Posted by: randyhaaggolf | August 24, 2016

WILD RIDE FROM US OPEN TO NCGA AMATEUR TO USGA SENIOR AM QUALIFIER

I once thought that my body could handle unlimited travel, multiple airplane segments and long stretches of driving. I have now realized that I cannot if I want to play my best golf. This game is VERY tough on your body, especially as you age. And it doesn’t matter how much you work out, your body needs rest!!

Some more than others, as my good friend Chip Lutz has accomplished something in Senior Golf I am sure has never ever been done before, or ever will. Chip last year won the USGA Senior Amateur, and recently won the British Senior Amateur in an exciting playoff, and a week later was low amateur in the US Senior Open and finished a tidy 39th. Chip for a 60+ year old seems to be quite the exception, and has a lean and strong body. While the rest of us seem to run out of gas as these events wind down.

In the US Senior Open at Scioto, as usual I had a great practice round, hitting fairways and greens (a MUST out there with the rough so penal). But since I had just traveled across the pond, had my clubs lost for a day, and didn’t sleep well, I was not in a good place with my body once the event started, resulting in shots slung all over the yard. My goal was simple, make the cut, take the exemption into the USGA Senior Amateur, and bank 500 NCGA points and take the lead in the Player of the year race. Unfortunately that did now happen, but good things were ahead.

I arrived back in California on Aug 6th, and spent one night in my bed before driving down to Poppy Hills for the start of the NCGA Senior Match play championship, I was seated 2nd so I did not have to qualify for a spot in match play starting on Tuesday. Tuesday I had a match against a very tough competition Dan Bieber who has also played in three US Senior Opens. On the first hole I bombed a drive at Poppy Hills leaving only 125 yards to the pin, during this awkward swing, I short armed myself and shanked the ball dead right into the hazard, and heard a big crack as the ball came flying back out into play. Despite this luck, I made bogey and lost the first hole. I played solid golf the rest of the day until the 17th hole when I was two up in the match, and again I shanked a shot into the right hazard to my surprise and disgust. Fortunately I was able to birdie the 18th hole and prevail 2 up, and move onto Spyglass for the next 4 matches. My game held up over these days, with rest and ice on the back, but was spent after I was successful in the Final Match against tough competition Jim Williams.

Results of the NCGA Senior Match Play

I was excited about this win, but realized that I again needed to get in the car and drive to Cameron Park for a practice round on Saturday, as the course was not available for play on Sunday. So off I went, tired and in need of some rest. After my practice round decided to head to South Lake Tahoe for the evening, a mere two hour drive. I am not sure that was such a great idea, as Monday morning on the range I knew I was in serious trouble, as I could not hit anything long straight. And this is a very tight course. I ended up hitting 5 fairways, 12 greens and somehow made enough putts to shoot 71 and advance to this years USGA Senior Amateur. I must admit it was more of a relief than a feeling of excitement. I could go through my round, but it would be disgusting to describe all the bad places I hit it off the tee. My iron shots into the greens were not great, but good enough to keep me in the hunt for one of the four spots available for all of Northern California.

What I learned long ago was how to play with a body that is hurting, its not fun, but you need to manufacture shots that will stay in bounds, out of bunkers and lakes. It was a lucky day for me, and I am very happy to be going back to Old Warson in ST Louis where I once advanced to the quarterfinals in a US Mid Amateur in the 90’s.

So if am giving advice out to people about playing with pain and less rotation then usual, find a way to choke up on your clubs and take a VERY slow backswing. The normal tendency is to swing quick and short, which as we all know does not work!!

STAY TUNED MORE LATER TODAY ON FACE ON PUTTING

 

 

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | August 10, 2016

FROM THE SENIOR AMATEUR TO THE US SENIOR OPEN

I have done a VERY poor job writing about some of the best golf on the planet, that golf you’ll find in the UK. Ok the foods not the best, but just about everything else is incredible for those of us that love to compete in the toughest of conditions, or even anyone that has an appreciation for where this crazy game was first started.

Many wonder how I can spend over a month on the road, chasing the dream of perhaps winning a major tournament like the Senior Amateur. And yes after one round at Formby Golf Club I was tied for the lead. And again during round two I held the lead up until the 15th hole, were I made a very ugly 9. I’ll spare you the details, just know that most of it was mental, and things always happen fast. I slipped to T11 after round two, and again slipped to T16 after the final and last round. It was not a very satisfying last 22 holes, but I hope to make better decisions this week in the Open.

The good news is my good friend and occasional best ball partner Chip Lutz was victorious in a three man playoff, with another friend of mine Brady Exber. These guys have both won this event in the past (Chip twice). In returning back to the 18th hole, both Chip and Brady hit good tee shots, and avoided the deep bunkers (The third player in the playoff was not as fortunate). After Brady left his birdie attempt short from 30 feet, Chip hit a very firm, but accurate putt heading for the hole. This putt rattled all around the cup, and fell to the bottom. I WISH I had video footage of the 4 foot leap in the air with fist held high. What a way to win, and again shows why Chip is such a great champion!!

Unfortunately for Brady, he did not know where he stood in the tournament on the 18th green. He had a 40 foot birdie attempt roll 4 feet by the hole, and then took little time over this putt that would have given him the championship. After he turned his card in, I told him that he had a one shot lead going into 18. HE WAS SHOCKED, as he thought he was two shots back of Chip, and not one ahead. Chip uncharacteristically three putted the 15th hole, and followed it up with another bogey on the short par three 16th hole. Brady saw chips ball on the green on the par 5 17th hole and assumed he was there in two shots, which was not the case. I am not sure what lesson there is to learn here, but I personally believe on the last hole of a tournament, you NEED to know where you stand. I felt sad for Brady, but certainly happy for my pal Chip, who in the end, made the clutch putt to take this prestigious title.

Now we are at the USGA Senior Open after one of the worst travel days in my life in getting here. This years Open is  being held at Scioto in Columbus Ohio, where Jack Nicklaus learned to play golf. Scioto is polar opposite to Formby, with one exception, you need to drive the ball VERY straight at both venues.

I plan to show some photos of Scioto, and write more about this great course. But my initial impression is it is VERY VERY TOUGH!!!

The USGA has gone out over their tips (a skiing term) with this set up. You cannot get a ball onto the green from the rough, like you could at Del Paso last year. Chipping around the greens is pure guess work. The grass is going in many directions, making it impossible to judge the amount of energy needed to hit a good chip/flop.

I am not sure what the final set up will look like until tomorrow at 7:40 when I tee off on #10. There are many great amateurs in the field, and of course the best Senior golfers in the world. I had the pleasure to play two holes with the current Senior Open Champion Roger Chapman, and was VERY impressed with a 5 iron he hit into the 8th hole that was about the purest struck ball I’ve ever seen. He followed it up with a very pure 7 iron on #9.Those of you able to place a wager on this event, I suggest you make it on Roger!!

The cut in this event will be the top 60 and ties, and my early prediction will be that 7 or 8 over will be the cut, as opposed to +5 last year.

More coming from the USGA SENIOR OPEN live here from Columbus Ohio, a very nice city!!

 

Stay tuned!!IMG_1804Number 17 a 200 yard downhill par three to a VERY NARROW green. Many tough holes on this beautiful course!

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!!

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