Cole Hammer and Jordan Spieth linked arms on the ninth hole of the 2020 U.S. Open with four other Longhorns on their flanks.
This past September wasn’t the first time the junior golfer had seen this stage or crossed paths with Spieth, a Texas golf alumnus-turned seasoned professional.
In 2015, Cole traveled to Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington, where the 15-year-old played in the same major championship that Spieth later won. Cole would be the first to point out he had no clue what he was doing in 2015.
“It felt like a circus and I didn’t feel like I was playing in a golf tournament,” Cole said. “That was definitely overwhelming, seeing all those guys I’ve looked up to for so long, and then I’m hitting balls in the range next to Rory McIlroy.”
The amateur golfer was much more comfortable this time around, especially playing alongside Spieth.
For five years, the two have shared the same coach, Cameron McCormick, and have kindled a friendship on and off the greens.
“We’re similar people and we go about our golf ways the same way,” Cole said. “Whenever I’m around him and coach McCormick, we have a good time and we’re not too serious around him.”
It’s a surreal experience to play at a major championship, not just for Cole but for his entire family. Cole's father, Gregg Hammer, has seen the progression of Cole’s game since he first picked up a golf club. Gregg made the trip to Washington in 2015 to caddy for Cole.
“Cole’s golf journey has taken him and us to some fun places,” Gregg said. “We’re golfers too, so seeing first hand what it’s like to be inside the ropes at these big events is special.”
Although his dad was by his side in Chambers Bay, Cole attributes the biggest difference between his first and second Open performances to being more prepared. Cole’s preparation comes from playing alongside Spieth, learning from McCormick and growing as a golfer in Texas’ program under head coach John Fields.
Aside from collegiate golf tournaments, Cole has competed against a handful of PGA Tour pros in his hometown at the Houston Open.
“This time I felt like I could compete with the guys and I didn’t feel like I was lacking in any part of my game,” Cole said. “Before, I didn’t really feel like I had a chance at all. The biggest difference was the fact that I was more prepared for this one.”
Cole has also learned how to juggle being a student-athlete. From high school tournaments to moments as big as the 2020 U.S. Open, he has found ways to maintain both identities.
“(At the Open), I had a quiz I had to plan my day around, which was unfortunate but fun,” Cole said.
The 2020 U.S. Open, hosted at the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, featured 13 amateur golfers, Cole being one of them. To a certain extent, Winged Foot was intimidating for Cole, but playing alongside Spieth the Monday before the tournament lessened his nerves.
Gregg no longer caddies for Cole, so he’s grateful that veterans like Spieth are pouring into his son.
“Jordan has been a great model to so many young players and Cole has been lucky to have spent some time with him,” Gregg said. “Jordan is, first and foremost, a great person and someone that you’re glad your son has the chance to learn from.”