Jace Frederick | St. Paul Pioneer Press

Not a bad debut.

Making his first career appearance at a major on Thursday at Carnoustie, former Minnesota Gophers golfer Erik van Rooyen carded a 4-under 67 in Round 1, putting him in a three-way tie for second at The British Open in Scotland, one stroke behind leader Kevin Kisner.

“Hit a lot of good shots, had a lot of good numbers,” van Rooyen told the Golf Channel.

“It is a major but my mindset today was I’ve played a lot of golf this year already,” he told the Agence France-Presse. “I was quite comfortable.”

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Back in Minnesota, John Carlson — the Gophers’ director of men’s golf — was watching proudly, at least for van Rooyen’s final three holes. Carlson woke up well before 5 a.m., and still was able to catch just the tail end of the University of Minnesota alum’s round.

“If I didn’t have an 11-month-old I would’ve been up all night,” Carlson joked.

Thursday was exciting not just for Carlson and his family, but the entire Gophers program. The 28-year-old South African played for Minnesota from 2009-13, and is still very much involved with the program. Van Rooyen’s wife, Rose, is from Woodbury — the two met when he was in college. Van Rooyen was back in Minnesota for a few weeks this winter. During that time he practiced indoors with the Gophers and attended a Minnesota high school coaches clinic.

“He is very generous with his time, with giving back to us and our program,” Carlson said. “He couldn’t be a closer friend.”

Van Rooyen’s success on Thursday brought plenty of recognition for the program. Nearly every time van Rooyen’s name was mentioned on the Golf Channel during the opening round, “the University of Minnesota” quickly followed.

“That exposure helps so much,” Carlson said. “We recruit internationally as well as domestically, and a lot of the English players that are watching the telecast, that’s the biggest event for them for the entire year. And to be able to see a place that they could go play and develop their games as collegiate players, that’s pretty special. Erik obviously did that.”

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