Brandon McIver ended his first U.S. Open on an upbeat note.
The 20-year-old Billings golfer birdied two of his first three holes on Friday afternoon, was even par on the front nine and went on to shoot a 3-over par 73 during the second round of play at the challenging Pinehurst No. 2 course in North Carolina.
After shaving nine strokes off his first-round score, McIver finished his 36 holes at 15-over 155. He didn't make the cut, which was reserved for the top 60 players and ties, but he walked off the course feeling good about himself.
"I just executed some shots better and didn't put myself in as tough of positions," he said. "Today was a lot of fun. I was happy I played well."
McIver started on the front side on Friday, with birdies on holes No. 1 and No. 3, a pair of par-4s, providing an instant boost of confidence. He made the turn at even-par 35 before bogeying Nos. 10 and 11.
He also birdied the par-3 No. 17 on a day where his scorecard included three birdies, nine pars and six bogeys.
McIver said he was told his tee shot on 205-yard, 17th hole just ran by the edge of the cup. He followed up with an eight-foot putt for birdie.
"It was fun to hit good shots out there," he said. "To be in that atmosphere is just exciting and something that I will not forget."
The reigning Montana State Amateur champion, who tied for 151st overall, will be a junior on the University of Oregon golf team in the fall.
He is a former Billings West standout and is the first Yellowstone County golfer to play in the Open since 1998.
McIver, who made the 156-player field as an alternate, definitely bounced back in fine fashion from Thursday's opening 82, which included a triple-bogey eight on his first hole (No. 10).
"It was a very satisfying feeling knowing that I competed at a high level today with some of best players," he said.
On the second day, McIver said he did a good job of putting his ball in play off the tee. He was also pleased with his iron play.
"It was just really cool to be out there, to see all of those other guys and play with them and see what they do," he said of his Open experience.
McIver said the difference between his game and the professionals "wasn't as substantial as I thought or what people might think it is."
He said where the game's leading players really set themselves apart is with their short games. "That's where I need to improve," McIver said.
"Clearly I learned a lot, and I want to get back to another U.S. Open, for sure," he said. "It was just incredible to play in a professional tournament. It was a dream come true, honestly."
McIver doesn't fly home until Monday, so he said he will be in the gallery for the Open's final two rounds.
He is also planning to defend his State Amateur title, with this year's event set for July 24-26 at Whitefish Lake Golf Club.
Make way for Acharya
Now waiting in the wings for her first U.S. Open experience is 30-year-old Jasi Acharya of Columbus.
Acharya is one of 75 players to have advanced through sectional qualifying to make the 156-player field for the Women's Open, which will also be played on the Pinehurst No. 2 course, beginning next Thursday.
The United States Golf Association was expected to announce first- and second-round groupings and starting times on Friday, but they weren't available at press time.
Acharya, who is a two-time Montana State Amateur champion and a member of the Montana State Women's Golf Association Hall of Fame, is currently playing on the nationwide Symetra Tour.
She earned her spot in the Open by winning a sectional qualifier at Lake Forest Golf & Country Club in St. Louis, Mo., on May 20.
This is the first time since 1998 that Montana has been represented in both of the U.S. Opens.