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Sunday, June 04, 2023

For most, qualifying for the U.S. Open is a big deal. But for the Alexander family, it's just another accomplishment to add to an already impressive golf resume.

Today, UF men's golfer Tyson Alexander will follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather as he tees off against the world's best at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.

When the 20-year-old Tyson begins the first hole today at 2:31 p.m., he will be continuing a streak started by his grandfather Skip Alexander and continued by UF men's golf coach and Tyson's father Buddy Alexander.

Tyson qualified to be part of the 156-player field after finishing in second place at the Orlando qualifier.

"I guess it's not very common for you to see three people following each other's footsteps to play in three U.S. Opens," Tyson said.

But it's more than just uncommon: He is only the second third-generation golfer from the same family to play in America's golf national championship.

Heading into the Unknown

Although playing in the U.S. Open is a common occurrence for the Alexander lineage, they will go into uncharted territory this year.

Neither Buddy nor Tyson has played the course at Bethpage Black.

The closest Tyson has gotten to the course is on television.

"I remember watching it in 2002 when Tiger (Woods) won," Tyson said. "But I don't think I'll really be prepared until I actually play some golf on the course."

While Buddy has not played a hole at Bethpage Black, he has walked it, which will allow him to give Tyson some advice.

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"I can assure him that the rough might be the longest that he'll ever see and the greens will be the fastest he's ever seen," Buddy said.

One thing that is sure to get Tyson's attention is the warning sign that is located just before the first hole. It reads: "The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers."

Bethpage Black, which GolfDigest ranks as the sixth-toughest venue in America, is one of the only courses in the world which warns its golfers.

But if Tyson wants his father's help during his encounter with Bethpage Black, he will have to go into the crowd to do so.

While he has caddied for his son before, Buddy decided that this time it would be best if Tyson got a PGA Tour caddy to provide a different outlook on the game.

Tyson agreed with the decision and said that it would be good to get somebody who had a lot of experience in the PGA Tour and caddied for a living.

"I'm always going to pick my dad's brain about golf," Tyson said. "But getting a new perspective on how tour players play will be a huge learning experience for me."

Star Struck

There might be another learning experience in store for the young UF golfer as he plays in the U.S. Open.

While he is accustomed to facing opponents from Alabama, LSU and Georgia, in this event he will be rubbing elbows with the best golfers in the world, including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Tyson knows this tournament will be different from all the others.

"It's definitely not the normal golf tournament," he said. "I'm not warming up with just some normal college kids in this one."

When asked about the chance to meet Tiger, Tyson sounded like a child who just saw his sports idol at the grocery store but was too embarrassed to bother him for an autograph.

"I'm not going to go out of my way to meet him," he said. "He's on a whole other level, so I'm not going to mess with him. But if we do cross paths and we meet, that would be cool."

Buddy believes that his son is mature enough to handle the excitement and still focus on the business at hand. However, he also wants Tyson to enjoy the moment.

"I hope that he is able to take in some of the theater and atmosphere that exists at the U.S. Open and enjoys it," Buddy said.

The Right Approach

A great performance would just be an added bonus to the many lessons Tyson will learn over the next four days.

The experience he will gain from facing the world's best in one of the world's toughest golf courses will prove to be invaluable as he attempts to lead the UF men's golf team next season as one of the its only seniors.

"The bottom line is that he's going to be a better player at the end of the week just because of the experience he is going to gain," Buddy said.

As the tournament nears, Tyson is taking the right approach.

"I'm just going in and I'm going to try to learn as much as possible," Tyson said. "I'm going to soak it all in and see what it gives me."

Tyson's success in the U.S. Open will probably not be able to be measured by a defining moment over the weekend. Instead, that moment will come in a pressure-packed situation at a future collegiate event.

When that time comes, the U.S. Open will finally have fulfilled its purpose for Tyson.

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