I was lucky enough to follow Minnesota native and former Gopher Clayton Rask around at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in 2014. Since the glory days of Tom Lehman and Tim Herron, there haven’t been a lot of Minnesota golfers on the big stage.
Rask qualified for the open and then made the cut, finishing 63rd in a tournament in which a slew of great players missed the cut. A long, straight hitter who plays primarily on the PGA Tour Canada, Rask showed that week that he has the game to compete under difficult conditions.
He’s back on the national scene again this week. He won a playoff to qualify for the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this week. At the time of this writing, he was tied for 68th at even par.
His father-in-law, Tom Bishop, was speaking on the phone Friday morning while following Rask. Thursday, Rask experienced the Phoenix Open’s famous stadium-like 16th hole, perhaps the only place in stroke play where fans cheer as if at a football game.
``He played that 16th hole yesterday and stuck it to 12 feet,’’ Bishop said. ``Unfortunately he three-putted. We thought we were going to see the birdie dance.
``It can be embarrassing on 16. They boo you if you’re five inches off the green. It was quite an experience for him to play that hole.’’
Rask married Bishop’s daughter, Gina, last October. She recently got a job with Delta in Atlanta. For an aspiring tour pro flying around the country trying to qualify for tournaments, the flight benefits have been quite helpful.
Delta also helped Bishop get to Phoenix on short notice. ``The best part of the story is he’s had a few week to kill before the Canadian tour starts, so he went to Honolulu and Torrey Pines and missed by a few strokes in qualifiying,’’ Bishop said. ``He comes down to Phoenix in 50-degree weather with 30-mph winds and shoots a five-under to tie with three other guys for first. There were three spots open so they had a playoff and Clayton made it.
``Thank god we have those flight privileges.’’