Gophers past and present prepare for 3M Open

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Tom Lehman is the dean of University of Minnesota alumni on the PGA Tour, Erik van Rooyen is the Gophers’ current torch bearer and Angus Flanagan looks like he may be the future.

The trio of Gophers hooked up for a nine-hole practice round Wednesday on the eve of the 2020 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine.

Click the video box on this page to watch various highlights from the final day of practice ahead of the 2020 3M Open as well as complete pre-tournament press conferences with Angus Flanagan and Erik van Rooyen – including their thoughts on playing their first PGA Tournaments in their adopted hometown, and having the chance to walk the TPC Twin Cities course with Tom Lehman

Lehman was the PGA Tour Player of the Year in 1996 and won five PGA Tour events as well as the 1996 British Open. He also has 12 wins on the Champions tour.

He was tasked with re-working Arnold Palmer-designed TPC Twin Cities course to make it suitable for the PGA Tour once the course was granted the chance to host the 3M Open.

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van Rooyen saw his first significant action on the PGA Tour in 2019, breaking through with an 8th place finish at the PGA Championship.

"It’s really special," van Rooyen said of returning to play in Minnesota. "I’ve received a ton of text messages from people from around this area, fellow golfers, people that are Gopher fans. We played this golf course a ton when I went to school here. Played the back nine yesterday and all those memories came flashing back, so it’s really special for me to be here."

He’s also on the verge of earning his permanent Tour card this year, with a top finish of third at the WGC-Mexico back in February. Hvan Rooyen currently stands 43rd in the Official World Golf Rankings.

"(Playing on the PGA TOUR) has been a goal since I was a kid, reason being you see the best players in the world playing out here. It’s not so much a goal being a full-time PGA TOUR player as it is a goal of wanting to compete against the best in the world. However, the best in the world play here. So that’s why I want to get my PGA TOUR card.

"We also live here now. My wife’s from Minneapolis, from here, so we live in the U.S., we want to raise our family here, so I think long term it just makes sense. But again, I see myself as one of the best players in the world and I want to compete on that level and that means I’ll play here. It’s definitely a goal of mine. It’s been on my mind throughout these last few months, but it will take care of itself. I know that I’m a good enough player, so if I put the scores up, it’s going to happen."

Flanagan is playing as an amateur this week at the 3M Open, which is his first PGA Tour event appearance. He was granted a sponsor exemption during the trophy ceremony after winning the Minnesota PGA’s Minnesota Open two weeks ago. Flanagan eagled the 18th hole in the final round to set a course record at the Royal Club in Lake Elmo. He had intended to try to make it into the 3M open via pre-qualifer and qualifier tournaments, but was handed an express ticket into the event by Royal Club founder and 3M Open Executive Director Hollis Cavner.

"It’s a different life in doing all of this," Flanagan admitted in his pre-tournament press conference. "I’m really, really enjoying it and it’s all a learning experience and that’s pretty much what I’m taking this week. If I play well? I play well. And if I don’t? I’ve got two or hopefully four days of learning experiences and the whole week as well. Definitely, I’m looking forward to it."

Flanagan is entering his fourth year at the University of Minnesota this fall and is a former Big Ten Conference champion. He intends to soak up every moment of this weekend’s experience.

"There’s so many guys that I kind of wanted to meet. I think a lot of guys have been like "who’s this kid" because I’m 21 but I look like I’m 15. So they’re probably wondering, ‘Who’s this guy, like is he one of the guys’ sons?’ or something like that."

"Sunday night I was out here practicing and I was on the range and I was talking to Russell Knox, and I’ve looked up to Russell because he’s from Scotland, my dad’s from Scotland as well. Then DJ (Dustin Johnson) turns up on the range and starts hitting balls next to me and I was just like, wow, I had to pinch myself a bit and say, ‘Is this real’?"