Farmingdale, N.Y. – There were Minnesota connections all over Bethpage Black on Thursday.
Eden Prairie native and Stillwater High alum Alex Beach shot a 77 as a busload of fans followed him.
Spring Lake Park alum Troy Merritt shot a 72 to give himself a chance to make the cut.
Former Twin Michael Cuddyer walked inside the ropes alongside his friend David Wright, the tournament’s honorary ambassador.
Former Twins public relations specialist and Cretin Derham-Hall alum Molly Gallatin is working the tournament as Senior Director, Brand and Content Strategy for the PGA of America.
And in the only group that included a player riding a cart, Rich Beem and Y.E. Yang — the past two winners of majors at Hazeltine National — played alongside John Daly.
Daly received permission from the PGA Championship to use a cart because of his bad knee.
He said riding felt “awkward.”
Beem used the same word.
“Yeah, it was awkward,” Beem said. “Usually you have three guys strolling down the fairway together. We were always looking around like, ‘Where’s John?’ You wanted him to go ahead of you when the path narrowed so you wouldn’t get run over.”
Did Beem and Yang talk about Hazeltine?
“Nah,” he said. “We talked about family, and golf. We’ll talk about Hazeltine over a beer.”
At least a few of Beach’s followers resemble that remark. He’s an assistant pro at Westchester (N.Y.) Country Club, and previously worked at Baltusrol in New Jersey. He qualified for the PGA and earned entry into six other PGA Tour events over the next year by winning the PGA Professional Championship.
He had a variety of accents cheering for him Thursday.
Beach has a beautiful, powerful swing, but he struggled while starting on the tough stretch of holes beginning with No. 10, and was 4 over after three holes.
He began striking the ball well and gave himself birdie putts on 16, 17, 18 and 1, but wound up even par on those holes.
“I didn’t putt as well as I needed to,” he said. “It was a tough day, but I still enjoyed it.”
That was obvious. He talked with friends while walking the fairway and they provided a running commentary from outside the ropes.
“Where’s your family right now?” a friend asked.
“Probably watching someone else, if they’re smart,” Beach said with a smile.
Another friend yelled, “Alex, I’m so drunk, please make a birdie.”
He shot 41 on his first nine holes (the back nine of the course) and 36 on his second nine.
“I certainly want to play better,” Beach said. “But I want to make sure that I enjoy this experience.”