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LI club pro Danny Balin posts respectable U.S. Open first-round score

Actor Michael O'Keefe (L) caddies for Danny Balin

Actor Michael O'Keefe (L) caddies for Danny Balin during a practice round prior to the 120th U.S. Open Championship on September 15, 2020 at Winged Foot Golf Club. Credit: Getty Images/Gregory Shamus

MAMARONECK, N.Y. — On Tuesday after tee times for the first round of the U.S. Open were announced, Danny Balin got a text from his brother telling him the news that the USGA decided to give first-ball honors to Westchester County residents Balin on No. 10 and amateur Brendan Wu on No. 1.

"That was pretty cool," Balin said after shooting an opening 3-over 73 at Winged Foot that left him tied with such major champions as Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose but far back in the field. As "cool" as it might have been to lead off the 144-man field, it also was a daunting task at 6:50 a.m., and he wound up making an opening double bogey on the 203-yard, par-3 10th.

"It’s nerve-racking anytime you play in a major, even if there weren’t any fans," said Balin, who is the head professional at Fresh Meadows Country Club in Lake Success and has played previously in the PGA Championship. "It was my first U.S. Open . . . My [2-year-old] daughter did not sleep all night, so I was up, unfortunately. I probably got a few hours here and there. I was here about 5:15.

"I made double on the first hole, hit it in the left bunker, then three-putted. I think it was just more nerves and shaking, playing my first U.S. Open on my first hole."

Earlier in the week, Balin received some attention when he agreed to allow actor Michael O’Keefe, who played Danny Noonan in the 1980 comedy hit "CaddyShack," caddy for him the first two practice days. "I got a bunch of text messages from him," Balin said. "He’s a good man."

Considering Balin hit the ball poorly off the tee Thursday, he was satisfied that he shot a respectable score. "I shot 3-over in a U.S. Open playing from four fairways," Balin said. "I was playing out of the rough all day and bound to make bogeys . . . I got it back in play and made some good up and downs from 100 yards and in to kind of keep with it. It could have been a lot higher playing from the rough."

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