Blake Barribeau was preparing for one of the more stressful situations in golf when his older sibling, Derek, sauntered by and uttered some motivational words: “I’ve got mine, go get yours.”
Derek, 31, of Royal Oak, Mich., had just earned his invitation to the 41st U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Erin Hills by carding a 3-under 68 on Aug. 1 at Whippoorwill Club in Armonk, N.Y. Brother Blake, 25, of Brighton, Mich., was now embroiled in an 8-for-1 playoff to get the last of the six available spots from the 120-man qualifying field.
The good news for Blake was that the playoff began on No. 10, a hole he had birdied earlier in the day. The good mojo continued when he stuffed a 93-yard approach with his 56-degree wedge to 8 inches for a stress-free birdie, one that wouldn’t be matched by the seven other competitors.
A weekend that had begun with casual rounds at three of Metropolitan New York’s iconic U.S. Open venues – Shinnecock Hills, Bethpage State Park (Black Course) and Baltusrol (Lower Course) – was now ending with a trip for both to another past U.S. Open venue. Derek, a salesman for an automotive electronics supplier, and Blake, a caddie at Winged Foot Golf Club (another past U.S. Open venue), are each competing in their first USGA championship.
“I was supposed to fly home that night,” said Derek, who was a walk-on at Division II Grand Valley State in Allendale, Mich. “I booted my flight to Tuesday. We packed up and went straight to the bar.”
On that same August day, another pair of brothers in Oregon were enjoying similar success. Jack and Chris Dukeminier, both natives of Eugene who played at the University of Oregon, are no strangers to USGA qualifying. In 2018, they made the field for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Jupiter Hills Club, missing the match-play cut by two strokes. Jack, 33, a portfolio manager in Portland, competed in his fifth U.S. Amateur last month at The Ridgewood C.C. and Arcola C.C. in New Jersey.
Chris, 39, a marketing manager for Nike, hasn’t had the same success in USGA events, but he did qualify for one previous U.S. Mid-Amateur. At Oswego Lake Country Club in Lake Oswego, Ore., a venue both are familiar with, the brothers shared medalist honors with matching 2-under-par 68s. Jack was 6 under through 14 holes before making bogeys on his last four coming home. Chris had a stretch of 4-over golf – a double and two bogeys – but offset the mistakes with six birdies.
It’s the first time Jack and Chris will compete in the same USGA individual competition together.
“The course was 5 miles from home,” said Jack. “There were four spots. It would be one thing if it were one [spot available]. Then we might consider [separating]. With that many spots, it made sense.”
The Dukeminier brothers – each of whom is older than his Barribeau counterpart by eight years – are more typical of mid-amateur competitors, married with families and golf being a more occasional activity. Jack has a 3-year-old son (Levi) and a 1-year-old daughter (Blake), and Chris has a 4-year-old son (Declan). They play in a weekly Saturday game at Blue Heron Lakes, a top public course in Portland that hosted the 2000 U.S. Amateur Public Links. The competition is fierce, with a number of players who have competed in USGA events, including Robbie Ziegler (2022 U.S. Amateur), Philip Bagdade (2019 U.S. Mid-Am) and William Snow (2015 U.S. Mid-Am).
“You can shoot 70 and finish fifth,” said Chris Dukeminier. “I don’t think there are too many clubs where that can happen.”
Both Dukeminiers grew up playing at Eugene Country Club, a classic Robert Trent Jones Sr. design that has hosted six USGA championships. Their father, Mark, had a weekly game with Casey Martin’s father. Each matriculated at the University of Oregon and chose not to pursue professional golf upon graduation.
Ever since, they’ve tried to qualify for the same USGA events – U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur – with moderate success. Jack reached the Round of 32 in his only previous U.S. Mid-Amateur appearance in 2019.
“They are so hard to make,” Jack said of USGA championships. “Realistically you have a 20 to 25 percent chance to make it each time.”
When Derek Barribeau saw the qualifying sites for the U.S. Mid-Amateur, he circled Whippoorwill, a course he always wanted to play. He played in a 2021 U.S. Open local qualifier at Eastward Ho! on Cape Cod for that very reason, and nearly advanced to final qualifying.
It just so happened that younger brother Blake got a caddieing gig this summer at Winged Foot, 15 miles south of Whippoorwill. After playing high school and college soccer – first at Division I Oakland University in suburban Detroit and then Division II Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida – Blake decided not to pursue pro soccer, and caught the golf bug.
During the pandemic, Blake caddied at the Kingsley Club near Traverse City, Mich., where he befriended Miami Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel and team owner Stephen Ross, which led to a business development job with the NFL team in 2021. While he enjoyed it, Blake gave up the position and began caddieing at Jupiter Hills. That’s where the left-hander received some tutelage from teaching pro Tyler Mraz.
When they signed up for the Whippoorwill qualifier, neither brother seemed bothered about being at the same site.
“I’m not afraid of him,” said a smiling Derek, who, unlike Blake, played competitive golf throughout high school and college. He has qualified for three of the last five Michigan Amateurs and played a practice round last year with James Piot, who would win the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont.
In their qualifier, Derek got off to a hot start, making the turn at 4 under (inward nine). Blake, who also started on No. 10, was 3 over par after nine holes. But Blake turned things around on Whippoorwill’s first nine, shooting 4 under to make the eight-man playoff. In the spring, he had failed to advance from a 5-for-2 playoff in U.S. Open local qualifying in Florida, but he made quick work of this chance.
Who knows? Either one of the sets of brothers could face each other if they qualify for match play. They’ve already beaten some pretty long odds to make it to Erin Hills and stroke-play co-host Blue Mound Golf & Country Club, in Wauwatosa, Wis.
“The special part is we are each other’s biggest competitors, but also each other’s biggest fans,” said Blake. “If it didn’t go my way in the qualifier, I would have been just as happy going to the bar with him to celebrate. It’s cool for the family because I know how hard he has worked.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.