It is somehow fitting that Zac Blair’s third appearance in the U.S. Open golf tournament, and first since 2019, will come Thursday at the famed Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.

Ten years ago, the former BYU All-American made his major golf debut at Pinehurst No. 2 and finished in a tie for 40th, a performance in 2014 that propelled Blair, who was 23 at the time, to bigger and better things in professional golf.

“Any time you get to tee it up in a major, it is exciting,” Blair told the Deseret News last week before boarding a flight to the East Coast. “Pinehurst is kind of where I started my career, at least professionally. It is going to be cool to go back and see what is going on, how I do.”

Blair’s memories of 2014 — Germany’s Martin Kaymer ran away with the U.S. Open title that year — are also sweet because, on the final hole, his caddie turned the bag over to Blair’s father, Jimmy, for a memorable Father’s Day walk together up the 18th fairway.

“That made it extra special,” Zac said.

Jimmy Blair, a longtime fixture on the Utah golf scene as a highly successful club pro and then golf entrepreneur, played in the 1981 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club near Philadelphia. After posting a 2-under-par on the front nine in his early start in the first round, the name Jimmy Blair was briefly atop the leaderboards throughout the course.

However, Jimmy missed the 36-hole cut by two shots, so Zac making the cut and posting a solid finish at Pinehurst were a thrill for both father and son.

Will history repeat itself?

Zac Blair watches his tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament in Pinehurst, N.C., Thursday, June 12, 2014.
Zac Blair watches his tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N.C., Thursday, June 12, 2014. | Chuck Burton, Associated Press

As of last Thursday, Zac wasn’t certain whether Jimmy, now 69 and a St. George resident, was going to make the trip.

“He’s always kind of a game-time decision,” Zac said.

The golfer’s wife, Alicia, and children, ages 4, 2 and 3 months, will be there, just as they were last month at the PGA Championship when Blair tied for 53rd with a 5-under 279 at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky. Video of Blair giving his 4-year-old son, Charlie, an impromptu lesson on the practice range before the tournament began went viral.

“Never a dull moment around here,” Zac said of his young family. “It will be nice to have them out there and we will make sure to have a fun week.”

Can the current Orem resident contend?

He missed the cut in his last U.S. Open, in 2019 at Pebble Beach, but likes his chances at Pinehurst, after that success 10 years ago.

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This former BYU golfer just qualified to play in the U.S. Open next week at famed Pinehurst

“I just need to execute and go play well. We will see how it goes. I just want to keep doing the right stuff and have a solid week without putting too much pressure on myself,” he said. “Just treat it like just another week of 30 or 40 weeks that we play on Tour. It just happens to be a major. I’m trying to not put too big of an emphasis on it.”

Pinehurst, a Donald Ross design that was overhauled before the 2014 U.S. Open, has a scruffy, unkempt look that Zac enjoys, with sandy waste areas and greens that resemble turtle backs and require outstanding iron play.

Before he arrived in North Carolina Sunday, Blair visited the course he founded and designed in South Carolina, The Tree Farm, which has been open for a year and a couple of months.

“I think Pinehurst is a really fair test throughout the whole bag. You gotta do everything right. You gotta drive it well and you have to hit your irons well.”

—  Former BYU golfer Zac Blair on Pinehurst No. 2

“I think Pinehurst is a really fair test throughout the whole bag. You gotta do everything right. You gotta drive it well and you have to hit your irons well,” Blair said. “The greens are really challenging. It is tough to hit them, especially under U.S. Open conditions. And then you have to have a really good short game and chip and putt well to recover when you are going to miss.

“I mean, I think it is as good of a fit as there really is for me in terms of a U.S. Open setup,” he concluded.

What sets the U.S. Open apart from the other majors is that almost anybody has a chance to play in it via local and then sectional qualifying. At one of the sectional qualifying last week in Springfield, Ohio, Blair posted rounds of 66 and 65 to finish at 9-under 131 and qualify.

“I had been playing fairly well, so I knew (it was possible),” he said. “But at the end of the day you still got to execute and play well. I have played really good on courses that a lot of people wouldn’t think I would, and I have played bad on courses that a lot of people think I would play well on.

“That’s just how golf is for me, I guess. You can never predict these things.”

Zac Blair, right, and Patrick Fishburn, second from right, finish off their round on the 18th hole during the third round of the PGA Zurich Classic golf tournament at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La., Saturday, April 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Zac Blair, right, and Patrick Fishburn, second from right, former college teammates at BYU, finish off their round on the 18th hole during the third round of the PGA Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La., Saturday, April 27, 2024. | Matthew Hinton, Associated Press

Before qualifying for the 124th U.S. Open, Blair posted a T24 at the RBC Canadian Open; in April, he teamed with fellow Fremont High product, Ogden native and BYU teammate Patrick Fishburn to tie for fourth at Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

“Yeah, that was awesome. That was great. Any time you get to play with a close friend like that, it’s great. We went to junior high and high school and college together. It is great to see him out on tour this year,” Blair said. “We both certainly wished we would have finished a little better than we did on Sunday. But it was a really fun week.”

Blair will join fellow Utahn Tony Finau in the field of 156, with Finau coming off a T8 finish at last week’s Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, Ohio. Pairings and tee times had not been announced as of Monday evening.