Posted by: randyhaaggolf | July 19, 2016

BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT IN SCOTLAND

I once had an amateurs dream week back in 2010. I flew to Scotland for a chance to qualify for the 2010 British Senior Open, and nailed at spot at the windy, rainy Montifieth Golf Links. I followed that up with a made cut at Carnoustie and won low amateur honors and an exemption into the 2011 event at Walton Heath. But that wasn’t the best part of the experience, it was my dad flew from Houston Texas after I qualified and watched me play 72 holes of golf in a professional major, and win the Silver Medal.

After repeating this feat again in 2011 at Walton Heath with my mom, brother and other family members there, I had a taste for how it felt to play a game you love, not for money, but just for the love of the competition and all that comes with the experience. Yesterday was a very important day for me, as I wanted so badly to have a taste of that crazy nervousness standing on the first tee at Carnoustie, praying for that shot that goes down the middle.

Yesterday again at Montifieth Golf Club, I drew the very last tee time 13:05. I tried very hard to sleep as late as possible, but the severe jet lag still had my sleep schedule messed up, and sleeping more than 2 hours at a time has been next to impossible. I arrived at the range about 1 hour before my tee time and was the last player to leave. I noticed myself with a severe case of pre-game butterflies, and on the way to the course from the driving range, I felt another episode of SVT coming on (Supraventricular tachycardia). This is something that very few people know about, over the past 30 years I have had 9 episodes of this frightening condition where your heart starts racing at over 200 BPM, and in some cases almost at 250 BPM. I usually can tell when its about to start, and its typically when I feel intense pressure. The last four times I’ve had this condition I’ve had to be rushed to the hospital to receive a drug that re-starts your heart (probably the least favorite feeling imaginable while conscious). The sheer fear of having this drug injected in your IV is to this day one of the things I fear most in life, and I cannot imagine having this condition hit while on some long International flight. I suppose the good news is that its happened 8 out of 9 times while at or on the golf course.

Fortunately I was able to concentrate hard on slowing my pulse down, and my heart never did take off into a heart arrhythmia. But certainly this was not the way I wanted to start my round off worrying about my heart taking off. My pulse and level of nervousness was considerably higher on the first tee as just right of the fairway on #1 is OB. Fortunately I drilled a drive almost onto the green, and chipped to an inch for a beginning birdie. I followed it up with several solid pars, but knew the challenge would be putting in the high winds. Folk, let me tell you that putting side saddle (Face On) in the wind is a nightmare, as the wind moves you all over the place due to your higher up stance.

After making a regrettable bogey on the tough #7 playing back into a 4 club wind, I then drove the 8th green with a baby rescue (23 degrees) and had a 30 foot eagle putt. Honestly I was trying to 2 putt this, as lately I have been putting with my eyes closed to avoid the electrical shock of watching the ball. Yes thats called the YIPS, and to have the YIPS putting side saddle is quite a nightmare. In every attempt to hit a putt with my eyes open, I knew at the last second that I would be better served to quickly close them. After a 2 putt for birdie on #8 I stood even par for the day, which with the high winds was quite respectable. #9 a long par 5 into the wind was a good hole for me, and resulted in a 20 foot birdie try that somehow eluded the bottom of the cup. I was in disbelief that this perfect looking putt some how eluded going in, but as you all know, thats golf, and thats how it rolls sometimes. After solid par on #10 the next hole was a 190 yard par three into a stiff wind, and I ripped a 5 iron to pin high, and again a putt that looked in, somehow got around the cup. Honestly a par on that hole was ok, and at level par I was in very good shape. The 12th hole was a good par after a two putt from 50 feet.

But now I had the in to the wind holes left, and the 13 hole is a long par 4 measuring about 432 yards, but on this windy day, the tee was up 20 yards making this hole very managable. My driver had been so so today, and when I really needed to stripe one here, I got quick from the top, and hit a slinging hook into a small gorse bush (NOT GOOD) after a pitch out and a good shot into the green, I had a 20 footer for par, that again eluded the bottom of the cup, as to say, this is not your day Randy.

The patience required to play in one of these qualifiers when you are grinding your guts out is perhaps the most physically, and mentally challenging thing you can do in life. To swing a club at the tiny ball while your heart is pounding is quite difficult to say the least. I think my round was defined at the next hole, a par three playing only 155 yards over a front bunker, that was dead into the wind. I chose a 6 iron, and like the shot on #11, I saw my ball soaring straight at the pin, and then bounce up towards the hole. I was very excited that I would have a good chance to redeem the bogey made on the last hole. I was surprised when I walked up and my shot was 15 feet short, but still a very makable straight in birdie attempt. Let me tell you about putting with your eyes closed, at times its very difficult to judge the distance with the amount of HIT you give the putts. On this birdie try I was determined to give this a good go, and a good go I gave it. The putt ended 4 feet past, and with great fear, I missed the comeback, thus digging a deeper hole for myself now at +2 on the round. The 15th hole was cross wind, and after a 330 yard drive over a hill, I had 80 yards to a pin that I could attack. I left the hole with a par, and knew that time was running out.

On the short 16th hole measuring 340 yards I chose a 3 metal, despite being back into the strong wind, there were two large bunkers looping out about 260 yards off the tee, and to make a birdie on this hole I needed to avoid these bunkers. My shot went a bit left, but ended up at the front of the 17th tee box on tightly mowed grass, with a perfect lie. I had 116 yards to the back pin, and decided to chip a 9 iron into the wind. This is the point in the round where you either get it done, or you don’t. The brutally slow play was taking its toll on my patience and this shot was my downfall in this qualifier. I very impatiently quick hit this 9 iron left and long, leaving me with an impossible up and in, and making a bogey 5 on this short hole was devastating. I followed it up with another bogey on the 17th hole knowing I was over the qualifying score. There is NEVER any give up in me, so on the tough 18th hole, a par 5 into the wind, I almost reached the green in two, and finally made a putt for an ending birdie. The disappointment was paramount however, knowing I was in control, and in a great position at level par after 12 holes. I ended up missing playing again at Carnoustie by two shots, my 74 needed to be a 72.

So now I move on to the next event, the Senior Amateur being played at Fornby on August 3-5 followed by the Senior US OPEN in Columbus Ohio. I hope to have photos posted of Fornby, and more coverage on how I will play this great Scottish course. Obviously from my latest experience I know that I will need to work hard on many areas of my game. This game is REALLY hard, but under pressure it can be excruciating, and very frustrating. My patience level and inner calm need a check up, and in the future I need to feed off what just happened at Montifieth, and continue to learn from my shortcomings.

In the end, it was the putts I made coming in during the US Senior Open qualifier that got me in, I again struggle with my ball striking once I hit -2 for the day. That is what makes this past weekends British Open so remarkable what those two fine champions did down the stretch. I can only imagine how disappointed Phil must be feeling after such an amazing round. If we all only had it so good!!!

I hate to apologize for the grammatical errors, so please excuse them, and know thats how I roll on this blog. Coming up in a few days, more on the exciting changes to the upcoming 2017 SF City Championship

 

STAY TUNED

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | July 11, 2016

HELP ME SAVE THE HISTORIC SAN FRANCISCO CITY GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP

To all of you avid golf enthusiasts, please help me and all those involved with the Historic SF City “The City” bring this event back to its home TPC Harding Park. The cost to run this event at TPC Harding Park has run the event away from its historic home. With green fees at $145 a round, the city moved most of the event away from its home Harding for most of its 100 year past. This is the longest running amateur tournament in the world, and we need your help to bring it back to TPC Harding Park. Please click on this link!!

SAVE THE SF CITY GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP

Your donation will 100% be used to offset the cost of the higher greens fees, and allow underprivileged golfers a chance to compete in this Historic event. Please just take one minute and make any size contribution to save the City!!

Your help is greatly appreciated and please share this with others that you feel will want to also help this great cause.

This crazy golf blog was originally created out of frustration about the lack of media coverage for an event that was once carried on the front page of the green sheet (The Sf Chron Sports page). And now here we are trying to bring this famous and storied event back to its original home, where it belongs. In numbers we have strength to make this happen, please join me in this great cause!!

STAY TUNED

 

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | July 11, 2016

FROM US OPEN TO US SENIOR OPEN

I may be the first caddy ever to play in a Senior US Open (June of 2015), then caddy in the US Open (Oakmont CC) and then qualify for the US Senior Open (Aug 11-14th). After lugging a heavy tour bag up and down the mountains of Oakmont, I am happy that I will no longer be carrying a bag, but now playing out of one).

Although the US Open experience on the bag was awesome, I am happy to be back with the likes of Bernhard Langer, John Daly and Tom Watson to name a few. My journey into this years Senior Open was not easy, as 90 players (pros and amateurs) were vying for the 2 spots into the Open. My day at Diablo Country Club was a roller-coaster, with some great shots and birdies, along with some nervous moments. In the end, it comes down to the finish in these high pressure 18 hole qualifiers. If you can stay under control, and keep your tempo and rhythm you have a chance at success. But so many things have to go your way when playing for 2 spots, and my final hole was my best, despite NOT making birdie on it. The 18th hole at Diablo is normally a very unique par 5 hole with a row of VERY large Oak trees running down the middle of the hole, and to the right, leaving a very narrow area left to hit a tee shot. From the par 5 tee you are back far enough to launch a ball over the trees down the middle, but the forward tees at 430 yards make it difficult to get over the tree. In my practice round I hit many poor drives, and finally tried a 3 metal, which wasn’t much better. Last Tuesday on this last hole I decided to tee the ball low, and move it left to right, starting my ball at the OB on the left. I pulled off the best tee shot of the day, and got my drive out and around the corner leaving a 170 yard shot into this difficult green. The wind was in our face, and my heart was pounding as I stood even par on the day, and knew it would be a competitive score on this difficult scoring day. I chose a choked down 6 iron and just said to myself “trust it, just trust this swing”. I was excited to see my shot soaring at the pin, ending 8 feet from the hole, pin high on the right. Making the putt would have been a bonus, but a solid par is what got me into this years Senior Open.

The weekend before the qualifier I was in a 3 day tournament in Monterey at Del Monte which played very tricky,and was a great warm up for the qualifier. In the field were many accomplished tour pros like Jeff Brehaut, Bob Gilder, along with many of the top NCPGA pros from Northern California. To get back into the Open is again living the dream,and I will do my best to make my first cut in a US Open. The tournament will be at Scioto in Columbus Ohio, Aug 11-14 so stay tuned for live updates from the US Senior Open.

Next up is the trip from San Francisco to Carnoustie for the British Open, to the Senior Amateur at Fornby Scotland, and then to Columbus Ohio. In my next post I will be talking about the San Francisco City, and how you can help bring back this Historical tournament to its home, TPC Harding Park!!

STAY TUNED

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | June 20, 2016

Oh how the game has changed – Men against Boys

Today I read a great article in the Global Golf Post about the Sunnehanna Amateur

If you have not yet subscribed to the number one digital golf publication, you should subscribe NOW, it’s free, informative, and very well done www.globalgolfpost.com

What I loved about this particular article is how spot on the description is of how the younger generation player looks at the top mid-amateurs with little fear if any. These young players are respectful, but I doubt many play us with raised pulse rates any more. You’ll find very distinct differences in the strategy these  younger players employ when playing competitively . Their style is usually more aggressive, and not well thought out and planned. This is the era of the long ball, and not of finesse like Jim Furyk employs.

They all share the same dream, to one day soon go head-to-head with the likes of Daniel Berger, and Jordan Spieth. I say good luck to all of them, but most I will see again one day as a reinstated amateur. Its the raw truth of the game, how many global players make a decent living playing golf, perhaps 500 max, and thats spread over many tours ( PGA, European, Asia and other global tours). While tens of thousands of players are now vying to become one of the lucky pro’s that can make a living playing the game we all love, and not have to teach lessons to beginners for a living. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with teaching lessons and making a decent living do so. It was never something I wanted to do 8 hours a day, but each of us eventually find our place in this great game we love.

For me personally I decided to have a career that would support my love and addiction to compete in amateur golf, and over the past 40 years doing so, I have invested over $3,000,000 into my love for the game. That comes out to only $75,000 a year which is low considering that I play in about 25 amateur events a year all over the world. But while this investment seems significant, its not when I look at the return. I can assure you that I have gotten a “Priceless” return on those 40 years, and would not do anything different. Since turning 50 I have been able to play in 6 professional majors, making the cut in 3 of them, and winning low amateur honors (the silver medal) in two British Senior Opens. There is no amount of money, or prize money that comes close to what that experience was like for me.

I believe I am not alone with this feeling as the other top Mid-AM players that you’ll read about in the attached article covering the Sunnehanna amateur. I will never try to discourage any player from chasing their dream, but the reality of the difficulty of that dream needs to be properly weighed. Hell, I tell these kids, if you can’t beat me at age 57, then what chance do you have of beating these younger pro’s out there. And despite what the article says, I would take Nathan Smith over any of them in match play. The guy is a phenom, and I believe could have easily made it playing for dough if that’s what he wanted to do with his life. I ran into Nathan at the US OPEN, and you won’t find a more affable and nice guy any where in life. That is the true reward to playing the amateur circuit, you will meet, and forge friendships with some of the greatest people you’ll find anywhere in the world, together sharing the same passion and love for the game. Yes you’ll find a lot of these guys are good at selling  Insurance and securities…hmmm what a great career for a lifetime amateur golfer for sure!!

The other clear observation from my experience standing a few feet away from the best players in the world is that they have an ability that is certainly god given, a talent that they then took and worked harder than anyone else in the world developing. These guys are ripped. Perhaps Fred Couples the well known couch potato had the advantage of being triple jointed. Most of us are not.

So my advice to all of the young aspiring golfers is look deep into your heart of hearts and ask yourself an honest question, am I willing to work harder than I have ever worked before to become one of the elite players that gets to play for pay? For all of you willing to take on that challenge I salute you and wish you well.

STAY TUNED

And if you can swing like this, I like your chances!!

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | June 20, 2016

DUSTIN MEETS HIS DESTINY

Dustin Johnson (DJ) has been destined for greatness in the game of golf for a very long time. He’s knocked on the major’s door many times, enduring some of the most bitter defeats imaginable. And yes, yesterday seemed like it would again be one of those days for him after the USGA decided to revisit the moving ball situation.

I give Dustin HUGE kudos of praise for how he handled the situation, and how he closed out this US OPEN. Everyone is down on the USGA, but I say wait a minute, these volunteers and gate keepers to the game, are only doing what’s protocol in these situations, and I would agree that Dustin’s putter grounded very close to his ball had a better chance of causing this ball to move than gravity. What I question is the USGA approaching Dustin while on the course that we will revisit this situation when you finish your round. Everyone would have been better off knowing what exactly the deal was, is it a penalty or not. Nothing was going to change with Dustin once he finished his round, he had already told the USGA that he did not feel he caused the ball to move period.

I hope this situation will be cleaned so players won’t have to play in a major not knowing how they stand if this comes up again. That’s the part I disagree with, they should have just said, Dustin, after further review we believe you caused the ball to move, and hence adding a stroke penalty to your score. Then OK, he moves on with grit and determination to close the deal. But DJ was just playing too good to be denied this year, and I am sure this was the sweetest moment in his young life.

I worked with Dustin for a week at Olympic Club in 2012, and saw the talent up close and personal. But at that time in 2012, I did not feel he was 100% polished and ready to win a major. YES he had the shots and the touch, but when he left a ball in a tree on his second hole of the 2012 Open on #11 at Olympic, he lost his fight.

Unless you were inside the ropes at the Open, you have no appreciation for how penal the rough and bunkers were on this course. YOU COULD NOT BE ERRANT OFF THE TEE!!! I believe it was the toughest, thickest rough I’ve ever seen at any event. Which makes the -4 score even more remarkable. My hats off to Dustin, and perhaps this will open the floodgates for many more Majors now that the monkey is officially off his back!!

The videos below are all about some different kind of swings that are among the best in the world. The second video has a swing from the champ, you can see just how powerful he looks from behind. What I took away from the best power swings in the world, is that when they load at the top, the stay in a very crouched position with their legs, and Jason and Rory actually squat even further into their stance as they start their downswing transition. These guys have VERY powerful lower bodies, and the speed they generate is not from arm strength, its the core and lower body that generate the power in the lag. Give it a try!!

AND STAY TUNED

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | June 17, 2016

HOW COULD RORY SHOOT +7 WITH THIS SWING

I had the opportunity to be standing right next to Rory on the driving range, before he tee it up day one yesterday. What I noticed is the squat position he dips into when he gets loaded at the top. This is a VERY athletic position, one that many cannot successfully pull off. He was absolutely stripping the ball, especially with his driver and 3 medal. He is a rather shy chap, as he says hello in a very low tone. I like this guy a lot, he is great for the game, and I hope tomorrow he fires a 65 to get back into the mix. Enjoy these slow mo’s of his amazing swing, and notice how active his lower body is throughout the entire swing. These guys have a ball flight like I have never seen before, and its no mystery why they are the best in the world. STAY TUNES FOR MORE FROM INSIDE THE ROPES

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