Some of Carson Herron’s earliest golf memories are of disdain for the game.
Hard to believe when you consider how important sport is to his family. But there was a time when golf was absent from Herron’s dreams and future.
Herron said his famous dad, Tim, didn’t force the game on him. But there was, to put it mildly, a vigorous introduction.
“My parents started taking me to a golf clinic every Friday, (when) I was about 5, which I hated,” Herron said, as he entered his sophomore year at the University of New Mexico. “I hated golf when I was young. They made me do it until I was 8 and then they didn’t really push golf or get me to play.
His father, like any elite pro, showed a strong passion for golf when Carson was a kid. Tim Herron’s passion has resulted in four PGA Tour victories, but also a very demanding schedule that included 25 years on the PGA Tour, and now playing on the Champions Tour which has him in Washington for the Boeing Classic.
That’s not why Carson had such a dislike for golf.
“I hated dressing up in a collared shirt,” he said. “I just thought it was a pretty boring sport.”
But in 2012, everything changed for 10-year-old Carson when he watched his father play in what would be his 11th and final US Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Carson’s hatred quickly turned to love and it led him to competitive junior golf and transformed his young life. Carson said he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and play at UNM, where Tim was a three-time All-American and a two-time Western Athletic Conference Golfer of the Year before graduating in 1993.
“It’s pretty cool being a Lobo,” Carson said during a Zoom interview Wednesday from his hometown of Deephaven, Minnesota. “Originally, I didn’t have a lot of (scholarship) offers and I wanted to go to the University of New Mexico. My dad mentioned it and I thought that would be really cool. He always wanted me to go to UNM. And me too. When I first saw the locker room and everything, when we were going to New Mexico for a weekend, I kind of knew I wanted to be a Lobo. I just think it’s really cool to follow his legacy. I think it’s a very good place and a good school for me.
Carson showed just how good he was when he was named Mountain West Conference Rookie of the Year after averaging 73.21 per round over 11 tournaments. He continues to improve. On July 11, he became the fourth generation to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Championship. His great-grandfather, Carson Lee Herron, qualified in 1934. Tim’s grandfather and father, Carson D. Herron, played US Am in 1969 and Tim played US Am Amateur from 1993.
“(UNM coach) Glen Millican took a chance on him,” Tim Herron said in a phone interview after his tied round (he has 3 under for the tournament). “He performed very well and I’m proud of him. I’m glad he’s playing in the United States.
Carson will play at US Am in New Jersey, starting Monday. He would compete in stroke play at Arcola Country Club, struggling to reach match play at Ridgewood Country Club. Tim said he was leaving after the Boeing Classic ended on Sunday on a red-eye flight to New Jersey to watch his son play.
Tim remembers the 2012 US Open at Olympic well.
“I had an ESPN highlight and the place went crazy and I think that’s when (Carson) fell in love with the game,” Tim said, adding that Carson got the Tiger Woods’ autograph that day. “I told him he didn’t have to (fall in love with golf). I think that’s really cool. I’m proud of it. I told him to try not to be me and live up to those kinds of expectations. Just try to have fun. You’re playing amateur golf right now, it’s supposed to be fun. I think he really appreciates that.
Carson’s roommate Matthew Watkins, who will be a junior at UNM, is also in the tournament.
Millican is excited for both of them. Entering his 22nd year overall at his alma mater, he started as a freshman at UNM in 1993. He said Tim Herron’s success at UNM was one of the reasons he wanted play for the Lobos.
“I’ve always looked up to Tim,” said Millican, who met Tim in 1993 and played a few games with him as Herron finished his last classes at UNM. “He’s definitely the most successful alumnus coming through UNM, both while he was here and as a professional. As a Lobo golfer, that’s what you admire and that’s what you strive to be. Fast forward almost 30 years later and I have this guy I knew from this vantage point calling me and talking about his son coming to school here that’s kind of a complete deal for me . Personally it’s really cool and for the program it’s really great. There are many good things about UNM.
Carson said he didn’t know he could become the fourth generation to play in US Am until he qualified and a reporter told him. He is, however, aware that he could become the fourth generation to play at the US Open.
“I don’t feel that pressure,” he said. “The only pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself. I think it would be really cool and really great to be a fourth generation (qualifier) US Open, but only time will tell.