ERIN, Wis. — Tyler Light sorted logs at a sawmill and worked overnight at a UPS distribution center, all in pursuit of a dream.
Bathed in sunlight at Erin Hills, with a college buddy on his bag and his smiling parents soaking in every moment, the wry grin on Light's face said it all. It's all real, every bit of it.
"I think the only time I was nervous was yesterday walking to the first tee, I looked at my caddy, I was like 'Man, we're at the U.S. Open," Light said after his practice round on Tuesday. "After that it's been kind of just trying to enjoy it, enjoy the crowds, enjoy everything. But I feel pretty good. I feel calm."
After making his way through local and regional qualifying, Light tees it up Thursday in the U.S. Open in his first PGA Tour event. He is the second alum of tiny Malone University in Canton, Ohio, to compete the tournament, joining former teammate Richie Schembechler last summer at Oakmont.
For his father, Tim, a 55-year-old IT director, the whole thing is indescribable.
"Just what a blessing," he said. "It's just been so much fun to watch him, where he came from as a kid up to here, and just the culmination of a lot of hard work. It's been a wonderful journey."
Tyler Light, 26, turned pro after graduating from Malone in 2014 and moved to South Carolina. He played on PGA Tour Canada for parts of two years before he decided he needed a change.
He got connected to Mike Emery at Brookside County Club in Canton and the two hit it off. Emery also works with Schembechler and Justin Lower, another former teammate at Malone.
"Seeing Mike, worked with him about a year and half, worked more mentally," Light said. "Just believing that I am good enough, I can play out here. Seeing the guys play and seeing the ball-striking, they're all very good and it's encouraging to see where I'm at, see where those guys are at."
On the way to the U.S. Open, Light worked a couple different jobs to support his golf pursuits. One winter, that meant a stint at his uncle's sawmill.
"I was sitting at a belt and I had to measure if the logs, they were cutting firewood so I had to make sure that the logs were the right length," he said. "So I had to grab each piece of wood, measure, OK, if it's not big enough, OK throw it in this pile, if it's too big throw it behind me. So I was throwing wood for about 10 hours a day, four days a week."
He worked an early morning shift for UPS this past winter, leaving him time during the day to work with Emery. The arrangement paid off with a spot in the biggest tournament of Light's career so far.
"I love the competition. Golf can get frustrating, but it's just a game," he said. "So that's kind of the biggest thing. It's just a game, treat it as that, and everything will fall into place."