Posted by: randyhaaggolf | July 15, 2018

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

After back to back weeks of 3 round tournaments in the Monterey/Pebble Beach area, my journey begins here in Southern California in Newport Beach for the USGA Senior Amateur qualifier at Big Canyon. This years USGA Senior Amateur is being held at the beautiful Eugene Country Club, where I have had success in the past.

After tomorrows qualifier I have a 9:30 pm flight out of LAX heading to London, and then St Andrews for the Senior Open qualifier, and Senior Open at St Andrews, followed by a trip back down to Wales for the Senior Amateur at Royal Porthcawl where I competed in last years Senior Open.

I feel privileged to be able to play and attempt to qualify in thesis amazing events. I am constantly working on ways to improve my play as I travel through various time zone, different weather, grasses on the course. Golf in the UK is NOT like golf here in the USA. I must say I enjoy the golf over the pond, as its very challenging, and requires tremendous imagination, touch, and skill.

Here in the USA, its more a bombers game, with length being a HUGE advantage. Don’t get me wrong, length anywhere is an advantage, but not as much over in the UK. One misaligned drive on the Links course can leave your ball up against the lip of a pot bunker with little chance to escape.

My focus these next two weeks will be to take one shot at a time, to stay patient, and try to avoid the big numbers. In the past few weeks, mental mistakes have plagued me most. I have spend a considerable amount of time thinking about being in slow motion, and feeling like my swing is more of an art form movement.

I am super excited for these upcoming events, and always enjoy seeing those players that compete with me in these upcoming events. This years Senior Open has the largest entries ever, there will be over 600 players in the qualifier vying for the ever few 24 spots. Last year it was closer to 440 players for 42 spots, making the odds more favorable.

Tomorrows qualifier will be closer to 90 players for I am guessing 5 spots to advance to Eugene Country Club in late August. So for now, its taking these challenges on day at a time.

The next time I post will be either tomorrow evening before my flight or when I arrive in London. I have some new stretching exercises that have been working great on my back that I will share with you.

So STAY TUNED

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | June 25, 2018

Time away from the game

It’s been a little over two weeks since I had my very poorly played last round of the NCGA Mid Am championship at Poppy Hills.

I decided to take some time off away from the game and try to regain my desire and excitement for golf again.

One of my favorite outdoor activities is very similar to others that seem to enjoy golf and that is fly fishing.

I spent the weekend in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, Yosemite.

As you can see from my amateur photos it’s a beautiful place!! However by August Yosemite falls will be a trickle. Avoid Yosemite on the weekends in the summer months, as the valley is way too crowded.

Coming up next this Fri-Sun the Monterey City at Del Monte Golf Links which is owned by Pebble Beach. This great short but tricky course never yields low scores for 3 rounds. Mucho patience is required!!

Stay Tuned

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | June 18, 2018

WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM WATCHING THE US OPEN

Under the most challenging conditions, the guy standing at the top, Brooks Koepka did what he needed to do to win his second US OPEN. Most people focused on his power and length off the tee, but the difference in the end was not his power, but his ability to get up and down and make critical par saving putts.

The reason I am writing about Brooks today is a what I feel was the key to his victory, which was not a saving par or a birdie he made, but the GREAT bogey he made on the 11th hole. He could have made a triple bogey easily there if he decided to try and make par. Once he assessed his position he knew that making a bogey would be a great score, and that even a double would not take him out of the hunt to win. He went long and into the bunker a made an amazing up and in for a bogey, that I am sure must of felt like a birdie to him.

The lesson here is to TAKE YOUR MEDICINE when you are out of position. I recently was playing in the NCGA Mid Am at Poppy Hills, and found myself in the lead in the last round going to the 7th hole. I hit a poor tee shot in the right bunker and then hit a fat second shot into the front bunker leaving me a very long sand shot. I got too aggressive and bladed the ball 30 yards over the green, and then quickly hit my next shot short, then long, and in the blink of an eye made a triple bogey 7. This didn’t take me out of the tournament, but it forced me to play the rest of the round from behind.

Ultimately I made mistake after mistake and finished with a 78 +7 and in 13th place, my worst finish of 2018. I have not touched a club in 9 days since that day, and I’ve been very disgusted at my mental toughness that day at Poppy Hills. Usually when in or around the lead, I make good decisions, and approach each shot with great intent. On this day for some reason I had nothing mentally.

You could see that once Brooks was in the ZONE, that he was the guy to beat, and while Dustin Johnson completely lost it with his putter, Brooks kept rolling in putt after putt. How do you putt under pressure? Are you better or worse under the heat. Do you ever practice putting with BIG PRESSURE on you, other than in tournaments?

YOU MUST TRY TO EMULATE THE PRESSURE WHEN PRACTICING. That is hard to do, but you need to re-create how the pressure may effect your stroke or body movement, and learn from it.

More on this later!!

STAY TUNED

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | June 6, 2018

A LONG WEEK OF GOLF

In my last post, I whined about my tragic US Senior Open qualifier which didn’t go my way. I’m still learning every time I play in an important event that doesn’t go my way. The margin for error is razor small in a 18 hole qualifier with only 2 spots and 85 players.

However my week improved drastically with my next two events I played in back to back. Thursday and Friday was the Billy Bell 2 man championship at the awesome Del Rio Country Club in Modesto. I’m posting the short write up about the tournament here:

The Billy Bell Cup Championship by Brent Gardner

Over the years Del Rio has been one of the most coveted stops on the Northern California Junior circuit with the Bumgardner Memorial Tournament.  It has hosted the likes of Johnny Miller, Roger Maltbie, James Hahn, Ricky Barnes, and Nick Watney.  On a personal note…I will never forget years ago as a junior golfer getting to talk to Johnny Miller while playing in the Bumgardner.  Johnny would come every year to watch his sons play.  I asked Johnny what he thought of Del Rio….. “Hands down one of my favorite courses of all time” he replied.  How is that for validation?  We should be proud.

Without question, the top golfers in California seem to always have a fondness for Del Rio Country Club.  We felt by adding the Billy Bell Cup to the NCGA tournament schedule as an elite 4-ball two day amateur event it would give them the opportunity to come back to our great Club each and every summer.  I dreamed up the concept of the Billy Bell Cup more than 5 years ago and brought it to reality in 2017.  This tournament adds another reason why Del Rio Country Club is the premier club of the valley.

The Billy Bell is unique because it is one of the few best ball format events on the schedule today.  I couldn’t be more excited about where this tournament is headed.  In 2017 we not only had some of the best amateurs in the state of California, but also the Country!  Not bad for year one.  It only got better this year as the word spread.  From the immaculate condition of the golf course to the amazing dinner after round one, without question, this event will mature into one of the leading stops on the amateur circuit.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of giving our club what it deserves, an elite amateur golf event!

My long time friend and partner Joey Ferrari is always fun to play with as he is spirited and great competitor. Despite what I thought was a decent 68 in the first round in the heavy valley breezes, we found ourselves 3 back and 2 back to some great teams – Terry Foreman and partner Ken Noonen shot an impressive 65, and defending champions the legendary team of Casey Boyns and Jim Knoll shot a fine 66.

Joey and I had our work cut out as in best ball, being three shots behind is tough. Off to a fast start on the second round on Friday, we had a smooth -4 on our first nine holes, I then made birdie on our 10th and 13th holes to go -6 on the round. Still thinking we needed to get to -12, the 15th hole proved to be costly (or at least we thought so). This short par 4 into a breeze is not one of the tougher holes at Del Rio, however any hole awaits a mistake. Since I was carrying two putters in my bag, I had taken out my 54 degree wedge, and from 100 yards out tried to hit a BIG 60 degree wedge which I pulled, leaving me a 60 foot putt. Joey was in the bunker and made bogey, and after a terrible lag putt, I missed my par attempt leaving it a half roll short from 10 feet.

It was a severely deflating feeling, but despite the setback, I knew we still had three holes left and would need to birdie all three of them. Our 16th hole (#7 the par five into the wind) allowed me to hit a good drive and 4 iron onto the front of the green. But again from 40 feet I left the putt 8 feet short and missed my birdie try, resulting in a VERY disappointing par. We closed out with par-par on the last two holes and posted -9 total for the event. And hoping for a 3rd place finish.

while sitting at lunch waiting for the final leader group to come in, a fellow golfer stopped by and said congratulations guys for winning. Joey and I looked at him, and each other and said NO WAY. The fellow golfer had been out watching the lead group finish, and said these legendary golfers shot 72 and 74. Still not believing it, we waiting as they posted their score on the boars…..oh my 72-74 was their scores in the last round, and much to our surprise and delight Joey and I won the 2018 Billy Bell Senior best ball event.

If there is a lesson there, I guess its never give up, your never out of it, and guys playing in the lead group always have more pressure on them!Billy Bell

The win made the drive in bad traffic combined with a one hour Tesla charge well worth it, and time for a little rest before my Saturday 7:30 tee off at Olympic Ocean Course for the start of the Olympic Club Stroke play championship. I admit 6 days in a row of golf, my body and back were a bit sore. For those of you that have not played our Ocean Course at the Olympic Club, under ideal conditions with firm and fast greens, its a great test of golf, with some awesome finishing holes.

I won’t go through my round in great detail, as I made one bogey on #2 and had birdies on the tough 8 and 15th holes. Many short birdie opportunities were missed, especially the 4 footer on #18 that would have given me a 69.

With a three shot lead over my pals Kory Storer and Dave Swanson, I knew that moving over to the Lake Course would be tough especially given my tired and sore back. The start of the 2nd round could not have gone any better with a long drive around the corner on #1 followed by a 4iron to 10 feet for an eagle putt. I must admit I was okay with a starting 2 putt and birdie to increase my lead to 4 shots.

Despite some very shaky golf on the front nine, I thought I had a 5 shot lead going into the back nine. I knew that I would probably need all of it as Kory was not going to be denied his birdies all day. On this day, my short game and putting, grit and determination played a huge roll in the outcome of this important event on my calendar.

After Kory made back to back birdies on #15 and #16 my lead was now down to 1 shot, and fading fast. On the 17th hole, I made my best driver swing of the day, leaving me 245 uphill into the breeze to the par 5 hole. Kory hit first and hit a decent shot short right of the green and not in the many bunkers over there. This is when I had to make a key decision of going for it, or laying up. Since I figured Kory was going to get up and down for a birdie, I decided to hit my new trusty Taylor made M3 three medal. If this second shot is missed, a bogey or worse is waiting for you.

I breathed deeply and said to myself, this is what you’ve been doing your whole life, living in the moment. I took this opportunity to hit one of my very best shots, a high draw that landed in the narrow opening, and left me on the fringe of the green. As GREAT as that sounds, my long range putting has been a serious issue, so I decided to chip it instead. A good chip to 3 feet below the hole was a very good result. After Kory failed to get up and in, I converted on the 3 foot putt and thought I had a 2 shot cushion.

Since I don’t necessarily like to write about past misfortunes, anyone that knows me, knows that the 18th hole at The Olympic Club Lake has cost me dearly in the past (having lost on this hole in an all square match on ESPN in the 2007 US Amateur, along with 5 losses on this hole, or bogeys to allow a guy to beat me in sudden death in the Club Championship (our match play event in October) Putting that much negative history behind me was a challenge. Deciding on what club to hit off this tee is critical as you can have a short sand wedge shot, or lay back and have a much tougher second shot to a VERY narrow green.

I chose again my trusted M3 3 metal, and left it in the right rough, now with the big guarding tree to navigate past. I thought I hit a good shot, until I saw it hit the top left lip of the bunker and roll back down into a downhill lie, with a high lip in front of me, and the pin only 20 feet away (I think that called the dreaded short side). After Kory hit a brilliant shot to 6 feet, I thought for a moment, here we go again. HOWEVER, I refused to let these negative thought stay with me, I decided to just do the best I could with the situation at hand. My bunker shot was probably the best out of a 100 shots I could have hit from that spot. It just cleared the lip, and rolled three feet past the cup, leaving me a scary downhill par putt.

After Kory missed his short birdie putt, I thought I had two putts to win, and thought about just trickling this par putt down as to ensure I would two putt in the worst case. Once over the putt, I felt I just needed to hit this putt straight downhill and into the cup. I visualized it, and executed the putt for another saving par.

Once in the Clubhouse, I was a little shocked to see that my good friend, and great player Andrew Biggadike shot a stellar 71 for a 146 total, meaning I HAD to finish birdie-par to win by one shot.

The lesson here again, is you never know what the other guys are shooting ahead and behind you. You always need to stick to your game plan, and play the shots you are most comfortable with. I believe match play is different, if my opponent is in trouble, perhaps I will play a safer shot, and keep the pressure on him.

All in all an incredible week, which is now followed by this weekend at Poppy Hills for the NCGA Mid Am Championship.

STAY TUNED

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Posted by: randyhaaggolf | May 31, 2018

BATTLES OF THE MENTAL GAME OF GOLF

I often wonder is golf more physical than mental, or the other way around. Tuesday was the US Senior Open qualifier at Diablo Country Club, and after a near perfect practice round on Monday, I allowed a distraction to nullify my chance to play in this years USGA SENIOR OPEN.

Despite being an individual sport, golf is played with other players that can have an effect on how we play. There are certain players that I get paired with that always seem to allow me to play my best golf. But WHY?

Mental comfort and familiarity are HUGE in golf. Remember the day when Tiger Woods dominated golf, and it didn’t matter whom he played with in final rounds of majors, he had a mental effect of fear that had most all of his competitors playing less than their best golf. I guess in their minds they could not beat Tiger, and Tiger knew this and fed off their weakness.

On Tuesday in the qualifier I was paired with a player that I know and like, and was pleased to see us paired together. The third player I have never seen his name before, which is not unusual. I had spoken to him briefly on the putting green when he commented on my side saddle putting style like he had never seen it before. At the time, I was unaware that he was our third player in the group.

I was scheduled to tee off last in my group, behind this player I did not know. He was a tall left handed golfer, with a very strange golf swing. The first hole is a tight driving hole with OB both left and right. Its not a long hole so something less than driver is ideal. The first player hit an ok tee shot, followed by a long delay as the group ahead had not cleared the blind landing area. After about 5 minutes we go the OK to finish teeing off. The second player in the group with the unusual swing, hit a half high shank into the parking lot landing with a thud on a parked car. This was not quite the visual I was hoping to see before I hit my opening tee shot.

I was able to keep my tee ball in bounds, but certainly not a good shot in the left rough, leaving me a difficult second shot on a downhill lie. Player #2 was now hitting his second tee shot from the right fence, a chip out resulting in a triple bogey seven.

I was able to make a shaky par on #1 but I knew I was in for a long day with a player that clearly did not belong in this qualifier. On most holes we looked for his ball in high weeds, that were heavy with allergic pollen for people like me with Hay fever.

I was able to keep my focus in tact for most the front nine, that ended with a birdie on #9 to shoot even par 35 on the opening nine. Knowing that even par 70 would be the max score to qualify, as there were only 2 spots  with 90 players, I knew I had my work cut out for me on the difficult back nine. Usually after a player shoots 47 on the front nine, they cut their losses and depart. But this player was determined to get his full 18 in at Diablo CC.

On the par five 10th hole, the last par five on the course, I decided to lay up while only being 235 from the green. The pin was tucked front right, and I felt that a lay up shot would give me the best chance at birdie. My third shot from 70 yards looked good, but landed a little past the pin, and didn’t pull back to the hole, leaving me a very fast downhill 20 footer. After the player that shot 47 on the front nine, finally got a ball over the green, he would take forever to hit his putts as he would study them from both sides of the hole, and then take 5-10 practice strokes before hitting his putt. I now became inpatient, and after lipping out a birdie putt on #10, I missed the come backer from 18″ inches away. A putt I could not afford to miss.

The 11th hole was the one that actually did me in however as this play hit 3 consecutive shanks, and had trouble finding his ball twice. I have great empathy for a golfer that is struggling and having a bad day, but none for a player that either knowingly or not affects the play of his playing partners by being inconsiderate, and clueless to what is going on in his group. This player had no consideration for me and my playing partner as we both were in the hunt to qualify at the time.

From the middle of the fairway on #12 I had a lie that was so bad I could not advance it onto the green, and my frustration was at a very high level, as my chances diminished. My round ended with a birdie on #18 for a 73, 3 shots out of the playoff for the last spot. In the end, the player in my group had +24 or 94 on his card, and did sign and turn it in. I have played many times when a player knows that posting a score like that will end their chance for the USGA to accept another application to enter a USGA event.

I am not allowed to talk about my putting situation other than I hit about half my putts with my eyes closed, half with em open. Today is another chance to make progress in a tournament as I am playing in the Billy Bell Invitational at Del Rio Country Club today and tomorrow with my partner and long time friend Joey Ferrari. Followed by the Olympic Club stroke play this weekend at the Olympic Club.

I’m not sure what to say about being paired with a player that is distracting and challenging to play with. The game is hard enough to play in ideal circumstances, and I did not do a very good job staying focused and ready to play when it counted. But this BLOG is all about giving you the realities of the game that we love, the challenges, and the occasional victory that makes it all worth while.

I still have a lot of mental training to do, I believe you need to be not only physically tough, but mentally equally as well. I hope that some of you can relate to this, and together perhaps we can all work on the mental side together sharing ideas.

STAY TUNED FOR RESULTS AND STORIES FROM THE NEXT FOUR DAYS OF TOURNAMENT GOLF

Posted by: randyhaaggolf | May 22, 2018

Naomi youngest Side Saddle putter in the world?

If anyone out there knows about a side saddle putter under the age of 9, then please let me know.

I had the pleasure of working with Naomi for the second time this past Sunday, she has made great progress.

If anyone out there is having trouble with their putting, and is now willing to try perhaps the best method ever for putting, I am happy to help you.

I have posted a lot of information on this blog about the different side saddle putters that are available, and what I believe is the best technique to use. I have also posted many instructional videos on my YouTube channel.

If you are either looking for a side saddle putter or have questions or comments please leave them in my comment section.

I am certainly willing to help anyone that wants to improve their putting at no charge of course.

All I ask in return is that you share this blog with others if you deem it of value.

Stay tuned

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