporters, Thorbjornsen found out he’ll be the first to play from Hole 1 when Round 1 begins at 6:45 a.m. Thursday. Fellow Bay State native Fran Quinn will tee off at 6:45 a.m. on Hole 10. Both will play at 12:30 p.m. Friday.
.@michaelt_1 will have the honor of hitting the first tee shot on Thursday at the 122nd #USOpen Championship, a mere 109 years after another Massachusetts amateur changed the world of golf at The Country Club. pic.twitter.com/4bkRG3Pqnp
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 14, 2022
Since making his U.S. Open debut at Pebble Beach in 2019, Thorbjornsen said his game has vastly improved, and he’s learned from the experience. But even before that, he’s had it sights set on the U.S. Open in Brookline since it was announced back in 2015.
“At that moment I made it my goal to qualify for this event,” said Thorbjornsen, who was only 13 at the time of the announcement. In fact, he wasn’t even born when The Country Club hosted its last significant professional event — the 1999 Ryder Cup — a fact that drew a chuckle during his press conference Monday.
Thorbjornsen surprised many when he said he’d only played The Country Club once prior to this year, six years ago, but he was quick to remind others that Tom Brady had a hard enough time becoming a member. His wife, Gisele Bundchen, was eventually accepted in 2017.
“I would have loved to have played here as many times as I can, but here I am now able to play a couple of times before the tournament starts,” said Thorbjornsen. “I feel like it’s definitely helped a little bit.”
Thorbjornsen said he’s known Cohen since seventh-grade when their mothers organized a tee time for them at TPC Boston. Since being asked to carry the bag last summer, the two have a strong track record of success, which includes last year’s Western Amateur victory and a top three finish in U.S. Amateur stroke play.
“I just knew he was a special talent,” Cohen said of Thorbjornsen. “The way he hit the ball was just unbelievable. It still is unbelievable to watch.”
Like most good caddies, Cohen knows when to intervene and when to just carry the bag. But at the end of the day, he’s quick to remind his friend of his skill and a provide a friendly reminder that “we’re just playing golf out here.”
Despite a lingering left wrist injury to his scaphoid bone, Cohen believes Thorbjornsen has the drive to make the cut once again and be in contention this weekend.
“Michael has the game to make a run here,” Cohen said. “I know he’s modest and humble, but he’s an unbelievable player so hopefully we’ll make a push at this thing.”
Monday was also a family reunion, of sorts. It was the first time since the 2019 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst that Thorbjornsen had seen his father and coach, Thorbjorn, in person. Thorbjorn, who grew up in Norway, and his wife Sandra Chiang gave birth to Michael in Cleveland, and the family moved to Boston in 2006. Most recently, Thorbjorn has been living in Abu Dhabi but hadn’t seen his family in person due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, his son regularly sends him swing video which he analyzes from thousands of miles away and then sends a report.
“He’s been doing it since he was six years old,” Thorbjorn said. “So we know that we’re looking for. I think the fundamentals of his swing are very solid.”
Thorbjorn had believed in his son since he was at a young age, and trusted his desire to play when others did not.
“Other coaches wouldn’t coach him because he said the kid cannot play, so I said I’ll do it myself and since then he always listened to me so we never had this friction when it comes to golf and the golf swing,” Thorbjorn said.
Thorbjorn said he never wanted to fall into the trap of living vicariously through Michael’s experiences. It’s his son’s desire to improve and play well that drives him to help him.
“His eyes light up when he talks about the 2022 U.S. Open,” Thorbjorn said. “I can see how important it is to him, and that’s why it’s important to me.”
After this week, Thorbjornsen has a packed schedule, which includes a sponsor exemption into the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship June 23-26 at TPC River Highlands in Connecticut. He’ll then head overseas for The Open qualifier, followed by the Arnold Palmer Cup college team golf competition in Switzerland.
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