Alissa and Tim Herron possess a formidable bond, one that reaches beyond their sibling connection. Woven between their common love for golf is a professional relationship, with younger sis handling her more famous brother's off-the-course engagements, such as endorsement contracts and corporate outings.
But there's an even higher challenge. The Minnesota family places a special importance on national championships. Their grandfather (1934) and father (1963) – both named Carson – each competed in a U.S. Open, putting them in rarified USGA air as one of three families with three generations of U.S. Open competitors (joining Stewart, Buddy and Tyson Alexander, and Davis Love Jr., Davis Love III and Dru Love).
Like Tim, his father also competed in a U.S. Junior and an U.S. Amateur, putting the clan high on the Minnesota family hierarchy. Among others of note, John Harris won the 1993 U.S. Amateur and represented the USA on four Walker Cup Teams, and his father, Robert, was the 1992 U.S. Senior Amateur runner-up, while Tom Lehman owns 35 professional victories, including the 1996 Open Championship, and his brother, James, has qualified for several USGA competitions.
Tim Herron, in fact, has the distinction of being one of three players to defeat Tiger Woods in a USGA championship at match play, defeating the then-reigning 1992 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, 6 and 4, at Muirfield Village in the 1992 U.S. Amateur.
“I've watched the U.S. Open on television ever since I was a kid," said Alissa Herron. "To win a USGA event is something I've always dreamed of."
Getting a hole-in-one first had been Alissa's previous boast over her brother, but now she has something much bigger: her name on the Mildred Prunaret Trophy. Of course, it didn't hurt to have "Lumpy" looping. With the experience of a PGA Tour winner on the bag (Tim had three victories at the time, and added one more in 2006), her parents among the gallery and an infectious smile to accompany a well-rounded game, Herron, of Minneapolis, Minn., captured the 13th U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur at Cherokee Town and Country Club in the Atlanta, Ga., suburb of Dunwoody, defeating reinstated amateur Leland Beckel, 33, of Bethesda, Md., 1 up.
"Obviously, it's the biggest thing I've done in golf," said the 26-year-old, a three-time Minnesota Women’s Amateur champion (1996-98) who works for a sports marketing agency that handles several touring pros, including Tim. "It's awesome. Words can't really explain it."
A year earlier, Alissa, playing in her first Women's Mid-Am, had suffered a heartbreaking 1-up defeat in the Round of 16 to eventual champion Virginia Derby Grimes. Knowing his sister had the potential to win such an event, Tim vowed that he'd caddie for Alissa if he could squeeze it into his competitive schedule.
The two captured a Minnesota mixed amateur event in 1993, the year after Tim won his only state amateur title, but neither had ever caddied for the other. "I believe in her and it's important for her to believe in herself, too," Tim said. "I know when I came out on the Nike (now Korn Ferry) Tour [in the mid-1990s] a lot of caddies taught me how to play golf. You have to hit the shots ... but if you start free-wheeling it, you're going to short-side yourself and screw up and make a double [bogey] where you should have an easy par."
With Tim playing the roles of psychologist, swing coach, mathematician and tactician, Alissa was able to focus at Cherokee. She isn't a range rat; "I'm a feel player," she admitted.
She was feeling awfully good in the Round of 16 after she birdied five of the last eight holes to defeat one of the great ambassadors of women’s amateur golf, Carol Semple Thompson, 3 and 2. Thompson is a World Golf Hall of Fame inductee who owns seven USGA titles.
Earlier that day, Herron, who was inducted into the Minnesota Golf Hall of Fame in 2005, needed a clutch birdie at the par-5 18th to eliminate Susan Marchese, of Omaha, Neb., 1 up, in the Round of 32. After a relatively uneventful 3-and-2 quarterfinal win over future U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Laura Shanahan, of Bedford, N.H., Herron had the daunting task of facing medalist Pat Milton, of Munroe Falls, Ohio. Out of 132 competitors, Milton was the only one to break par in stroke play, taking the medal by four strokes over Andrea Kraus and Kathy Hartwiger. But Milton, 46, was the only high seed to advance deep into the championship.
Against Herron, Milton's swing started to come unraveled and she suffered her third semifinal defeat in 12 years, 4 and 3.
In the final, Beckel hit 12 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens, but she failed to record a single birdie and totaled 36 putts. The tone was set at the first when she missed a 2-footer to win the hole. Meanwhile, Herron struggled with her swing, finding just 9 of 14 fairways and only seven greens.
“I told her to hang in there,” said Tim Herron. “You’ve won five matches [up to this point] and played great yesterday [in the quarterfinals and semifinals] and the day before. Just try to get into it. You’ve got to hit a spot and commit to it.”
Herron put the match away with a two-putt winning par on No. 17 from 20 feet and another routine two-putt par on the closing hole.
"She let me in the door quite a few times today," Herron said, "and when she did, I made sure I wasn't going to screw up."
Job responsibilities and marriage kept Herron (who is married to Cory Super, a doctor of pharmacy) from taking advantage of the 10-year exemption given to the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, although she did defend in 2000.
Tim, meanwhile, officially retired from caddie duties following the Women’s Mid-Amateur. The father of three boys (Carson, Mick and Patrick) still competes sparingly on the PGA Tour, and next summer, he will be eligible to play in his first U.S. Senior Open (he turns 50 on Feb. 9) at Newport (R.I.) Country Club.
Perhaps his sister can return the caddie favor. Tim would love nothing more than to give the male side of this golf-passionate family a USGA trophy.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.