A pair of Gophers – one golfing, the other caddy – are in contention for the British Open |
JACE FREDERICK St. Paul Pioneer Press
Northern Ireland – Erik van Rooyen is quickly becoming a regular at the main league rankings.
After shooting a 1-over at the Open on Saturday at the Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland, van Rooyen is three above the overall standings, tied for 24th before the final matchday. This after the former amateur state champion of Minnesota placed 17th at last year’s Open.
His younger brother and former Gophers teammate Alex Gaugert is not surprised. When he started caddy for his friend this year, van Rooyen didn’t qualify for any major championship this season. But he qualified for the PGA Championship and the US Open – placing eighth and 43rd respectively – and has played well enough throughout this season to earn his spot this week at Portrush.
Since June, van Rooyen has placed in the top 20 at the RBC Canadian Open, BMW Championship and Scottish Open. He is currently ranked 84th in the world and is climbing.
“People, I think, just need to get used to the name. It’s going to become a household name soon, ”said Gaugert, a native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, who is in his first year on the van Rooyen sack. “He can play hard with the big boys. He’s got all the tools, he’s got the game, he’s got the right mindset, and he’s got all the tools you need to win major tournaments and golf tournaments.
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Gaugert saw van Rooyen’s confidence increase with each major tournament success. Van Rooyen has seen with his own eyes that he can play with the best in the world.
“He’s got all the game in the world to compete at the highest level,” Gaugert said in a phone interview on Friday.
Van Rooyen shows it again this weekend, which does not shock the duo. Gaugert and van Rooyen entered this week with one goal in mind: to win.
“You make a game plan to win and you make a game plan to give yourself a chance to go down the last nine Sunday,” said Gaugert. “You’re not getting ready to make a cut and hopefully play on the weekends. You’re getting ready to go and win this damn thing.
It won’t be easy. Gaugert noted that the duo played under less favorable conditions than the other half of the pitch playing Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. Still, they enter the weekend firmly in contention. The problem is, they’re not the only ones. Twenty-four players are within five strokes of the header before the third round.
“So you’re going to have to go out and win this thing,” Gaugert said. “It’s not like there’s four or five guys up there where you kind of have to hang out.” There are 25 guys who can win this stinky stuff.
Gaugert said Portrush was playing a little easier than expected, but noted it was still “a great test of golf”.
“You have to miss it in the right places, and if you don’t, you will be penalized,” he said. “The fescue is much longer … much thicker than most British Open ones, so keeping it in the grass short is essential.”
Gaugert has traveled the world with van Rooyen this year, documenting much of the duo’s work and adventures on their Instagram page, @GaugertGolf, along the way. In terms of atmosphere, it is his favorite of the three majors in which he was caddy for van Rooyen. He loves the style of golf, which requires daily strategic adjustments depending on the weather, and he loves the fans, who have displayed their fierce passion for the sport.
“The fans stink awesome,” Gaugert said. “I’m really excited to be out hunting on Sunday and to hear some really big roars coming towards us.”