June 18, 2012
By Mark Janssen
Aaron Watkins had to leave the grounds of The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif., Sunday evening a little early because his nine-month old daughter, Ady, turned a bit fussy.
But to Watkins, on this day, that was just fine.
"She was born last September, so this was my first Father's Day, and to have my wife (Jessica) and Ady with me, plus my father, it made this week pretty special," said Watkins just hours following a 15th-place finish at the 2012 United States Open Championship.
A 2004 graduate of Kansas State, Watkins had planned on being in Manhattan this past week as part of the Adams Tour event staged at Colbert Hills Golf Club. Instead, he qualified for the Open two weeks ago, and then took full advantage of his opportunity.
"I love Manhattan, but this was a nice week not to be there," said Watkins, who was the first former Wildcat to make the cut at a major championship since Jim Colbert in 1984.
Watkins, a member of the Nationwide Tour where he ranks 65th in 2012 earnings, shot rounds of 72, 71, 72 and 71 for a four-round total of 6-over par 286.
Watkins admitted, "My confidence is pretty high. When I first qualified I knew I had the game to compete, but I never thought I'd finish where I did."
He added, "Considering the course and the environment, this was the best golf that I've ever played. I just tried to stick to my game plan of hitting fairways and not getting greedy by going for the pin. I putted fairly well this week, which resulted in a lot of good up and downs."
Just for the record, Watkins played in the same event that Tiger Woods was 7-over par to tie for 21st, which included final rounds of 75 and 73.
Just for the record, it was the same event that Phil Mickelson was 16-over par to finish 10 strokes behind Watkins.
Just for the record, Watkins played in the same event that Masters' champion Bubba Watson did not make the cut after shooting scores of 78 and 71.
"I'd be lying if I said beating some of the top players in the world on a very tough golf course didn't mean something pretty special," said Watkins. "It was really a high to get my first PGA Card (in 2009), but there's nothing wrong with beating the best players in the world."
But, Watkins knows that reality checks back in this week when he returns to the Nationwide Tour in Wichita.
"I was joking with my dad that this is going to be a good paycheck, but next week, I'll still be 65th on the money list in the Nationwide," said Watkins. "I have a lot of work to do to be in the Top 25 by the end of the year. This really helps my confidence in that I've proven I can play with the big guys, but next week its back to square-one."
The 7,170-yard Lake Course of The Olympic Club proved to be the winner of the week as Webb Simpson won the title by shooting a 1-over par total for the four rounds.
"It's the toughest I've ever played, along with Oakmont," said Watkins. "You can put it on the right side of the fairway and still have no chance to go for the pin. So many holes are just intimidating. You have to be careful on every shot. A foot here or a foot there is the difference between a birdie and a bogey.
"You can play well and score well, but at some point you need a little luck," continued Watkins, who birdied 14, 15 and 16 down the stretch in the final round. "I started getting ahead of myself in the middle of the round and started looking at the scoreboard on where I stood. You can't do that on this golf course.
"I just took a deep breath and had a chit-chat with myself before the last five holes and ended up with three birdies," said Watkins.
Pausing, he added, "As much fun as this week was, I'm glad it's over. It was a grind. I can see why the big guys take a week off after majors. There's just non-stop excitement going on, and you have to be focused at all times. It's really tiring."
Watkins will now jet to Kansas City today, rent a car, and drive to Wichita for the Nationwide's Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open, which begins on Thursday.
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