Some families make a splash in politics (Kennedys); others dabble in music (Jacksons) or reality television (Kardashians). When it comes to golf, several prominent clans have enjoyed success, including one from the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
On July 11 at Stoneridge Golf Club in Stillwater, Minn., Carson Herron added to his family’s remarkable USGA legacy when he became a record fourth-generation U.S. Amateur qualifier, joining his well-known father, Tim, a four-time PGA Tour winner, as well as his grandfather and late great-grandfather (both also named Carson).
Herron will be among 312 competitors to tee it up on Monday and Tuesday in the 122nd U.S. Amateur Championship at The Ridgewood Country Club and stroke-play co-host Arcola Country Club, hoping to secure one of the coveted 64 spots for match play, which will be contested at Ridgewood.
The Herrons already were part of USGA lore as one of a trio of families with three generations of U.S. Open qualifiers, along with the Alexanders (Skip, Buddy and Tyson) and the Loves (Davis Jr., Davis III and Dru).
Not only that, with Alissa (Herron) Super, Tim’s younger sister, they can also boast of a USGA national champion in the family. Alissa won the 1999 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur with her big brother caddieing for her. The USGA ties also include Carson’s maternal grandfather, John Paulson, who played with Tim’s father at the University of Minnesota in the 1960s and qualified for the 1991 U.S. Senior Open.
Carson, 20, of Deephaven, has been aware of his family’s golf heritage ever since a club was put in his hands as a toddler. But before his 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifier, he didn’t know about the history he was about to make at day’s end. The U.S. Amateur has had several three-generation family qualifiers, including 2020 champion Tyler Strafaci, whose father and better-known grandfather – both named Frank – competed in the championship. His grandfather won the 1935 U.S. Amateur Public Links.
“I think that’s what made it cool,” said Carson. “I didn’t put any extra pressure on myself. It was just me going out there playing for myself… rather than trying to become the fourth generation [to qualify].”
Added Tim, 52, who currently competes on the PGA Tour Champions: “I think it’s exciting for my [83-year-old] dad. He’s real proud and happy.”
If anyone understood Carson’s achievement, it was Tim, the most accomplished player in the family. In the 1992 U.S. Amateur, Herron, the University of New Mexico’s only two-time first-team All-American, handed Tiger Woods his worst defeat in a USGA amateur competition. Herron trounced Woods, 6 and 4, in the Round of 32 at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. It’s a victory that Tim still relives with Carson, and occasionally with Woods, who at 16 when they squared off, had already won two of his three U.S. Junior Amateur titles.
“I told Tiger, I will take one of your U.S. Open trophies if you want that match back,” said Tim, laughing. “He wouldn’t do that trade, would he?”
In the 1993 Walker Cup Match at Interlachen Country Club, not far from the family’s hometown of Wayzata, Herron went 3-0 in a 19-5 USA victory. That included a 1-up singles win over future three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, who in June won the U.S. Senior Open.
Carson had just started dabbling in competitive golf when Tim qualified for what would be the last of his 11 U.S. Opens in 2012 at The Olympic Club – his best finish was a tie for sixth in 1999 – and it turned into an unforgettable experience for 10-year-old Carson. His dad lifted up the ropes at the practice putting green so he could get Woods’ autograph. Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Vijay Singh and Harrington also signed his U.S. Open flag that week.
“I got to see what professional golf is all about,” he said. “I was pretty overwhelmed. Walking around and getting to meet a lot of famous golfers at a young age really gave me the thirst to start playing golf competitively.”
By the time he graduated from Minnetonka High in 2021, Carson was among the best prep players in Minnesota. COVID-19 made recruiting a bit more challenging as college coaches couldn’t watch prospects in person. One school in particular piqued his interest, though, and he didn’t need to look far for advice.
Tim, a two-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, still owns the course record at New Mexico’s championship layout, a 62. Lobos’ coach Glen Millican had also crossed paths with Tim during his college days.
Basically sight unseen and with Tim’s unbiased scouting report, Millican made an offer to Carson. At that point, the young Herron was in the midst of a 5-inch growth spurt that would add 30 yards off the tee.
“It was a nice surprise when he got here and we saw his game,” said Millican, who sees similarities between father and son in their swings and on-course demeanor. “He conducts himself like a professional on the course. And he’s a well-mannered young man. Those things usually lead to success.”
While he didn’t rack up a win or a top 10, Carson posted a 73.21 stroke average over 11 tournaments, including a T-13 in the Southern Highlands Collegiate, one of the premier in-season tournaments, and was named the Mountain West Conference’s Freshman of the Year.
“Originally, I didn’t know if I was going to play or redshirt,” said Carson. “I [qualified] for the first two tournaments and then played all the tournaments in the spring. Coach [Millican] gave me a shot and I ended up having a pretty good first year.”
Seeing another Herron have success on the course is something most might expect from the son of a 25-year PGA Tour player who collected wins at iconic venues Bay Hill and Colonial.
“That’s not the case,” said Carson, adding that he was never pressured into playing the game at a high level. “I wasn’t always this good. I put in the work myself … and I have continuously gotten better every year. My dad and I always talk about that.”
When Carson finally beat his father at 17, Tim gave him one of those astonished looks that was quickly followed by a prideful smile.
“You don’t want your kids to beat you, but then you sit back and realize he’s arrived,” said Tim. “He’s only gotten me like four or five times.”
Tim, who is competing in the Boeing Classic this weekend, planned to take a red-eye flight from Seattle, Wash., to New Jersey so he can watch Carson. Tim’s wife, Ann, also will be in attendance with their twin 16-year-old sons, Mick and P.J.
Tim said his looping days are over and he will be a proud spectator when Carson opens play at 2 p.m. EDT on Monday at Arcola Country Club. Aunt Alissa, who represents Tim among other professionals as a vice president for a sports management company, and Carson’s grandfather will be rooting from Minnesota.
No matter what happens, Carson is adding to the annals of the Herron family.
“My dad has talked about trusting your process, and not putting too much pressure on myself because, regardless, it will be a great experience,” said Carson. “It’s going to be the best tournament I’ve ever played in. I’ll be a little nervous but also excited because [my father] doesn’t care if I shoot 65 or I shoot 80. That’s the nice thing.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.