Phelan gets teenage kicks ahead of US Open
Published 15/06/2010 | 05:00
THE kid was as cool, calm and collected as only a teenager could be.
"Now on the tee, Kevin Phelan," the official starter announced and the thin, six-footer stepped forward, addressed his ball and, with assurance, hit it down the middle of the first at Pebble Beach.
All of this under the gaze of Jim Furyk and Ricky Barnes, not to mention the 100-plus spectators there yesterday to give the US Open elite a warm send-off.
If anything, Phelan looked younger than his 19 years, and a middle-aged woman in the gallery couldn't help herself as he picked up his tee and marched after his ball. "Bless you," she called loudly.
Phelan probably felt blessed already, even if he earned his place at this week's US Open the hard way. The Irish youngster made birdie at his final hole to squeeze through local qualifying and then landed a sensational eagle at the last at McArthur Golf club in Hobe Sound last week to clinch the golfing thrill of his lifetime.
"It's great to be here and the course is absolutely unbelievable," said the amateur, who plays off plus-two.
He might have been born in New York and lived for the past eight years in Florida, but he proudly insists he's from Waterford.
"I lived in Waterford and I still consider myself a Waterford man, definitely," he said. Though his official US Open registration says he's from St Augustine, Phelan has made determined efforts to have it changed to Ireland.
"I don't know if they can do it or not, but I believe they are going to announce me (as being) from Ireland on the first tee on Thursday," he said. "I have dual citizenship, an Irish and a US passport."
Phelan's father, John, born and bred in Waterford city "up near Walsh Park", explained that his son was playing off 19 when he, wife Josephine and their two boys, Kevin and Brian, headed for the US.
His game has improved rapidly from playing every day in the Florida sunshine.
To follow up on his round with Furyk, the youngster is making efforts to arrange another practice round with Padraig Harrington through golf psychologist Dr Bob Rotella, "who I know a bit".
In light of the 30-yard flop shot he played over a bunker and into the hole for eagle to make sure of his place at Pebble Beach, it was little surprise to see Phelan hit his approach to the first closer than Furyk and Barnes, before two-putting comfortably for par. On Thursday, he'll enter the toughest arena in golf, but the kid is alright.