BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mi. – Sam Triplett had a unique distinction for two rounds of the 116th U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills Country Club.
Triplett was the only player in the field to have as a caddie somebody who played in the 1996 U.S. Open on the South Course.
Sam’s dad is Kirk Triplett, a winner on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions was on the bag for his 20-year-old son.
“It’s kind of cool,” Sam said. “This is actually the first time I’ve ever had him caddie for me. There are four of us kids and so he’s always doing something else and I’ve always done things on my own.
“I asked him. He was happy to do it. I think he’s always been waiting for me to take the initiative and ask.”
Sam Triplett was joined in the field by the son of another PGA Tour star, Taylor Funk. His father, Fred, was due to arrive in time for Tuesday’s second round of medal play but ran into travel woes related to the stormy weather.
Sam Triplett shot 74-74 to miss the cut.
Funk shot 66-76 to get into a 23-man playoff but failed to earn one of the eight match play spots available.
Sam Triplett, 20, plays collegiate golf at Northwestern. He played in eight events last year and his best finish was tie for 32nd in the Big Ten Conference Championship. The Wildcats tied for sixth in the conference and posted a second-place finish in Big Ten Match Play.
Kirk, who has played in 26 USGA championships including the U.S. Open 17 times and grew up in the Seattle area, noted the changes on the South Course since his last tee time here at the U.S. Open won by Steve Jones. The green complex at the signature 16th hole has been altered and some new back tees added. But the big-picture remains the same on the course known as The Monster.
“Still miserable,” said Kirk Triplett, a sly grim beginning to emerge.
Kirk Triplett shot 289 in the 1996 U.S. Open to tie for 40th.
Triplett has always taken a big-picture approach with his son.
“He’s tried not to worry about the swing but how to get the ball in the hole,” Sam said. “How to manage your own swing to get the ball in the hole. He’s not telling me to do this mechanically. He talks about stay level-headed, picture the shot you want to hit. If you do, move on. If you don’t, put it in the memory bank for next time.
“Just the mind-set of what you have to do to play well is what I will take away from what he’s told me, moreso than any swing tips.”
Taylor Funk (pictured) grew up on the PGA Tour. He was on a first-name basis with all the biggest stars, including Tiger and Phil. Taylor was home-schooled. His first classroom experience was when he arrived at the University of Texas.
Taylor has caddied for his father and watched his dad’s contemporaries play the game at its highest levels. Taylor considers himself lucky for the experiences that have been at his disposal through his father.
“I’ve seen the best like Bernhard Langer and Jim Furyk, I’ve played with them, caddied in the same groups with them,” he said. “Being around that is invaluable. Then it’s up to me whether I want to put it to good use and learn from what I see.
“I think I can do a better job of that but I’m still learning every day.”
Funk caddied for his dad for three straight years, from the age of 15 until he went to college at the University of Texas.
“(My dad) never pushed me to play golf. He never said, ‘Hey, you need to do this.’ He just said enjoy it. He wants me to have fun and enjoy what I’m doing it. If not, stop doing it. But I love the game of golf. Love the way the joy he has brought to other people and to himself and the game of golf. I want to pursue a career because of that.”
Taylor is longer off the tee than his father – in fact, much longer – but understands that few are as accurate. Taylor hit only three fairways in Tuesday’s second-round 76 on the South Course. Fred Funk hits three fairways before breakfast. There are other differences.
“I’m more of a flatliner,” Taylor said. “He wears his emotions on his sleeve. For the most part I keep them tucked in … definitely more like my mom (Sharon).”