Posted by: randyhaaggolf | August 5, 2018

THE DREAM LIVES ON

As it took quite some time to acclimate to Senior Golf at age 55, now at 59 its my focus and dream of winning a National Championship, something that has eluded my amateur career, and has for most of us. Winning a national championship requires perfect timing, some luck, and the ability to perform at the highest level, regardless if you a pro or amateur.

The pain of missing in the USGA Senior Amateur qualifier on July 16th stayed with me as a very bad hangover through the beginning of my trip to Scotland to attempt to play in my 6th Senior Open at St Andrews. Like anything in life, when you REALLY want something, the only thing that changes is the amount of pressure that you’ll experience while competing, and that surely was the case at Big Canyon on July 16th. I played poorly, and again my putter kept me in the game, and allowed me to come to my 17th hole even par on the round. Knowing that even par was probably going to make it into the US Senior Amateur, made those last two holes play very very tough. Some say winning many tournaments and playing in 39 USGA events helps with the pressure, I would beg to differ, that it STILL is very challenging and tough to control your body, and the speed at which you play and make decisions.

The end result of my journey is I will be playing in the US Senior Amateur, based on an exemption that I was not even aware of. My trip could not have ended any better. And this morning I woke up thinking perhaps I had dreamt about the exemption, so again I look at the email I received for the USGA welcoming into an event that was very important to compete in. I will now focus all of my attention, training and energy towards being prepared for the intense pressure that comes with a match play event. I am sure most of you are aware of the difference between stroke play and match play. In match play the pressure is heightened with each shot as your opponent is right there with you shot for shot, hole by hole. And as the round progresses so does the intensity and pressure. So how do I handle the pressure of match play? I think over the years you learn that all you can do is play each shot as strategic as possible based on the situation. Some say playing match play is just like stroke play, and I disagree. If my opponent has just hit a poor shot, I will tend to counter with a more conservative shot, and vice versa with a great shot needs to be answered by a great shot by me.

In the end, match play is very exciting, and requires tremendous focus and strategy. I am so looking forward to returning to a venue where I went to the quarter-finals in the US Mid Amateur about 20 years ago. There is something about this beautiful tree lined course that fits my eye well. I am talking about Eugene Country Club which has hosted many of major golf events.

What I need now is for British Airlines to get my golf clubs to me, as they didn’t make my flight yesterday despite being at the airport 3 hours early, and flying business class. I laugh when I think they put that priority sticker on your bags, and once they leave on the conveyor belt it means absolutely nothing. Tomorrow is the start of the NCGA Valley amateur at Winchester Country Club, I be there now if I had my clubs, but it looks like a 50/50 shot I’ll have them back in time to compete in this important 2 day event.

Pretty much a jet-lagged sleepless night, but thrilled to be home

Stay tuned

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | August 4, 2018

A thrilling finish at the Senior Amateur

Nobody was ever going to catch Trevor Foster, so the second tournament was wide open for the runner-up spot.

Starting the final round I was T-6 and only two shots out of second. But the competitors ahead of me are the worlds best senior amateurs, a guy named Chip Lutz and Gene Elliott. I wasn’t really even thinking about passing them, my focus was more on having fun, and finishing strong. The round got off too a nice start with birdies at 1 & 4 followed by a bogey on the par 5 fifth hole.

As the wind picked up the scores started to rise, and I could feel that I was close to the lead for the runner-up spot as nobody was catching Trevor who was on cruise control.

After making two crucial pars on the very difficult 15th and 16th holes I knew that I had to be in the hunt. With the downwind par 5 17th hole, I knew that a birdie at a minimum was necessary.

My amazing caddy Phil, who faithfully carried my bag the previous year in the Senior open at Royal Porthcawl asked me if I wanted to know where I stood on the 17th tee. My answer this time was NO I just want to focus on these last two holes and see where I land on the leaderboard.

After a very solid drive off the 17th tee, I was left with only a 7 iron to the green. After a poor shot right, I was left with a tricky pitch from the wispy grass right of the green. I was overly cautious and hit the shot too hard and over the green leaving me with a downhill 60 foot putt that looked almost impossible to get down in two putts. My first put rolled 6 feet past the hole leaving me a tricky finishing par putt. Somehow I knew deep down that this was a crucial putt and that I needed to stay calm and confident. As most of my putts are struck while my eyes are closed, I opened my eyes to see the ball rolling true and pure right into the center of the cup!

The very difficult finishing whole requires an accurate tee shot as a bunker right and heavy gorse left protect both sides of this fairway.

After a solid drive down the right center I was left with only 130 yards to the pin which was situated in the middle tier of the green on the left. I deliberated with my caddie Phil as to whether a punch nine iron or a ripped wedge would be appropriate based on the wind conditions straight at me with a slightly downhill shot. I chose hitting a pitching wedge, which I knew I needed to strike very solidly to get the ball anywhere close. The contact was good and as I looked up I saw my ball soaring straight at the pen. From my view it look like the perfect shot, but when the gallery around the green didn’t respond I knew that I was not close, and was wondering where I had ended up on the green. My shot apparently hit about 30 feet short of the pin on the downslope and because it had so much spin into the wind that the ball back up the hill leave me with a 30 foot downhill putt. I safely two putted from 30 feet and registered my first par on this difficult finishing hole.

To my utter disbelief and shock, as I was approaching the scoring trailer I looked at the leaderboard and noticed that I was solely in second place one shot ahead of my good friend Gene Elliott.

After Gene finished with a par on the 17th hole and two putt par on the 18th hole for another par I realize that I would end up in the runner-up spot and receive the silver medal. This did not fully sink in until later at the awards presentation.

My goal for this three and half week journey was to at least do well in one of the three events I was prepared to take on during this incredible golf journey which took me through orange county to Scotland and then to Wales to the senior amateur.

My putter saved me everyday, almost to the point of being ridiculous during several stretches of each round. It honestly amazes me that I am able to make the putts I make while putting side saddle with my eyes closed at impact.

Today when I saw my good friend David Nelson on my British air flight to San Francisco, he told me that there was some good news that I was unaware of, obviously I was quite curious as to what news he had for me, and was shocked when he told me that my second place finish had earned me a spot in the field for the USGA senior amateur starting later this month.

Since I missed in the qualifier on July 16th I was quite upset that I would miss out on this National Championship on a golf course that suits my eye. After I landed this afternoon I received an official email from the United States golf Association officially inviting me into the event, I could not be happier.

As Golf goes, everyday is a different day. The first two weeks of my trip were very disappointing with my close miss in the USGA Senior Qualifier, followed by my clunker in the Senior Open Qualifier to get into the Open at St Andrews.

I had no idea that a second place finish in the Senior Amateur would land me a spot in this year’s USGA senior amateur at Eugene country club.

The trip ended on a very high note, one that I will never forget. To finish ahead of all the great American players, not to mention those from the other 23 countries is a true honor.

The people in Wales are amazing and true Golf fans. The photos below are of me and my amazing new friend and Caddy Phil. The next photo is of Nic and Peter Evan (the head golf pro at Porthcawl) I had played in the Senior Open Qualifier with Peter in 2017, and have been friends with him and his lovely family since we met.

My closing comments are true and honest, I don’t really know how I do what I do sometimes. This game is filled with way more disappointment and failure than success. I am a very lucky man to play in these great events and meet the extraordinary people I am privileged to meet that all have touched my life.

Stay tuned August is packed with events and training!

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | August 3, 2018

SENIOR OPEN AT ROYAL PORTHCAWL

Today under perfect conditions will be the final round with one player enjoying a historic 8 shot lead going into the final round.

Senior Open Live Scoring

This is the article written about one of the best rounds ever played in Senior Golf History.

Trevor Foster played one of the rounds of his life to leave the international field trailing in his wake at the 50th Seniors Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl in South Wales.

The 58-year-old Lancastrian from the Accrington and District club bagged ten birdies and dropped just one shot over the 6,776 yards of the fearsome links to be round in 63, seven clear of his nearest rivals.

“I’m a bit in a daze to be honest,” said Foster, as he came out of the scorers’ cabin.

“I felt good out there today and hit it really, really well. Probably one of the best rounds I’ve ever played,” said the retired club greenkeeper, who paid tribute to his former Lancashire team mate and captain Bill Bromilow, who was on his bag.

“He’s had all the numbers right for me. I’ve just had to hit the ball.”

Birdie spree

With a stiff breeze blowing off the Bristol Channel when Foster teed off at 9am he was soon into his stride with a birdie at the 374 yard first, hitting driver and a wedge to 10ft and holing the putt.

He didn’t pick up his next birdie until the 385 yard sixth with a 3-wood and a wedge to five feet, then he parred the short seventh before bagging four more birdies on the bounce.

He hit, driver, 3-wood and pitch to a foot to birdie the par five eighth, then driver and 8-iron to 15ft at the ninth to be out in 32.

Foster on fire

Driver, pitch to 6ft and one putt got him started on the back nine, before he hit his 6-iron to 60ft on the shorth eleventh and sank it.

He could only manage a par at the long 12th but then birdied the 438 yard 13th with a driver and a 7-iron to a foot. It was driver and 6-iron to 6ft on the 15th and another one putt before he dropped his only shot at the 16th.

His 3-wood off the tee found a poor lie in the fairway and he could only advance it 80 yards. His pitch third finished 15ft away and he took two putts.

Strong finish

Unfazed he finished in style with birdies at the two closing holes.

A drive and a 5-iron got him to the front of the long 17th and he had two putts from 60 ft, then a drive and an 8-iron finished on the front fringe at the last and he holed it from 20ft.

Winner of the Irish and West of England Seniors already this year, Foster, a former Lancashire champion at open and senior level, is playing in his third Seniors Amateur.

“I was eleventh I think at Formby and then missed the cut at Sunningdale last year when I got the worst of the weather.”

Chasing pack

Three players are in joint second place on two under par seven strokes behind Foster.

Gene Elliott from Des Moines, Iowa along with fellow American Todd Hendley from Columbus, North Carolina and East Kilbride teacher Ken Gallagher, playing in his first Seniors Amateur championship.

Elliott, joint runner-up at Sunningdale on his first appearance in the Seniors last year, finished the front nine with three birdies after dropping a shot at the fifth to be out in 34 and he was level on the way home with a bogey at the 14th and a birdie at the 17th.

Hendley had birdies at the first, sixth, eighth, 12th and 17th and dropped shots at the second, 13th and 15th.

Gallagher was out in 33 with a birdie at the sixth and an eagle at the eighth, then dropped shots at the 14th and 16th and birdied the 17th on the way home.

For me it was a mixed bag of some great stretches of holes, with both days ending in a thud. Today I will be able to enjoy a stress free round, and just enjoy the amazing vistas at Royal Porthcawl. I am pretty sure I do not have a round of 63 in me, but to finish the tournament in the red would be a great goal, and would end this very long road trip on a high.

In my next post I’ll talk a bit more about playing golf in Scotland and in Wales, more on the people here and the total experience.

Stay Tuned

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | July 30, 2018

GOLF IN SCOTLAND – THE AMAZING OLD COURSE

I’m sure many of you have been watching the Senior Open at St Andrews. While on TV it may look less than impressive, you must play it to feel the presence of the history of this magical place. There is no 1st and 18th hole in golf like St Andrews anywhere in the world. The 1st and 18th holes share a fairway that spans at least 120 yards, and you have double greens starting at #2 and #16, #3 and #15, #4 and #14, #5 and #13, #6 and #12 all adding up to 18.

We played on a calm Saturday, similar to round #1 of the Senior Open, and yes the course is a sitting duck without the wind. When the wind blows, its a completely different course. Without the wind, the 12th hole is drivable, into a strong wind, the hole is VERY tight. The downwind holes are also very tough, as you cannot stop your ball once on the green. This is not the typical golf we play here in the USA, and it does take an array of different shots to be efficient in these conditions. Many people I’ve spoken to about the Old Course have said that they didn’t really like it, thought it was a “dog” track. I completely disagree, this is the home of golf, where it all started. The city of St Andrews is amazing and beautiful, and everything about the place is magical and historic. So if you have not been there, get it on your bucket list!!

Oh so how did I do in the qualifier? For the last 5 days I kinda felt like the old saying in golf, when someone asks you what you shot, 80% of the people don’t really care, and the other 20% wish you would have shot higher. I have plenty of great excuses why I shot my worst round ever in a qualifier over here. Even after three rounds of under-par practice rounds does not mean your ready. I made many mistakes this year in my attempt to get into my 6th Senior Open. I was staying up too late at night and sleeping till late morning. My sleep pattern never normalized, so when I requested an early tee time and got it, I had no sleep the night before, not one wink of sleep. I dragged myself out of bed, tired and without any balance.

My round started with 4 straight 5’s on the card and in a deep hole. As I rallied back, I realized that an under par round was not going to happen for me, and that I needed to get as close to even as possible. As it was 73 played off, 8 players for 4 spots. After a tidy triple bogey on the 10th hole, I was pretty much done. I felt quite disgusted at not giving myself a better chance at making this years Senior Open at St Andrews. Instead I am parked in Wales in a town called Porthcawl, where Royal Porthcawl is located and prepared to host the Senior Amateur starting this coming Wednesday. Its a very tough course and is where I competed in the Senior Open last year.

All the courses over here are baked out and brown dormant fairways. However we’ve just been hit with a huge rain and wind storm the past few days that should soften up the course a bit. Stating the obvious, I’d like to end this VERY long trip with at least a respectable showing in the Senior Open, and perhaps even a W!!!

My post tomorrow will review the past 5 years with the 2 stock picks I have given you. Both have appreciated more than 300%, and I will be giving you my next pick that should appreciate more than 1000% over some time (although there are no sure things).

And stay tuned from more from Porthcawl and the start of the Senior Amateur

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | July 22, 2018

SENIOR OPEN AT ST ANDREWS

My preparation for the Monday qualifier is almost complete. After two rounds at the Torrance course at the Fairmont, I decided to join my three pals for a round on the Old Course yesterday. It’s not often you get to play the Old Course in perfect conditions, a wee wind and about 75 degrees.

Tomorrow I will qualify to join the 124 exempt players already in the event starting on Thursday. My round tomorrow will require some solid ball striking and of course getting my putts to drop. The Torrance course at the Fairmont is a beautiful course with many amazing vistas of the coastline and down into St Andrews.

With 160 players at my qualifying site vying for 6 spots in the Open, the margin for error will be razor thin. After my 1 shot miss in the USGA Senior Am qualifier, I am hoping to rectify that poor showing by playing a great round tomorrow and getting into my 6th Senior Open here in the UK.

With unusually warm weather, the day should be quite pleasant, and I plan to have a strong strategy to attack this tough, but fair links course.

Stay tuned for photos from my round at the Old Course yesterday, and results from the qualifier tomorrow. Results can be found at http://www.europeantour.com

 

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | July 16, 2018

Journey starts with a THUD

Today is one of those days that I hope I soon will forget. It was an important day, as I feel I am still capable of winning the USGA Senior Amateur. Today at Big Canyon in Newport Beach, I had a very good chance at getting one of the five spots that will advance to Eugene Country Club in late August.

If my practice round was an indication of how I may do today, then I guess I liked my chances after shooting a 67 on Saturday in a friendly member money game. But the trend continues where I tend to get a sore spine and back after a full day of golf and practice.

My round today was not terrible, I knew that 72 would probably get one of the 5 spots, so in the back of my mind that was my goal. And of course with a few holes to go, I was right at that number. I had a 4 foot birdie putt on the 6th hole (my 15th hole of the day) to go -1. A miss there, followed by a great par save on the 7th hole left me in good shape for the final two holes, #8 and #9 since I started on #10.

I’m not into boring you with the details, but a horse putt for par from 3 feet on my 17th hole was my demise. I closed with a par on #9 for a 73. I knew that 73 might playoff, so I needed to run to Roger Dunn Golf shop to have my snapped wedge shaft replaces, as it turns out I used it on the first hole in the playoff against my two pals John McClure, and Casey Boyns.

Unfortunately I lost to both of them in the playoff which eliminated any chance I have to play in this years event. So what can I do to now have this pattern continue? I believe that I need to completely rest my back the day before an important event, and definitely not have a traditional Thai massage that is with extra hard pressure. My body was sore waking up, and it played a role in many of my poor shots I hit today.

Thank god for side saddle (FaceOn) putting or days like today would not be 73’s they’d be 80’s. I am stuck in this 73-75 range of scores, while in practice I have shot a few 67’s. I understand the difference between tournament golf and a casual money game, but something has to change, and SOON!!!

If I had to pick between qualifying for the USGA Senior Amateur and the British Senior Open at St Andrews, I am not sure which one I’d pick. But since the USGA Senior Am is OFF my schedule now, I need to focus on the qualifier for the Senior Open where I’ll play at a course called the Fairmont of St Andrews.

I’m sitting at LAX waiting for my delayed flight to London. I’ve tortured myself a bit my going through my round today, and as usual I made many mental errors, something I usually avoid. Now its off the the breezes of St Andrews, and because of the dry warm spell they have been having, I will 100% bring the cold summer rains back to the area.

I look forward to reporting to you what this Fairmont course is like, and what my strategy will be next Monday when 160 pros and amateur tee it up there for 6 spots in the Open. I’ll need to play my best, be rested and have my body working sufficiently to rotate and get a full crack on the ball.

STAY TUNED

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