KOHLER, Wis. (WFRV) — Appleton native Ryan Helminen had a group of 75 friends and family cheer him on during his opening round of the PGA Championship Tuesday at Whistling Straits.

“We’re really lucky to have friends and family here,” Helminen’s wife Erin Curless said. 

Helminen played in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Country Club in Louisville, Kentucky.  Playing in the tournament this year at Whistling Straits will be a different experience for him.

“It’s an advantage to play close to home, and to have a big fan club of friends and family watch, especially when there’s a lot of pressure when you make it to this big of a stage,”  she said. 

Curless caddied for Helminen when he played 9- and 18- hole rounds the course to prepare for the tournament. 

“It was nice to see the course in a serene environment,” Curless said.

Curless said she was proud of the way Helminen played, even though his round didn’t get off to a fast start. He was four over thru four holes, but rebounded to play the final 14 at even par.

“He didn’t get some breaks (early on) and had a bit of a rough start but he ended strong,” she said.

Helminen also had the honor of hitting the first shot of the tournament.

“(He was) a little more nervous about it than he would admit,” Curless said laughing. 

Helminen’s round ended around 11:30 in the morning, and Curless said she was going to make sure it took it easy for the rest of the afternoon — and that meant getting off the golf course. 

“We’ll probably hang out with our kids and go to the pool or go bowling,” she said.  “We have a bunch of family and friends in town, so later we’ll have a big dinner.” 

Helminen will tee off at 12 p.m. CST Friday.