As the son of a three-time U.S. Open champion, Steve Irwin knew better than most first-time players what to expect. Although he missed Hale Irwin’s wins in 1974, ’79 and ’90, he caddied for his father several times at the event over the years.

Even with that knowledge, the 36-year-old amateur struggled at Congressional Country Club. He shot a 78-77—155 (13-over par). But not even his score could dampen his spirits.

“I played very well to get here,” he said. “I didn’t play that great here, but I had a wonderful time. It’s an experience I’ll be able to take with me the rest of my life.”

After trying to qualify for the national championship 12 or 15 times during his life, Irwin finally made it this year. And he hopes the experience won’t be his last, even though he spends more time as a father, husband and “working stiff” as he puts it. Irwin works with his father on golf course design as well as doing some consulting and investing. That leaves only enough time for one weekend round of golf a week.

“Playing in our national championship as an amateur – a true amateur, not one that plays in a tournament every week – I’ve very proud of that,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to [play in a U.S. Open] since I was 4. The family history, this tournament is such a big part of my dad’s career. It truly defined his career. It’s a major point of emphasis in our family, and it’s something that’s been very dear to my heart.”