Kevin Foley, sporting a seafoam green polo, navy blue pants and thankful grin, took off his hat, shook his caddie’s hand, and briefly looked around at the grandstands on the 18th green.
Seven hours prior, TJ Howe experienced a similar moment walking off the ninth green.
Howe and Foley, former roommates and teammates at Penn State, came to the U.S. Open looking to enjoy themselves and contend in their first-ever major appearance.
Unfortunately for the 2010 graduates, their stay at Oakmont Country Club was stopped short of Sunday.
Howe and Foley missed the cut on Saturday, falling shy of advancing to the third round. Howe finished his two rounds with a score of 9-over par, while Foley wrapped up at 20-over par.
The cut line was 6-over par.
Foley, after a 5 over first round, couldn’t get anything going on Saturday, posting 15-over par, the worst score of any player in the second round.
Meanwhile, Howe rebounded in his second round with a 3-over par, following a first-round score of 6 over.
“I wasn’t too far off,” Howe said of making the cut. “But I was off enough.”
All Howe had on Saturday was five holes. After being tasked with completing a full 36 on Friday because of Thursday’s weather suspension, the 28-year-old’s round was stopped early due to darkness.
So, Howe teed it up at the par-4 fifth to start his Saturday morning. The Osceola native was even through his final five, including a birdie on the par-4 seventh.
In the second set of 18, he totaled two birdies to three bogeys and one double-bogey — a respectable round given his 6-over first go-around.
“But it was a little too late,” Howe said of the second-round score.
As for Foley, he shook his head a few times thinking about his second round.
Holding at 5 over after a birdie at the par-4 third, Foley had a solid enough start to believe he might make the cut.
For what happened next, Foley explained it best.
“Somehow I just hopped on the wrong train going somewhere,” the 29-year-old said. “The U.S. Open does what it does. It separates good shots from mediocre shots, and mediocre shots from bad shots.”
And Foley had a few deflating ones. The three-time All-American hit 5 of 18 greens in regulation for the worst second-round percentage of anyone in the field (28 percent).
The holes following Foley’s birdie on the third haunted him.
The Somerville, N.J., native had four bogeys and three double-bogeys before stopping the bleeding with a par on the 11th.
“I didn’t take advantage of the easier holes,” Foley said. “It’s a struggle when it’s going that way, but you gotta keep your head up. Not every day is your day.”
To his credit, Foley’s spirits didn’t wilt. He kept his cool, and, like he had all week, continued to acknowledge members of the gallery who let out a “We Are.”
For both Foley and Howe, the constant support of friends, family and — most audibly — Penn State fans was something they not only appreciated, but also drew on emotionally.
“It just shows you how great our fanbase is,” Howe said. “Normally I’m on the other side, cheering at a football game, but this time Kevin and I got the other side of it.”
“Even though you’re not playing well, they’re still clapping for you,” Foley said. “The last three days are something I’ll think back on for sure.”
Howe concurred, taking the week as a learning — and fun — experience.
Both of these former Penn State standouts qualified for the U.S. Open through local and sectional qualifying. Neither Howe (Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada) nor Foley (Web.com Tour) is a household name.
But both took their chances, reached their first-ever major, and competed at Oakmont, arguably the toughest course in America that just so happens to be a few hours away from their alma mater.
From practice rounds to walking off the green on their final hole, Howe and Foley will always remember the 2016 U.S. Open.
“It was special,” Foley said.
“I really hope it’s not my last one,” Howe noted. “We’ll have to find a way to get back here.”