Yesterday was another memorable day at the 2010 US Amateur qualifier at the beautiful Peninsula Club in San Mateo Ca. About 80 of us tee it up for 4 spots into the US Amateur being held at the SPECTACULAR Chambers Bay.
After just getting back from a long trip to Scotland and Eugene OR. I wasn’t sure I was even physically able to go 36 holes (walking of course) at the hilly Peninsula CC. The day had some many ups and downs that I was completely mentally and physically exhausted at days end.
You go into these tough qualifiers knowing that you can ill afford to make many mistakes if any. My day was filled with multiple mistakes, especially the 4 three putt greens in a row during my morning round on my back nine on holes 2-5 where I went from -1 to 2 over par (I three putted #3 for par). From that point on I played the -6 for the next 22 holes which also included back to back three putts on holes 9 and 10 in the afternoon round. At that point I was pretty sure I needed to play the last 8 holes at -3. During that last 8 holes my putter didn’t let me down again as it did especially on #10 where I missed a 16″ inch putt for par.
By the 17th hole (my 35th of the day) I knew I needed a birdie on either 17 or 18 or possibly both holes. After a perfect tee shot on the drivable 17th hole I needed to two putt from the fringe from approx 25 feet from the hole. I ran my 1st putt about 4 feet by the hole and pretty much knew the birdie putt I faced would get me a ticket to Chambers Bay and into my 11th US Amateur covering 4 decades. As my pulse was up and my breathing short, I took a moment to remember why I work so hard to play in these situations, exactly what I faced…make the putt and I’m most likely in, miss and take my chances on the last hole.
The KEY to these pressure putts is to breath and get the body relaxed to promote a slow and deliberate backstroke without moving the body. This of course is a lot easier said than done! But when that short putt was off and rolling into the bottom of the cup it sent a shivering sensation through my tired body that gave me a jolt of adrenaline for the final hole.
I considered playing safe with the tee shot on #18 but quickly overruled it and went with the driver. After an okay tee shot and a lay up to 75 yards on this closing par 5 hole, I hit a very good shot in 10 feet below the hole. Although I thought I made the putt, I was pretty certain that I had punched my ticket to the main event.
After 2 hours of waiting for all the groups to finish, it was official that Colby Smith and I shared co-medalist honors at 138 -4. I of course am thrilled and quite honestly was not expecting to play as well as I did on such limited rest and without a practice round. Getting to this US Amateur is especially gratifying as it means I’ve made it into 4 decades, and have seen this event grow into a major event. The previous highlight was 2007 when I qualified to play at my home course and then make match play at the Olympic Club. What would top that would only be going deeper into the tournament and perhaps give some of these incredibly young guys a look at what an experienced 51 yr old can do.
We’ll see, and I’ll be thrilled to provide you with coverage directly from Chambers Bay and how I plan to play the two courses during the qualifying rounds and then again in match play. I am truly privileged to have the opportunity to play in so many of these major events during one year. Like always I plan to stay in the moment and take in every second of the experience and live it to the fullest.
Starting Monday I will be covering the NCGA Amateur at Spyglass Hill. This will be a great warm up for the US Amateur and I am very much looking forward to providing some good photos and recaps for you over the next few weeks.