What's it like to hit the first shot in a major championship - in your home state?

·2 min read

The alarm clock went off at 4 a.m. ET. When was the last time you woke up that early to play golf, Patrick Rada?

"Yeah," he said about 9 and 1/2 hours later, "maybe never."

The 33-year-old had good reason to be up before the sun on Thursday in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. He was chosen by the PGA of America to hit the first shot of the 103rd PGA Championship.

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Rada earned his way into his first major by finishing among the top 20 in the PGA Professional Championship – surviving a playoff. He grew up in South Carolina – about 3 hours away from Kiawah, in Anderson – and played for the Gamecocks, so being fairly local and a PGA pro, Rada was a gimme choice to start the festivities.

Now working as the head pro at McArthur Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Florida, Rada and his caddie were the first players on the range Thursday and still the only ones there when the sun finally woke up.

"That was really a surreal moment for me, as the sun's coming up there on the range by myself and Daniel, my caddie. That's a moment I'll never forget," Rada said.

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After finding the fairway with his opening shot, Rada made bogey at the first. He made three birdies in his round, however, en route to a 4-over 76 on an increasingly windy first day.

"What an honor," he said of hitting that opening shot.

Making the round all the more special was the fact that Rada had his own cheering section.

"My wife and father, brother, aunt and uncle. I had about a crew of probably 12 to 15 people," said Rada, whose two young daughters stayed at the house. "So it was really just special to be able to share that together with them. I couldn't be more blessed to have those individuals here."