My First Major - U.S. Women’s Open
“This is the first round of the 2022 United States Women’s Open,” the official USGA starter announced, "Please welcome to the tee, from Chattanooga, TN, the 2021 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Champion, Blakesly Brock!” A flood of emotions overwhelmed me as a crowd of family, friends, and strangers gave a roaring round of applause. Shaking from head to toe, butterflies in my stomach, but grinning from ear to ear, I teed up my golf ball, took a deep breath, and striped a driver right down the center of the fairway.
My U.S. Open experience began four days prior on Sunday when my team and I were greeted on the airport runway with a brand new Lexus RX courtesy car stamped with the U.S. Women’s Open logo on the sides. “This is a pretty cool start to the week,” I thought to myself. Little did I know just how much cooler it was about to get.
Early Monday morning we arrived at Pine Needles for our first practice round. As I walked into the player locker room, I passed Nelly Korda as she was walking out and couldn’t help but smile. I opened up my locker to find multiple personalized player gifts, dozens of ProV1s, and more gloves than I could possibly use in one week. I changed into my golf shoes and headed to meet my husband/caddie, Mitch, and swing coach, Thomas, at player dining.
Player dining quickly became one of my favorite parts about the championship. The air conditioned tent was a refreshing escape from the 90+ degree heat outside, and inside was set up with an open bar, refrigerators stocked with everything from BioSteel to Mountain Dew, and 4 or 5 food stations with all kinds of nourishment options depending on the time of day. That first morning I piled up a plate of egg whites, turkey bacon, and fruit before I sat down at a table with Mitch and Thomas. I glanced over at the table to our left, and there sat Lexi Thompson. To our right I saw Anna Nordqvist, and behind us was defending champ Yuka Saso. The GOAT, Annika Sorenstam, walked in a few minutes later. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
After a delicious breakfast and a long warm up it was finally time to check out the course. The 6,644 yard par 71 Donald Ross design was PURE and everything I had hoped for in a U.S. Open venue. It was firm and fast, challenging but fair. The course required precision with every club in order to avoid the sandy waste areas, and creativity was rewarded around the severely sloped greens. Soaking it all in, we walked the full 18 holes and practiced just about every shot I could imagine.
As much fun as I had on Monday, Tuesday was even more exciting. I had a 12:45 practice round tee time with Michelle Wie West, just a couple of days after she announced her upcoming retirement from competitive golf. There were about 200 people lined up outside the ropes to watch Michelle play, and I could hear cameras clicking as we hit our tee shots and walked up the first fairway. What stood out to me most about Michelle was her fearlessness and seemingly simple approach to the game. She never took a practice swing, but I could tell that she was totally committed to every shot she hit and accepted the outcome no matter where the ball came to rest. Her go-to 3wood stinger off the tee reminded me of Tiger Woods in his prime, but I found a lot of confidence in realizing that I was good enough to compete with the female golfer I admired the most growing up.
Before I knew it Thursday had arrived and I was off and running at my first major championship. I’d been dreaming about this day since I was eleven years old hitting 4-footers on the practice green to “win the U.S. Open.” The exhilarating atmosphere inside the ropes gave me a feeling that I just can’t put into words, and I left Pine Needles so thankful for the experience and determined to have the opportunity to do it again one day. Even though I didn’t play my best and missed the cut, I’ll always be proud to say that I got to tee it up against the best players in the world on the biggest stage in women’s golf.
University of Tennessee Women's Golf Team (2014-2018). 7 Top 25 finishes in Junior season (2016-2017), Co-SEC Player of the Week, 2015 WGCA Academic All-American, SEC Community Service Team (2017). 2021 U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur and Tennessee Women’s Mid-Amateur Champion. She is a highly decorated golfer in junior, collegiate and amateur events. Class of 2022 Team Teleri Brand Ambassador.