The only advantage age gives you is experience, not club head speed or better eye sight. Those invariably will diminish with time. But what advantage does age really provide in a 36 hole qualifier against past PGA tour winners, top amateurs like Beau Hostler, and top mini tour pros?
Probably nothing other than you’ve been there before, and have some experience in these bigger events. But lack of success in these Sectional Qualifiers can be a disadvantage, but it will not be the case this year. This year I will be the oldest amateur to ever qualify for the US Open through a sectional qualifier. The reason I make this prediction is I believe I will qualify (If I don’t then I shouldn’t enter the event). Winning the US Open is another question all together, that would not be realistic, but making the cut like Michael Allen did at Olympic last year would be the next goal. My experience having played in 5 senior majors over the past 4 years will be helpful, but this is the US OPEN, probably the best event you could ever play in next to the Masters (lets be real).
So what have I done to prepare for this one day, 36 hole marathon? Let me tell you, I have changed my attitude towards my putting, I am now a putting demon, as demonstrated at the OC Lake course round on Monday when I made 5 birdies, and shot under par for the first time in many months on the Lake course. My body is well rested and rotating well, with good range of motion thanks to stretching and many Thai massage sessions which provide stretching that you cannot do yourself.I have altered my diet, to exclude gluten and dairy foods that have been previously bogging me down. Again, these changes are as much mental advantages as they are physical. I have determined that my bunker play is now above average and I don’t freak out over hitting a shot into a green-side bunker. Most of the preparation is mental, the mental dictates what you can do physically.
On Monday at 7:11 I will be the second group of the 10th tee at Big Canyon CC with the opportunity to play in the 2013 US OPEN at Merion. All you can ever ask for is an opportunity, and that’s what this is all about. All the pressure and stress is all self-induced. Yes I want the butterflies, and I can assure you I will have them. But the best advice I have ever received was from last years Senior Open runner up Gary Hallberg, who before my first round ever in a major at Sunningdale told me to swing like I am in slow motion. He said everything speeds up, your thought process, your swing speed, and certainly your heart rate. THIS IS ALL VERY TRUE, and was helpful especially at Walton Heath in the 4th round on the 1st tee when I was more nervous than ever on a tee shot in my life (I was tied for 16th going into the final round).
So on Monday it’s the old saying one shot at a time, visualize, breathe, execute. Not all shots will be perfect, but don’t make the big mistakes that I won’t be able to recover from. I will know that morning on the range what kind of range of motion I’ll have, which will give me information as to what shots I will be able to comfortably pull off. My touch on the greens that day will be determined that morning again as to how I am feeling it on that particular day. Golf is not an exact science, its a game of misses, brawn, brains, and courage. The best players in the world don’t take dead aim at all the pins, its suicide to do so. Stick to a strategy that best suits your game, not what you think is needed to shoot in a given round.
The real truth is you cannot trick or fool yourself into thinking you can do something that deep down you know you cannot accomplish. That’s why half the players are eliminated before the first shot is even struck, they do not believe they can actually qualify for the OPEN, and they are happy to have made it to sectionals. If you cannot change that belief, you might as well do something else, you will never make it in professional golf. If your an amateur, then you can enjoy the experience and focus on doing your best on each and every shot, knowing you lifestyle is not dependent on your result.
There will be live scoring, hole by hole available on the SCGA web site. It might be fun to see how everyone plays, especially down the stretch on the last nine holes. That last nine holes is why I play competitive golf and love the competition. Those are the holes that define your skill, ability, preparation, and will test your nerve and “go to shot”. Everyone needs a “go-to-shot” that you can trust under extreme pressure, that shot will give you the confidence to play down the stretch and gain confidence to close the deal. So when you are practicing, try to imagine putting yourself in the most pressure packed situation you can imagine, and then figure out what shot you can pull off time and time again. I can assure you it’s not a straight shot, that is the MOST DIFFICULT shot to hit under pressure, the ball typically will go right or left, don’t guess, try to make the ball go slightly one way or the other, and practice hitting that shot at different trajectories.
Okay, it’s off to chip and putt for a few hours. I’ll be giving you my notes on how I will play these two courses after my practice rounds on Friday and Saturday.