AUSTRALIAN Nick Flanagan returned to Oakmont Country Club this week, the site of his US Amateur win in 2003, and believed the experience caddying for good mate Aron Price would only help his own game.
Flanagan has already played in four majors, a Masters, two British Opens and a US Open at Shinnecock Hills when he played as the reigning US Amateur.
He missed the cut in his first three, but in 2005 Flanagan finished in a share of 23rd after qualifying for the last major he played in - a British Open at St Andrews, no less.
But in 2016, Flanagan returned to the site of his US Am triumph over Casey Wittenberg to caddie for his good friend.
Price was on track to make the cut at the 2016 US Open when he was 5-over with five holes to play, but over the difficult end to Oakmont’s front nine he made three bogeys and missed the cut by two.
Before Price even made it into the field for Oakmont this week through sectional qualifying in Florida, Flanagan said he and Price were joking about pairing up for the year’s second major.
“And then he got through and I was like, ‘maybe he’ll still want me to caddie for him, maybe not,’” Flanagan said as he guarded Price’s bag outside Oakmont’s locker room.
“It could have gone either way for me. But he asked me and had to decide whether I felt it was going to be beneficial for him to have me on the bag or not.
“I didn’t just want to come up here for the sake of it selfishly just to come back to Oakmont. But if it was at any other US Open golf course I probably wouldn’t have come up.”
In the end, of course, Flanagan did make the trip to Pennsylvania and caddied for Price and felt he was able to contribute, even if the duet didn’t get to play the rest of the weekend after missing the cut earlier on Saturday.
“I feel like I helped out a little bit for him this week,” Flanagan said. “There wasn’t really much I could give him that he wouldn’t have already known from the practice rounds.
“You can't really be above the hole here and I think maybe the first round we were a little bit too tentative with a couple of shots and we ended up above the hole and he had really tough putts.”
Apart from the thousands of trees removed since 2003, much of the course has remained the same since Flanagan’s win, including the famous clubhouse.
It was the site of the biggest moment of Flanagan’s amateur career and he hopes this week isn’t the last time he revisits Oakmont’s famous layout.
“It’s definitely cool to be back,” Flanagan said.
“I definitely want to come back up a little bit more and hopefully next time playing rather than caddying.
“This whole caddie business is actually quite busy while you’re out there. I was pretty flustered most of the time trying to get numbers and just carry this big thing around.
“I think if I can get back up here and actually play again it will be a little bit more relaxing. I’ll probably remember a few more things about it.”
Flanagan rarely plays tournament golf these days, though, and only has limited status on the secondary Web.com Tour in US.
ARON PRICE'S SECOND ROUND SCORECARD:
His one start on that tour this year came at the recent BMW Charity Pro-Am where Flanagan returned as a two-time winner of the event, most recently in 2012 when he beat compatriot Cameron Percy in a playoff.
Unfortunately, Flanagan missed the cut at hasn't cashed a cheque in a professional tournament since the Digital Alley Open last August.
However, this week was a good learning curve for Flanagan, not just because he got to stride the fairways of a major championship again, but because he was able to watch a professional from the other side of the bag.
“This week’s been a big eye opener for me as far as seeing it from the outside perspective,” Flanagan said. “There is a lot of things that Pricey does that I do myself or my attitude and things like that.
“I think all in all it was a fun week, but I really wanted it for him coming in there to play the weekend and experience it out there but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
us open - round two wrap:
Want video tips delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to iseekgolf.com newsletters.