At the US Open, two friends watch Francis Wimet’s channel

BROOKLINE, Massachusetts. – The golf ball was buried in a bunker across the lawn, and Drew Cohen thought to himself, “He’s in jail. He will need to take the bunker shot of his life.”

Cohen, a longtime friend and regular caddy of amateur golfer Michael Thorbjornsen, then watched him hit a foot from the hole. Thorbjornsen par and then potted the next hole, and the two went on to the 2022 US Open, surviving an eight-man, three-place qualification on June 6 in Purchas, New York.

The couple soon made their way down to a country club outside of Boston, hitting a retail building in addition to a golf course. There they bought T-shirts to match with the image Francis Ouimet, 1913 US Open Championand his caddy Eddie Lowry.

“We saw them and said: “Hey? Why not us?” Cohen said on Tuesday after he and Thorbjornsen crossed the Country Club top nine with Collin Morikawa and Nick Dunlap, winner of the 2021 US Junior Amateur Championships. “Let’s make our own story.”

The story means Torbjornsen, the Stanford University star, is doing what Ouime did: winning the US Open at the Country Club as a 20-year-old amateur. Both entered their tournaments as the reigning Massachusetts amateur champions.

“I think,” Cohen said, “that this week he has the opportunity to escape.”

Cohen and Torbjornsen have been inseparable friends since their first meeting in high school. When Thorbjornsen left Wellesley, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, after graduating from high school for the IMG Academy in Florida to work on his golf game, Cohen followed him. But if Torbjornsen stayed for three years, Cohen only stayed for one.

“Drew was a good golfer,” said his mother, Lisa Goldberg. “He just wasn’t Michael-good.”

Cohen also missed hockey too much. And when Thorbjornsen returned to Wellesley to finish high school, Cohen, the captain of the boys’ hockey team, made sure his friend was named team manager.

But thanks to golf, their bond has become even stronger. Last summer, Cohen started working with Torbjornsen, and there were some good things. Thorbjornsen won the Western Amateur in July 2021. He reached the 1/8 finals at the US Amateur.

This summer, Cohen, an aspiring student at the University of Wisconsin, faced a choice: take an internship at an investment bank or continue walking with Thorbjornsen. With the blessing of his mother, he chose the latter.

“I told him that he had enough time to sit at the table,” Goldberg said. “Go.”

It was good for Thorbjornsen.

“He knows me like no one else,” Thorbjørnsen said. “As a person and a golfer. He knows when to leave me alone and he knows when to say something.”

On Thursday morning, the two will be at the first tee, where Thorbjornsen should land one of the first tees at the 2022 US Open due to his local connections. Another Massachusetts native, Fran Quinn, the tournament’s oldest player at 57, will start at the same time from the 10th tee.

Thorbjornsen played one 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach in California where he qualified. Cohen wasn’t in his bag that week.

“He needed a professional,” Cohen said. “We were both 17. Can you imagine?”

This tournament was Thorbjørnsen’s go-to in terms of national attention. He started playing golf at age 2, playing nationals at 6 and winning them by 10. An impressive youth career preceded a scholarship to Stanford.

“Michael has always had great hand-eye coordination,” said his father Torbjorn, also known as Ted. Over the years, the elder Thorbjornsen drove his son daily to the state-of-the-art golf practice facility in Rockland, Massachusetts, about 30 miles from Wellesley. They often returned home shortly before midnight.

“He had to do his homework in the car,” said Ted Thorbjornsen. “The teachers will all be angry. But all this time I think that this child is smart and this time will never return.

Until this week, father and son had not seen each other for three years, partly because of the pandemic. Michael Thorbjornsen’s parents divorced and Ted lives in Abu Dhabi. The two men, however, interacted frequently during this time, with Michael sending videos of himself to his father and Ted criticizing them.

“Sure, we have normal friction between father and son,” Ted said, “but never when it comes to golf. It’s kind of a code language that we have. He never argues. He trusts me.”

He also trusts his caddy.

“Drew calms Michael’s storm,” said Goldberg, who settled the two in her Wellesley home last week before moving into a hotel for the duration of the tournament.

Cohen and Thorbjornsen will be in Connecticut next week for the Traveler Championship. The tournament extended the invitation after Thorbjornsen qualified for the US Open. They will then travel to Scotland for the British Open, Switzerland for the Arnold Palmer Cup and possibly Greece for a while. Then in August there will be two big amateur tournaments – Western and US Amateurs.

Thorbjornsen said he plans to return to Stanford for his freshman year. Last season for the Cardinal was disappointing, but Thorbjornsen warned: “Beware of us next year!”

This does not mean that he does not focus on what is directly in front of him.

On Tuesday, he bombarded Morikawa with questions about life on the PGA Tour. Morikawa, who himself has only turned pro since 2019, said the amateur experience at an event like this can be “overwhelming”.

Morikawa continued, “It was cool to go back to how I prepared in college, how I prepared as a junior. I think the most important thing is just to learn your routine, to come to these places and sort out the ropes. You have to learn to just stay in your lane.”

Thorbjornsen is aware of the financial lures of the new Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, but said his professional plans have been put on hold. However, he suggested that the PGA Tour bring in top performers like himself.

“Maybe they could do something like offer PGA cards to five of the best college players,” Torbjornsen said. “That would be an incentive.”