BEHIND THE SCENES
There's Room for More Than One Erin Hills at the U.S. Open June 18, 2017 | FAR HILLS, N.J. By David Chmiel, USGA

This Fond du Lac, Wis. woman, a U.S. Open volunteer, can lay claim to being the original Erin Hills. (USGA/Kayla Schaffer)

What’s in a name? Ask Erin Hills.

No, the other one.

Erin Hills, host site of the 117th U.S. Open, meet Erin Hills, nurse practitioner and U.S. Open volunteer.

With more than 5,000 volunteers at every U.S. Open, it’s possible that there could have been a Beth Page, Torrey Pines or even Erin’s distant cousin, Cherry. Still, none have materialized before this year’s blind date.

Hills, the person, was a non-golfer born and raised in Eldorado, Wis., about an hour northwest of Erin Hills, the golf course. After Erin graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 2010, she started grad school at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wis., and got a part-time job at Rolling Meadows Golf Course. She couldn’t understand why everyone started teasing her about her name.

“I had no idea,” she said. “My grandparents played golf, but my parents didn’t. I only knew a little bit about golf, and I had no clue about Erin Hills.”

That didn’t last long.

“I got one of my girlfriends and we drove down to Erin Hills to see what it was all about. We looked around and it was just so funny,” she said. “We went into the pro shop because I had to buy something with my name on it. The funniest thing is I didn’t tell anyone who worked there what I was doing. So I paid with a credit card because I wanted to see if they looked twice at the name on the card.”

Unfortunately, they didn’t, but there is a happy byproduct to the story: Erin Hills became a golfer.

“We got to play for free,” said the woman who has been spending the week in the U.S. Open Merchandise Pavilion, “and I got three free lessons. I loved it. Then some of the regulars would take me out and show me how to play. When I heard the Open was coming here, I had to volunteer.”

The original Erin Hills, with a keepsake from the 117th U.S. Open at the course that bears her name. (USGA/Kayla Schaffer)

Hills, who works at Columbus Community Hospital, has something in common with even the most passionate golfers: she has to find time to play.

“I’m not that great. I only get to play a handful of times a year,” she said.

The single mother, who also works as an independent beauty consultant and teaches nursing at Concordia University in Mequon, Wis., is dedicated to getting her son, Kayden, into the game.

“We have a par-3 course, Oak Green, near us, and they give kids free lessons in the summer,” she said. “Kayden isn’t much for the lessons but we like to play nine holes whenever we can. My boyfriend only comes when I make him.”

 Erin Hills, the original, says she is happy to share her name with her more famous – at least for now – namesake.

“That’s OK, we can share it,” she said with a laugh.

David Chmiel is manager of member content for the USGA. Email him at dchmiel@usga.org.