SAN FRANCISCO — With the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars that navigate the steep hills and a smorgasbord of different cultures, it’s easy for first-time visitors to get caught up in the Bay Area’s many attractions.
Maybe even more so if you come from a town with 130 people and no red lights.
But for Blake Adams, who is playing in his first major championship at this week’s U.S. Open, he’s going to savor the experience no matter what happens on The Olympic Club’s demanding layout.
“My first time to San Fran, and rednecks come to town,” he said with a laugh. “We’ll see how we do.”
Adams arrived Saturday and has practiced under the tutelage of swing coach John Tillery each day. While most professional golfers make their major championship debuts at an early age, Adams took his time.
Now 36, the former Georgia Southern golfer played his way into the national championship with scores of 67 and 68 at the sectional qualifying site in Ohio.
“It’s only the third time I’ve tried to qualify for the Open. Thirty-six holes aren’t my thing, especially my old beat-up body,” Adams said. “But it’s something I wanted to do and I’ve been playing well. I’ve always flown back to Atlanta to do the qualifier there. This year I went to Ohio and it worked out well. I finished second.”
In just his third season on the PGA Tour, Adams is still looking for his breakthrough victory. This year has been a mixed bag with 10 made cuts in 18 starts.
The highlight came a month ago when Adams opened with 6-under-par 66 in the first round of The Players Championship. That earned him a visit to the media center, where he talked about his background.
“I lived the first 15 years of my life in Dalton, Ga,” Adams said this week. “Then I moved from there to Eatonton. I call the Lake Oconee area home. My wife is from outskirts of Swainsboro. We live there. So they announce me on the first tee as from Eatonton but I live in a little town on the outskirts of Swainsboro.”
That town is Nunez, Ga., and Adams referred to it at The Players Championship as a town with “130 people and no red lights.”
That drew some laughs, but Adams and his wife prefer the small-town lifestyle. The golfer originally started his college career at Georgia, but a coaching change didn’t work out in his favor and he transferred to Georgia Southern.
“I played well down there and met my wife. I’m a big, big Bulldog,” Adams said. “I came home from the hospital wearing red and black. My whole family is big Bulldog fans. It was hard to leave Athens. But Statesboro is a very special place. It’s a neat community.”
If he plays well this week, Adams has his eyes on an even bigger prize one day.
“The Masters has always been my World Series. That’s my ultimate,” he said. “When I make it there, then I’ll be talking about something really special. I’ve been going to the Masters since I was a kid. I don’t like going as much now because all my buddies are out there playing and I’m not. But it’s a very special place. Folks who just watch it on TV have no idea.”
With four consecutive made cuts, Adams’ philosophy of having fun seems to be paying off.
“I was out there trying to hit too many perfect golf shots, and I just want to enjoy my job,” he said. “Like I said, it’s not really a job. I’m very, very blessed. If I play well, great. If not, I’ll try again next week at Hartford. I play golf every single week and treat it like any other week. Yes, it’s the U.S. Open, but it’s nothing bigger than any other week.”