SALT LAKE CITY — Rhett Rasmussen is still a teenager, yet he’ll be teeing it up with the best players in the world this week at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, New York.
Rasmussen, who turns 20 next week, will be one of the youngest golfers in the 156-player field in golf’s second major of the year. He is one of two Utahns in this year’s Open along with Salt Lake native Tony Finau, who is playing in his third U.S. Open this week.
Both players tee off in the afternoon wave Thursday with Rasmussen teeing off in the final group of the day at 12:42 p.m. MDT with Michael Block and Michael Hebert, while Finau goes off at 11:03 a.m. MDT with Luke List and Gary Woodland.
Rasmussen grew up in Draper and was a standout for Corner Canyon High before playing at BYU the past two years. Though just 19, he’s not the youngest player this week at the Open. That would be 17-year-old Noah Goodwin, the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion.
However, Rasmussen is one of just five teenagers in the field and the youngest golfer with local connections since Johnny Miller played in the 1966 U.S. Open as a 19-year-old BYU freshman.
As one of 20 amateurs in the field, Rasmussen is well aware his chances of winning this week, going against the likes of Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, are next to impossible. The last amateur to win the U.S. Open was a guy named John Goodman back in 1933 and the youngest player to win the Open was 19-year-old John McDermott in 1911.
Still, he’s hoping his experience this week will jumpstart a golf career that will lead to the PGA Tour, just like Finau, who has earned nearly $10 million in the last four years.
“I’m super excited but I’m trying not to really think of it as much of a different tournament, though obviously it is,” Rasmussen said. “I’m just going to try to get as much experience as possible and learn as much from other guys and play well when it comes time.”
Rasmussen went back to New York last Friday and spent a couple of days in New York City before practicing Sunday and playing his first round at Shinnecock on Monday. Several family members and friends are on hand, including his caddie Kai Ruiz, a former teammate at BYU. Rasmussen was able to play a practice round with Finau on Tuesday.
Rasmussen has been playing golf since he was 3 and began competing in tournaments at 6. He immediately started beating older kids and by the time he was 14, he won the prestigious Junior World Tournament in San Diego.
He’s won numerous local events, including the Salt Lake City Open over professionals when he was 17. His best collegiate tournament was an individual victory at Stanford last season. Rasmussen was disappointed overall in his sophomore season but was happy to finish the year with a third-place finish in the conference tournament.
Rasmussen is hoping to follow in the footsteps of another BYU golfer, Zac Blair, who played in the U.S. Open in 2014, finishing in a tie for 40th place before going on to play the Web.com Tour that summer and qualify for the PGA Tour in the fall.
“That’s the goal — hopefully I can make the cut and start playing well,” Rasmussen said. “That’s how Zac Blair got started — he made the cut at the U.S. Open and he got status on the Web, so hopefully I can use this as a springboard.”
That doesn’t mean Rasmussen won’t be returning to BYU if he plays well this week, as he said he plans to continue as a college golfer.
“That’s the plan, you never know what happens, but that’s the plan,” he said.
What Rasmussen doesn’t want is for this to be a one-time occurrence of playing in one of golf’s major tournaments.
“I want this to be remembered as my first, not my only one,” he said.Comment on this story
As for Finau, he will be playing in his third U.S. Open. He was in contention through three rounds at Chambers Bay in 2015 before faltering in the final round and finishing in a tie for 14th. He missed the cut in 2016 and didn’t qualify for the tournament last year.
This season on the PGA Tour, Finau has five top-10 finishes and two second-place finishes and has earned more than $2.8 million. He had made the cut in seven straight tournaments going back to March, before missing by one shot last week at Memphis.
Finau played well at the Masters in April, finishing in a tie for 10th despite injuring his ankle the day before the tournament began. He is eligible for all four majors this year because of making the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings last year.