FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Erik van Rooyen is a South African who played college golf at the University of Minnesota. Friday, he shot a second-round 68 to move into a tie for 10th at the PGA Championship.
Bethpage Black is long and intimidating. It also resembles a number of Minnesota courses.
"For me, being a foreigner, I think it was pretty cool coming to the U.S.," he said. "Not so much specifically Minnesota, but coming to the U.S. to play college golf, because otherwise this would have been a completely new experience. I've seen these types of golf courses. This course is similar to courses we have up in Minneapolis, maybe just a lot longer. Parkland style, soft greens this week, so I'm definitely comfortable."
He's playing on the European Tour, and has two professional wins — one on the Challenge Tour and one on the Sunshine Tour. In his only previous major, he finished tied for 17th at the 2018 British Open.
"I played great there," he said. "I don't know why. Maybe just peaking at the right time."
Former Gophers teammate Alex Gaugert is his caddie. He listed a slew of former teammates, including frequent roommate Jon Trasamar. "I still stay in contact with all of them," he said. "It's pretty cool."
Two other players with Minnesota connections did not make the cut. Spring Lake Park High's Troy Merritt finished at 7 over and Stillwater High's Alex Beach finished at 12 over.
Merritt says he is fully recovered from blood clots and surgery to remove a rib. "Tough golf course, and not a great one for me," he said. "I'm not a big hitter and if I can't hit it straight and can't make a putt, it's going to be a long two days, and it was."
Beach, the assistant club pro at Westchester Country Club, had a rowdy following for the second consecutive day. He followed a first-round 77 with a 75. "Tee to green, I hit it very well," he said. "I made good decisions. I handled the length of the course very well. It was an awesome experience. It was another learning step as I work to get more comfortable on this stage."
Van Rooyen trails the leader, Brooks Koepka, by 10 shots. Affable and confident, van Rooyen isn't conceding.
"The goal is to win," he said. "We've got our way of how we're going to go about that. Obviously, I can't control what Brooks and other people are doing. We're not just here to sign up and have a great experience. Winning was the goal going into the week, and it's still the goal. So we'll hit more good shots tomorrow and make some more good putts and we'll throw our name into the hat come the Sunday back nine."