Cameron Young relishing US Open stage as young gun: ‘I should belong’


PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — The 22-year-old amateur playing in his first professional tournament at this week’s U.S. Open, walked onto the Pebble Beach practice range Tuesday looking for a place to hit balls.

There was one open spot: Right next to Tiger Woods.

“I was not about to take that spot,’’ Cameron Young said. “I turned around and walked the other way.’’

Make no mistake: Young, a native of Scarborough in Westchester County, whose father, David, is the head pro at Sleepy Hollow, is not a naïve, wide-eyed, first-timer destined to be an only-timer.

Young, who just graduated from Wake Forest, plans for this to be the first of many U.S. Opens he’ll play in once he turns pro after this summer.

“This is where I feel like I should belong and it’s where I feel like I will belong at some point — whether it’s in the next year or it’s five years from now,’’ Young told The Post.

Seven years ago, at age 15, Young missed earning a spot into the U.S. Open by a mere three shots in the sectional qualifier at Canoe Brook in Summit, N.J.

That kind of performance at that tender age turned out to be a bit of a tease as it took Young the next six tries before be finally broke through two weeks ago at the sectional qualifier at Century and Old Oaks in Purchase, where he was the medalist and earned one of the four spots into Pebble Beach.

The fact Young didn’t make it as a 15-year-old and had to wait until now likely will benefit him. Instead of him being an awe-struck-teenager novelty act, this week should serve as a dip-a-toe-into-the-water primer as he readies to turn pro.

“I’ve never played in a PGA Tour event or a Web.com event, so it’s definitely better now to have this experience to see how I stack up,’’ Young said. “Until two or three days ago, I didn’t really understand what this meant. If I were coming here as a 15-year-old, I wouldn’t have really had a grasp on it until just now. This always was one of those things I figured I would do eventually.’’

His father did, too.

“Seven years ago … I guess at that point you sort of assumed that sooner or later he was going to break through,’’ David Young said. “But still, it was kind of a shock when it actually happened. It really didn’t seem real until we set foot on the grounds here and you realize what’s going on.

“I get the same feeling I had when he was doing his college recruiting trips. He just looks like he belongs, but it’s going to take a while before he actually does.’’

Stewart Hagestad, a 28-year-old amateur who has played and worked in the Metropolitan Area and is playing in his third U.S. Open, has competed against Young for years. He believes Young has what it takes to make it on the PGA Tour.

“He’s looked like a pro since he was 15,’’ Hagestad said. “I remember the first day I met him. We were at Friars Head playing the Ike and I ended up taking second and he won it. I was blown away by how quietly confident he was in himself. Cam’s just really good. He’s got a lot of firepower. He’s a total stud.’’

Asked what his goal is this week, Young said: “Obviously, you have the dream of making the putt to win a U.S. Open, but I think this week if I can stick to what I know as far as my game goes and handle myself in a way that I’m proud of and don’t regret, leaving on whatever day it is — whether it’s Friday night or Sunday night — that will be my goal.’’

Asked if he’d be surprised to make the cut, Young quickly said, “I think my game is absolutely good enough to make the cut.’’

He’ll tee it up alongside PGA Tour player Brian Stuard and European Tour player Marcus Kinhult at 3:41 EDT Thursday, with his father on the bag as his caddie. His mother, Barbara, has caddied his practice rounds.

“Hopefully, he can play his own game, be calm, enjoy the moment and stay in the moment,’’ Barbara Young said. “I’m glad he has this opportunity. He’s played with professionals before, but it’s been in a U.S. Open qualifying, not in any big event like this. It’s a new experience for him, but I think he’s ready. We’ll see.’’