Pinehurst, N.C. – When Donald Constable sets himself to swing, he seems to bend his knees a little more than other pro golfers.
That could be due to his love of hockey, or his predilection for ducking bullets.
In Constable, “Slap Shot” meets “Caddyshack,” and he hopes both will someday meet “Die Hard.”
The Minnesota native and former Gopher qualified for the U.S. Open last week by tying for second at the Woodmont Country Club qualifier in Rockville, Md. He shot a 72 and a 69 to finish at 3 under par. There were 59 players in the field. Four qualified.
Tuesday, he played a practice round at Pinehurst No. 2 with fellow Minnesotan and Gopher Clayton Rask, who qualified on the West Coast shortly after Constable qualified on the East Coast.
“It’s nice to have another Minnesota golfer here,’’ Constable said. “You don’t see a lot of Minnesota golfers on the big stage, other than Lumpy, so this is cool.’’
“Lumpy’’ is Wayzata native Tim Herron.
Unlike Herron, only Constable’s arms are lumpy.
“I like to work out,’’ he said. “Hey, I’ve got to look good when I go in the lake back home, you know?’’
Constable grew up in Minnetonka playing hockey.
“I didn’t make pretty plays,’’ he said. “I didn’t score many goals. I wasn’t that big. But I liked hitting people.’’
By 16, he had suffered a few concussions, and his mother made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: Give up hockey, and she would bankroll his golf, including winter trips to warm-weather tournaments.
“I had started liking the game more and more,’’ Constable said. “So I took her up on that.’’
He won Minnesota state high school titles in 2005 and 2006, and accepted a golf scholarship to the University of Texas. After two seasons, he transferred to Minnesota.
He turned pro in 2012 and found that golf has its own way of checking you into the boards. In 2013, he didn’t make a cut in 15 attempts on the PGA and Web.com tours.
Although he’s moved back to Wayzata, this winter he stayed in Georgia to work out with a trainer and work on his game. Tuesday he displayed a compact yet powerful swing.
He also displayed a look not usually seen at major championships. A lefty, he wore a black glove on his right hand. He has grown his own version of the NHL playoff beard, and says he never shaves the week of an event.
Constable also shows off long, flowing hair that is too full and untamed to be called a hockey mullet.
“I wear it like this to raise awareness about cancer,’’ he said. His father, also named Donald, passed away when he was young.
His hair might offer an unintended benefit: Making him a prime candidate for undercover police work.
“If I didn’t have golf in high school, I would have wanted to go into the military,’’ he said. “I’ve developed a big interest in the Navy Seals and Army Special Forces.
“Someone once gave me a book to read. I hated reading. The book was about all that stuff, and I loved it.’’
Most golfers fear a slice, or a 4-foot putt for par. Constable volunteers for hazardous duty.
“A friend of mine runs the St. Paul SWAT team,’’ he said. “I went with him and his unit and their task force. I really enjoyed it. If I ever stop playing this game, I’ll be right there, doing that.’’
A promising young golfer wouldn’t put himself in harm’s way, would he?
“We did ‘no-knock’ warrants, drug warrants,’’ he said. “They go find bad guys. Bad, bad guys.
“It’s fun. It’s something I would like to do now, but obviously I have a passion for this.’’
As Constable said “this,’’ he nodded toward the 18th hole at Pinehurst No. 2.
The hole doglegs slightly to the right. It plays uphill, to a turtle-backed, well-bunkered green. Sand and wiregrass line the fairway.
When Payne Stewart won the 1999 U.S. Open here, he hit the fairway with his tee shot on 18. Today, the same shot would land in sand and scruff.
Whoever wins the Open this year will have to navigate that and 17 other holes like it for four days.
Maybe raiding drug houses with a SWAT team is the way to go.