Posted by: randyhaaggolf | August 20, 2017

THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF THE GAME

I’ve had to think long and hard about writing this blog post about what happened to me at the Senior Amateur at Sunningdale outside of London. But since I like keeping this blog real, I’ll tell you about yet another very serious misfortune that led to another disappointment.

I don’t feel its necessary to go into all the details, but for those of you that have followed this blog over the years, you know I write a lot about sidesaddle putting (Face-On). Many have considered me to me an outstanding putter, which I would have agreed post 2012. Since 2012 I have struggled mightily with the YIPS, yes even putting sidesaddle. I have tried almost everything to fix this issue. Yes I have won many tournaments since 2012, but not the BIG majors, and I’ve had to rely on my ball striking way to much.

In June I played in a two day best ball tournament at Del Rio called the Billy Bell. I was the inaugural event, and I paired up with a long time friend of mine. At the event I spoke in great length with another top player that suffers from anxiety, and has to take a combination of many very strong prescription drugs to enable him to even play. After the first round we played horribly and were well back with a -1 score. I decided to try a small dose on Xanax to see if it might calm my putting nerves down.

The results seemed to be astounding, I holed out from the fairway on our 3rd hole (#12 at Del Rio) and followed that up with 4 more birdies on the back side to turn at -6. I then birdied the 1st hole and we were on our way. One of the problems with these kind of drugs is they wear off, so a bogey was produced on the 12th hole, but then another birdie on the par 5 7th hole our 16th hole. After a very long drive on the 9th hole our 18th of the day, I made a poor decision and went flag hunting with an 8 iron which was not necessary. We finished with a final bogey which I knew would eliminate our chance to win this event, and that’s what happened.

I thought long and hard on wether I would ever want to play golf while being medicated other that Advil of course. I had my son send me some Xanax for my trip to Europe for the Senior Open and Amateur championships. I decided not to use anything in the Senior Open, and qualified for the event and made the cut. But in the Senior Amateur at Sunningdale I made a very poor decision.

The first round was washed out for those of us with later tee times, as the course was under-water. So now Thursday would be a marathon of 36 holes, and I was well rested and prepared. I knew that morning on the driving range I had good range of motion and was in good balance.

It all started off brilliantly with a drive a 5 iron onto the par 5 first hole and a two putt birdie. The second hole I made a mess of with a poor drive, to aggressive out of the rough, three putts later I carded a double bogey 6. I followed that up with another birdie on #3 and was back on my way. On the 6th hole I badly missed a 3 footer for par, and headed to the 9th hole one over and on the leader board. On the drivable 9th hole, I ended up with another 3 footer for birdie and a chance to get even on the opening nine. But again with my eyes closed I missed the putt, and was quite upset at the horrible putting on the opening 9.

This is when I reached into my bag, and for the first time opened up the bottle that had been sent to me. There we four small pills all connected together and I thought the dosage was to take the whole thing. It took all of two minutes before I knew that I was in big trouble. Its very difficult to describe what was happening to my body, because I had never felt this before. My balance was gone, timing gone, everything gone.

I somehow finished the back nine with a +12 47 and at the scorers table the called for the paramedics that were waiting at the course. I was rolled off in a cart to the ambulance there and spent 45 minutes being tested and looked at. The told me that what I had taken clearly was not Xanax, and that they thought it was laced with something very strong. I feel fortunate that I am still here to tell this story, and feel like a fool for having taken such a risk for a game that we play for fun as a hobby.

As some of you may know, this game can drive you a little crazy, especially when you suffer from anything close to the YIPS. I have tried different grips, putters, eyes open, eyes closed, one eye open, looking at the hole. But one thing is for sure, I will NEVER take any kind of medication to calm my inner twitches again.

I came back from London and almost immediately went to the NCGA Amateur Championship being held at Poppy Hills and Spyglass Hill. I was a seeded player so I didn’t need to qualify on Monday. On Tuesday in my first match I was able to mount a small lead, that kept the super intense pressure off my putting. In match play the pressure on the putting is greater than stroke play, especially when you have a putt to keep from losing the hole. I got to my third match now being played at Spyglass Hill against a good veteran player, and I got down for the first time in the event, and had to claw my way back. I was two down with 4 holes to go, won 15, and went to the 18th hole 1 down. This is when the putting is at the highest level of pressure, and I gave myself a chance with a huge 300 yard drive and sand wedge to 18 at Spyglass. I knocked my wedge to 5 feet, and had that to go into sudden death. I decided over the putt to go eyes closed, and somehow was able to stroke this putt straight into the bottom to extend my life in this match with darkness coming fast as we didn’t start the match until 3:30.

Our sudden death went to the 10th tee just off the 18th green, and I was able to hit a good tee shot, and an approach shot to 25 feet from the pin. My opponent made par, and I knew this was my chance to end it, and get off the course with a very unlikely win. I knew the putt, but getting the putt on its line with the correct speed has been the issue. But this time I hit a good one, it took the break and its last roll found the bottom of the cup, putting me into the semi-finals against my good friend and legendary golfer Casey Boyns.

I played my best golf of the tournament against Casey making 5 birdies and one lone three putt bogey on #2. That victory took me to another hard fought match against David Games on Friday in the final match. I got two down early after 2 three putted greens, but clawed back and just started making solid pars on every hole. We came to the tough 16th hole were I knew I might have an advantage as David typically draws the ball off the tee, and I prefer to cut it. After a perfect drive, I knew that a par would probably win the hole, and a huge edge in the match. I made a poor decision to hit a 7 iron to a back left pin, and mis-hit my shot slightly into the left bunker. David came up left, leaving himself a tough 20 footer for par. I hit a wonderful bunker shot, to 5 feet above the hole. After David just left his putt dead in short, I knew this was the moment to grab my first lead in this match. I was standing over this putt trying to figure out if I was going eyes open or closed, until I actually started my backstroke, and closed my eyes as the putter approached the putt. To my delight I opened my eyes to see the ball go into the left center of the hole for a 1 up advantage.

This was a very tough match for me as I did not have my A game like the day before, and again I was left with a 5 foot uphill putt on the 17th hole to maintain my one up advantage going to the 18th hole. Again I used my eyes closed method and saw the ball roll into the cup with great tension.

Finishing out a major tournament on the 18th hole is never easy, and the 18th hole again tested me to the limit. I hit what I thought was a great drive, but ended in the left rough about 8 inches down. I had no shot to the green and was lucky to get within 80 yards. The pin was over the middle ridge of the green on the right in a swale, a very tough pin location. My third shot was a good one, but did not skip all the way to the pin leaving me a 10 footer for par. David came up short of the green on his second shot, and chipped his 3rd to 6 feet. This time my eyes closed approach didn’t work and I pushed my putt right of the hole and 3 feet past. I thought for sure David would bury his 6 footer and we’d be off to sudden death. To my surprise, he pushed his as well, leaving me a chance to win with a tricky three footer with a little right to left break. OMG with my heart pounding and my hand shaking a bit, somehow with my eyes closed, this putt fond the bottom, and earned me a repeat victory in this great championship event.

I apologize for the length of this post, and the grammatical errors, but it was tough to relive the events of the last few weeks, and wanted to share with you some of the emotion that went into this roller-coster ride.

NCGA SENIOR AMATEUR RESULTS

Stay tuned for some tips I picked up while on my trip.

STAY TUNED

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | August 9, 2017

SENIOR AMATEUR BEGINS IN A STEADY DOWNPOUR

Sunningdale is one of the most beautiful courses in the world, especially now while the HEATHER is in full Blum in this beautiful purple color. I hope you enjoy the photos.

 

Tee shot on #2 at Sunningdale Old Course

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Uphill tee shot to #4 plays about 160 yardsIMG_2423IMG_2424

Demanding tee shot on #5 downhill with trouble left and rightIMG_2425

Video of the right side of #4 don’t hit it here))

 

 

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Looking back down the fairway on #6IMG_2436

Second shot into #7

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Looking back down #7 fairway

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Tee shot on the par 5 14th hole

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Tee shot on the beautiful 16th hole

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A beautiful deer I saw on the 16th hole

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I tee off in the pouring rain at 15:19

Stay tuned

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | August 5, 2017

THE CHASE FOR THE SILVER MEDAL

As an amateur our goals are quite different than the pros when we are lucky enough to get into a professional major event. In the UK the two major pro events the British Open or here just called “The Open”, and the British Senior Open here just called “Senior Open” you have two Silver Medals a year given to the amateur whom makes the cut and is low amateur.

The past two years NO amateur has made the cut in the Senior Open, thus a gap in anyone getting this high honor. This year 7 amateurs made it into the field through the qualifiers, plus Chip Lutz being exempted into the main event with his Senior Amateur Championship victory last year at Formby. So the stage was set, and after two rounds, it was Chip and I left in for the last two rounds, and the battle for the Silver. One of us is getting it on the 18th green on Sunday afternoon with the Champion, and MORE importantly an exemption into next years event at “The Old Course”.

I am sure Chip feels the same way about playing in this event at St Andrews, the home of golf, where it all started. So the pressure was up, and the game was on. After my very poor 82 on Friday I just snuck onto the cut line and trailed Chip by 4 shots. On the best day we had for scoring I again fell further behind with a poorly executed round on 76 on Saturday, moving day. While Chip had a solid 71, putting me 9 back going into the final round.

Because of horrible weather expected to hit on Sunday afternoon, the R&A decided to use split tees 1&10 and get all the players off in groups of 3, in hope of finishing before the inclement weather hit the shores of Royal Porthcawl. Because I was way back, I actually had a late tee time off #10, while Chip went early off #1.

I got off to a decent start with a par saving putt on my first hole out #10, and followed it up with back to back birdies on 11 & 12. The par 5 13th hole was reachable from the front tee, but I struggled everyday with this tee shot and arm guided a drive in the right side of the fairway to far back to go for the green in two. I did decide to still hit three medal, which I did nicely leaving me 80 yards to a back right pin. Again I hit a poor shot on the green 30 feet short, and missed badly my first lag putt. After back to back birdies and being 9 shots back, you cannot afford any dropped shots to 3 putt greens. But sadly I walked off with my 3rd bogey on this very much so a birdie hole. So I was very upset at myself, but followed it with a stellar drive on the very tough 14th hole, and made a very solid par. Again on 15 I let the wind take my ball right of the green into some very heavy rough. Another par saving putt kept me at -1 on this nine, and perhaps still a chance.

The 16th hole is one of the longest and toughest par 4’s on the course. It plays downhill off the tee, and then back up to a very narrow green that leaves any mishit shots in serious doubt of making a par. On this final round I striped a drive, followed by a superb 6 iron to 20 feet. I then used some wind brake to navigate this putt down for a very unlikely birdie 3, and back to -2 on this nine.

The 17th hole is no bargain either, and plays uphill with a stern cross wind hard left to right. I again made a very important par, leaving me the gettable down wind par 5 18th hole. There is always a wait on this tee box as the group ahead waits for the group ahead to clear the green. Since I knew we had at least 5 minutes, I decided to pull out my mobile phone to check how my good pal Chip was doing in his round. I expected nothing less than a strong last round from this tough champion, but to my surprise I kept scrolling all the way past me at +16 total to find him +17 after 14, with some very tough holes left. I will always second guess the decision to look at his score, as now the pressure increased substantially.

I hit a very strong drive on the 18th hole, and went into the green with a 7 iron which i hit poorly and short of the green. I had a very tough pitch to a back left pin. At first after I struck the shot I didn’t know how to root for it to go or stop….but it did stop about 6 inches from the cup, ending this 9 holes in -3, and at the time a 2 shot lead on Mr. Lutz.

The feeling on the 1st tee was not like all the other days when I stripped a drive down the middle of this very tough driving hole. On this day I hit an up and out shot way right into the high rough. This is where I began a series of QUICK and poor decisions, that ended in a triple bogey 7 and an end to the dream of capturing this Silver Medal, and a chance to play St Andrews next year. Its been a theme in my game for some time now, not being able to close out good rounds that are going well.

I can only learn from these mistakes (or I hope too) but its not very often you get this kind of opportunity. Chip is a proven winner, and is masterful at closing out rounds’ and events. His record is now perhaps one of the best in History of Senior amateur golf.

I’ve got another shot at it this week in the Senior Amateur at the amazing Sunningdale Golf Club starting this Wednesday with three rounds of stroke play.

STAY TUNED FOR COVERAGE FROM SUNNINGDALE

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | August 1, 2017

SENIOR OPEN – OPENING TEE SHOT

The look down the fairway at the Senior Open at Porthcawl 1st hole is quite daunting as the fairway looks like a sliver, and the wind is hitting you straight in the face at about 30mph. And of course since its the first tee shot in this major championship your heart is beating out of your chest, and its hard to pull the club back.

A video before my first tee shot on day one at the Senior Open

This is normally the 18th hole at Royal Porthcawl, and #2 is usually number 1 (a much easier hole). They route the course this way so that the large village built with all the facilities is near the new 1st hole, and all the practice facilities.

But if you look at the stroke average of this hole, it was one of the toughest holes on the course, despite only being 425 yards downhill. Everyday this hole played into a very strong wind, and was about a 3-4 club wind into the green. If you made a four on this starting hole, you were off to a great start!

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | August 1, 2017

GOLF IN WALES – Royal Porthcawl

You gotta love the summer weather in Wales. One day it will be sunny and warm with a slight breeze, and the next sideways rain with a chill factor only found in most winter climates.

But that’s what makes Wales such an awesome place for golf, you never know what to expect, and the golf courses are built to test your game regardless of the weather conditions. Fortunately for us in the Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl we played a course that was not played from all of the back tees. Several of the VERY long par 4 holes were played a tee or two up. Despite this, these holes still played very difficult.

More history on Royal Porthcawl in this video clip below:

Royal Porthcawl

If you haven’t been to the UK or Ireland for a golf experience you are certainly missing out. Golf is completely different over here. All your tee shots need to be carefully planned to avoid the severe pot bunkers on these Links style courses. And of course most have Gorse bushes on either side of the fairway to find errant tee shots that will most likely not be found.

Next years Senior Open is being held at St Andrews (The Old Course) which in my book, is one of the greatest golfing experiences in the planet, and is where golf began. I have played this course many times in the Links Trophy Cup, held each year for the worlds top amateur players. But its been a while since I’ve been there and look forward to the opportunity to play there again.

I have ONE way left to be exempt for next years Senior Open, and that’s to win the Senior Amateur being held next week Aug 9-11 at Sunningdale. I played Sunningdale in the 2009 Senior Open, it is one of Europe’s best courses, and will be a strong test for us.

Stay tuned for video and photos of Sunningdale and my progress in the Senior Open

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | July 31, 2017

INSIDE THE ROPES

Now that the week at Royal Porthcawl has flown by, I will treasure the memories of this week for the rest of my life. I will do my best to eliminate the memory of the triple bogey I made on my 10th hole (1st hole) on Sunday, which ultimately cost me a chance to win the silver medal, and an exemption into next years event at THE OLD COURSE, St Andrews. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

But first I want to share with you my opening tee shot on day #1 Thursday, in some weather conditions that we just don’t see in America, and if we did, not many would  play in it.

1st tee at the Senior Open

The weather out of my window

The round one weather was only surpassed by the weather conditions in round two on Friday. I cannot even adequately describe to you how hard it is to hole a 3 foot putt when your whole body is moving, and you cannot get the putter behind the ball. I was literally timing my putts with the motion of my body moving in the wind. Oh by the way, putting side saddle in the wind is VERY DIFFICULT, and one of the serious drawbacks of putting this style.

The close side of the driving range had a 20-30mph wind behind you, so many of us walked to the back of the range, to work on our in to the wind shots. I took the walk back with Corey Pavin, whom was carrying his own carry bag to the back of the range. While back there I decided to take a video of the guy I thought was hitting the most solid shots, can you guess who this player is?

Striking perfect shots into the wind

Of course we all have different swings, mine not being anything close to how good these guys swing it. My swing has some unique movements that sometimes work, and OMG sometimes not so well)))

Randy’s swing on the back of the range

On this course, if you do not drive the ball well, you’ll be in terrible stuff all day long. The fourth hole was my nemesis hole off the tee. The first three rounds I hit a low snap hook into a cross bunker about 10 feet deep, that left me with nothing. Finally in round 4, I hit a 3 metal, and fond the fairway, striped a 7 iron the 6 feet and missed the putt.

The 4th hole at Royal Porthcawl

My first round of 73, was one of the best rounds of golf I have ever played in my life. It was a battle of survival on every hole, each par was cherished and celebrated by me and my excellent caddie Phil. The 18th hole is a par five up over a hill, and measures about 500 yards, on day one it hit a great drive and then a 9 iron to ten feet, followed by a two putt birdie to cap off my round.

Day two actually got off the an amazing start with three straight pars. And let me tell you, PARS were golden. But then I lost my patience and got on a bogey train, some missed shots and a few 3 putted greens. I did not do a good job staying even keeled as I migrated to the cut line. I thought I put the final exclamation mark on my round with an ugly double bogey on the 17th hole, that I knew probably put me over the cut line. My 82 in round 2 was one of the most disappointing rounds I have ever played.

The wait for 5 hours to see if I had made the cut was excruciating, and left me in limbo with my travel plans. As the weather continued to get worse, it was clear to me that I had a chance at 155 +13 to play two more rounds on this amazing course, and have a chance at the Silver Medal, and an exemption into the 2018 event at THE OLD COURSE.

My best pal and best ball partner Chip Lutz, is not only a fine golfer, but a fine gentleman. He has a golf resume that extends to only a few elite players. He has won the British Senior Amateur 3 times, the Silver Medal in the Senior Open 4 times now, won the USGA Senior Amateur in 2015, and has won just about every event on the calendar. He a guy that you’ll remember if you meet him, he reminds me of everything that is good about the game of golf. He is a fierce competitor, and of course wants to beat me)

I had dinner with Chip after the first round, at a very good Indian place down the road. He was pretty unhappy with his opening 77, which in the bigger picture was not a bad round at all. My short lived 4 shot lead was dashed into pieces after my horrific 82 on day two, followed by his brilliant 74, an 8 shot swing, now leaving me 4 shots back.

Stay tuned in my next post for what happens over the weekend in the chase for the Silver Medal, and more about the amazing people I met while in Wales. Also I’ll tell you who are the friendliest pro’s on the Champions tour, and who are NOT)

STAY TUNED

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