Former Gophers compete in the US Open

It was the first U.S. Open for Clayton Rask and Donald Constable.

Former Gophers golfer Clayton Rask participated in the U.S. Open this past weekend.

Image by Courtesy of University of Minnesota Athletics

Former Gophers golfer Clayton Rask participated in the U.S. Open this past weekend.

by Betsy Helfand

For many golfers, the U.S. Open is a distant dream.

Two former Gophers, Clayton Rask and Donald Constable, both experienced that dream last weekend.

Rask, 29, finished tied for 63rd, and Constable missed the cut, but even though neither golfer came close to top finisher Martin Kaymer, the Open marked the first major for both golfers and was a memorable experience.

Constable, 25, played his first season on the PGA Tour last year, but his weekend in Pinehurst, N.C., was a new experience for him.

“It was just really different,” he said. “You can kind of tell by the crowds and the golf course and just the atmosphere and the people there — it was just a bigger stage.”

Constable, who said he was nervous during his first round of the tournament, finished 12-over par on Thursday.

He said his swing had been “getting a little quick” lately and he had been working on taming it.

That hurdle, compounded with jitters, set him behind after the first day of competition.

“My golf swing was already quick, and that’s what I was trying to get away from,” Constable said. “The more I sped up with how I was feeling, it just kind of rolled into bad golf shots, and it just kind of kept going.”

But he said he felt more comfortable on the course Friday, which was exemplified in his performance: Constable finished 3-over par at 73.

“I was a lot calmer Friday just getting my first round under my belt and understanding that even though I played bad, I belong here, and I truly believe in that,” he said.

Rask, on the other hand, didn’t have time to be nervous.

The Sunday prior to the tournament, Rask took a red-eye flight from British Columbia, Canada, to Raleigh, N.C.

Amid the travel chaos, Rask’s clubs didn’t show up, and he was late to his practice tee time.

He said he initially thought he would get nervous, but when his clubs didn’t arrive, his attention shifted elsewhere.

“I was so concerned with the fact that my clubs didn’t show up that I didn’t have time to take it in. I just had to come up with a couple clubs to go play a practice round,” he said. “I think that helped a lot because I got there and got out on the course and felt pretty comfortable the entire time.”

He shot rounds of 73 and 71 on Thursday and Friday.

The most nervous he got, he said, was during the last three holes of the second round, when he was on the cusp of making the cut.

He made the cut, but Saturday and Sunday rounds of 77 led him to an 18-over-par finish.

Both golfers said being able to compete at the Open with their friends and family there to cheer them on was a special experience.

And for Minnesota’s golf program, the former Gophers presence at the tournament was significant.

Minnesota head men’s golf coach John Carlson said Rask and Constable have practiced with current Gophers golfers and are role models for the team.

“Just for Gopher golf and for the state of Minnesota, we can all feel a big sense of pride in that they’re out there representing us,” Carlson said.