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U.S. Open 2013: Michael Kim, Amateur From Cal, Thrust Into Spotlight At Merion (PHOTOS)

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MICHAEL KIM MERION
Michael Kim walks to his bunker shot near the 17th green during the third round of the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, Saturday, June 15, 2013, in Ardmore, Pa. | AP

By Nick Masuda, Golfweek

ARDMORE, Pa. -- LaRue Temple has caddied for the likes Dr. J, Mike Quick, Samuel L. Jackson, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz.

But it took a 19-year-old from California to make him the famous one.

Amateur Michael Kim charged up the leaderboard Saturday at the U.S. Open, at one point climbing to within two shots of the lead after a birdie at No. 15, and rewarded the longtime Merion club caddie with plenty of face time on television and in front of his hometown crowd.

"LaRue! LaRue!" bellowed from the galleries all over the front nine, the crowd giving the north Philadelphia native plenty of love.

"Hey, I am the one playing," Kim remembered thinking with a wide smile on his face.

Kim quickly put the focus back on himself with a birdie on No. 10. And then another on No. 12. And on No. 13. A 10-footer on No. 15 sent him to 3 under on his round and even par for the tournament.

He took a glance at the leaderboard to the right of the green just before that last putt, but not to check his score.

"It was super cool to see my name on the leaderboard next to names like Schwartzel and Mickelson and Donald," said Kim, Golfweek's top-ranked collegiate golfer who will be a junior at Cal in the fall.

But amidst the "Michael! Go Michael!" and the "Go Cal! Go Bears!" after his final birdie, there was yet more "LaRue! LaRue!"

Forget Mickelson and Schwartzel, Kim was already sharing the spotlight with a celebrity, a local one at that.

Both couldn't help but smile as they hustled up to the 16th tee -- the start of Kim's late downfall that saw him slip from T-3 to solo 10th at the end of the day, carding a 1-over 71 to sit five shots off the lead.

But despite the bogey-double bogey-bogey finish, Kim was swarmed by dozens of media members after his round, while Temple was bombarded with a flurry of questions as to how he came to carry Kim's bag.

"I never expected this, I thought it might be cool for my friends to maybe see me in the background on TV," said Temple.

Temple met Kim via phone on Monday night and in person on Tuesday.

Not bad for a guy that had planned on taking the week off.

"(It was) just being in the right place at the right time. Me not wanting to work the Open or work the carts or the bag room or anything kind of led me to the job," said Temple, who has worked at Merion since the summer of 1997 and works six days a week.

"I had tickets for the week. (I told them) 'No, I'm going to watch, I'm going to see Tiger, I'm going to hang out and have fun.' I have a friend of mine, we got tickets last August. But I'll bail (on) him for a bag."

His phone hasn't stopped buzzing since, especially from his mother, who is enjoying seeing her baby boy on TV and in photos. While he is handling his new celebrity with grace, he has one simple mission: Represent Merion well.

"Walking down the first tee, Mike's like, 'Wow, you're getting more cheers than me.' It means a lot. Plus I bartend at a bar and a lot of people that are from the bar are here," said Temple. "I've seen a lot of new faces. A lot of old caddies. It's very sweet. But I want to represent for Merion."

He wasn't the only one representing well, as Kim saw the yellow Cal shirts and hats with the big "C" on them, and those that didn't know he was from Cal got a good lesson in how Golden Bear golf has grown.

"There was a lot of 'Go Bears' out there and it was awesome to hear," said Kim, who won four times individually during the 2012-13 college season, with Cal winning an NCAA-record 11 times. He also won both the Jack Nicklaus Award and Haskins Award in the process.

"I am doing my best, just trying to make Coach Desimone's job a little easier (to recruit)."

He'll play Sunday's final round with another former college golf standout -- Oklahoma State's Rickie Fowler -- at 2:36 p.m. EDT.

Not bad for a 19-year-old with zero expectations, but he will have one task on Sunday -- helping the "LaRue!" chants drown out the shrieks of Fowler's young fan base.

After all, Temple now considers Michael Kim to be the biggest name on that list.

Also on The Huffington Post

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