Before Daniel Miernicki retired his University of Oregon golf bag in favor of his first professional one, the green and gold Oregon Ducks bag had to make one more appearance in the Aetna Tournament Players Pro-Am Monday.
"My Nike bag is coming in [Monday], but I didn't want my caddie to carry that heavy thing," Miernicki said before the pro-am.
His caddie and father, Paul, laughed and said, "He would have put the kitchen sink in that Nike bag, so I'm very happy to have the lighter one."
Miernicki makes his professional debut in the Travelers Championship Thursday. His appearance continues a tradition at TPC River Highlands.
"Go back to before Travelers took over as tournament sponsor in 2007 and you see that tradition," tournament director Nathan Grube said. "David Duval, Charles Howell, Jeff Overton; players like that received sponsors' exemptions and made their pro debuts here."
Although he wasn't a pro in the Travelers Championship last year, amateur Patrick Cantlay got an exemption and set the PGA Tour record for the lowest amateur score with a 60 in the second round. He tied for 24th place but couldn't accept the $46,425 prize money because of his amateur status.
"If I do that Sunday, I won't leave it on the table," Miernicki said.
He said he had played against Cantlay, who attends UCLA, before and knows well of the caliber of his game.
"I had heard about some of the pros who debuted here at the Travelers," said Miernicki, who just completed his fourth season at Oregon. "And then after Patrick shot that 60, I watched the rest of the rounds on TV."
Paul Miernicki said caddying Monday for his son was just a temporary position. Shaun McBride is scheduled to be Miernicki's regular caddie this week.
McBride will carry a Nike bag, and Miernicki will wear Nike apparel and swing Nike clubs.
Miernicki, a resident of Santee, Calif., had a 70.6 stroke average for the Ducks, who lost a semifinal match to eventual NCAA Division I champion Texas earlier this month.
"I'm a Southern California guy, and I've played with Rickie Fowler and Jamie Lovemark, who are Southern Cal guys too," Miernicki said. "I saw what they've done on the tour, especially Rickie. After college, this was the next logical step for me."
Grube said that one thing the Travelers Championship has tried to do is to focus on identifying the next generation of great players. "With our schedule on tour, the NCAAs and colleges are finishing, so it gives us a great opportunity to try to get some of these players, like in the past with Duval and Stewart Cink," Grube said.
Although Miernicki will be team Nike when he tees off as a pro for the first time Thursday, he says he'll always be a proud Oregon Duck. That's because his coach was Casey Martin.
Martin has a rare degenerative circulatory condition that affects his right leg. Fans in Connecticut remember that he was the first player to ride in a cart in a regular tour event in the 1998 Canon Greater Hartford Open.
Last week, he played and rode in a cart in theU.S. Openat Olympic Club in San Francisco.
"I lost in a playoff for a spot in the Open in Oregon, but Coach was medalist and made it," Miernicki said. "I'm so proud of him. I watched the Open, and he almost made the cut.
"It wasn't the mechanics of the swing that he helped me with the most at Oregon. It was about dealing with pressure and always trying. I take all of that with me as a pro."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun