Nobody was ever going to catch Trevor Foster, so the second tournament was wide open for the runner-up spot.
Starting the final round I was T-6 and only two shots out of second. But the competitors ahead of me are the worlds best senior amateurs, a guy named Chip Lutz and Gene Elliott. I wasn’t really even thinking about passing them, my focus was more on having fun, and finishing strong. The round got off too a nice start with birdies at 1 & 4 followed by a bogey on the par 5 fifth hole.
As the wind picked up the scores started to rise, and I could feel that I was close to the lead for the runner-up spot as nobody was catching Trevor who was on cruise control.
After making two crucial pars on the very difficult 15th and 16th holes I knew that I had to be in the hunt. With the downwind par 5 17th hole, I knew that a birdie at a minimum was necessary.
My amazing caddy Phil, who faithfully carried my bag the previous year in the Senior open at Royal Porthcawl asked me if I wanted to know where I stood on the 17th tee. My answer this time was NO I just want to focus on these last two holes and see where I land on the leaderboard.
After a very solid drive off the 17th tee, I was left with only a 7 iron to the green. After a poor shot right, I was left with a tricky pitch from the wispy grass right of the green. I was overly cautious and hit the shot too hard and over the green leaving me with a downhill 60 foot putt that looked almost impossible to get down in two putts. My first put rolled 6 feet past the hole leaving me a tricky finishing par putt. Somehow I knew deep down that this was a crucial putt and that I needed to stay calm and confident. As most of my putts are struck while my eyes are closed, I opened my eyes to see the ball rolling true and pure right into the center of the cup!
The very difficult finishing whole requires an accurate tee shot as a bunker right and heavy gorse left protect both sides of this fairway.
After a solid drive down the right center I was left with only 130 yards to the pin which was situated in the middle tier of the green on the left. I deliberated with my caddie Phil as to whether a punch nine iron or a ripped wedge would be appropriate based on the wind conditions straight at me with a slightly downhill shot. I chose hitting a pitching wedge, which I knew I needed to strike very solidly to get the ball anywhere close. The contact was good and as I looked up I saw my ball soaring straight at the pen. From my view it look like the perfect shot, but when the gallery around the green didn’t respond I knew that I was not close, and was wondering where I had ended up on the green. My shot apparently hit about 30 feet short of the pin on the downslope and because it had so much spin into the wind that the ball back up the hill leave me with a 30 foot downhill putt. I safely two putted from 30 feet and registered my first par on this difficult finishing hole.
To my utter disbelief and shock, as I was approaching the scoring trailer I looked at the leaderboard and noticed that I was solely in second place one shot ahead of my good friend Gene Elliott.
After Gene finished with a par on the 17th hole and two putt par on the 18th hole for another par I realize that I would end up in the runner-up spot and receive the silver medal. This did not fully sink in until later at the awards presentation.
My goal for this three and half week journey was to at least do well in one of the three events I was prepared to take on during this incredible golf journey which took me through orange county to Scotland and then to Wales to the senior amateur.
My putter saved me everyday, almost to the point of being ridiculous during several stretches of each round. It honestly amazes me that I am able to make the putts I make while putting side saddle with my eyes closed at impact.
Today when I saw my good friend David Nelson on my British air flight to San Francisco, he told me that there was some good news that I was unaware of, obviously I was quite curious as to what news he had for me, and was shocked when he told me that my second place finish had earned me a spot in the field for the USGA senior amateur starting later this month.
Since I missed in the qualifier on July 16th I was quite upset that I would miss out on this National Championship on a golf course that suits my eye. After I landed this afternoon I received an official email from the United States golf Association officially inviting me into the event, I could not be happier.
As Golf goes, everyday is a different day. The first two weeks of my trip were very disappointing with my close miss in the USGA Senior Qualifier, followed by my clunker in the Senior Open Qualifier to get into the Open at St Andrews.
I had no idea that a second place finish in the Senior Amateur would land me a spot in this year’s USGA senior amateur at Eugene country club.
The trip ended on a very high note, one that I will never forget. To finish ahead of all the great American players, not to mention those from the other 23 countries is a true honor.
The people in Wales are amazing and true Golf fans. The photos below are of me and my amazing new friend and Caddy Phil. The next photo is of Nic and Peter Evan (the head golf pro at Porthcawl) I had played in the Senior Open Qualifier with Peter in 2017, and have been friends with him and his lovely family since we met.
My closing comments are true and honest, I don’t really know how I do what I do sometimes. This game is filled with way more disappointment and failure than success. I am a very lucky man to play in these great events and meet the extraordinary people I am privileged to meet that all have touched my life.
Stay tuned August is packed with events and training!