After a disappointing T14th finish in the Jones Cup, followed by a poor finish in the Moot Thomas with a T3rd, my hope was for a breakthrough in the Florida Azalea. Palatka Florida is a small rural town with a very historic Donald Ross course called Palatka Golf Club established in 1925. This little gem measures only 5942 yards long, but don’t let that mislead you.
After I finished my last round in Ocala Florida for the Moot Thomas, I drove an hour to Palatka to take a look at the Palatka Golf Club. I was told many stories about its tiny greens, tight fairways and tricky holes. The course was still very busy late Sunday afternoon so I waited until Tuesday to play a late afternoon practice round.
What I found was a beautiful course in great condition that challenges a player with virtually every green elevated with run off on all sides including false fronts. So what the course may lack in total yardage, it made up for with the tiny greens that require accuracy in not only distance but also in direction. The well conditioned greens and fairways provided very nice surfaces, but still quite sticky and slow.
I found most holes require you to decide how aggressive you want to be off the tee. The 4th and 5th holes are easily reachable par 5 holes, but slightly errant tee shots will result in a re tee as OB is very tight on the right on both holes.
I returned again on Wednesday after spending an enjoyable day on the river trying to catch a bass that I heard was abundant in the river. After 4 hours of not getting any attention from the fish, I thought I would return back to something I was a bit better at. Wednesday afternoon the course was empty and I was able to play 27 holes in less than 3 hours. It gave me a good idea of the options I would have when the tournament started on Friday.
Of course when I inquired about entering, I was told by the famous tournament director, organizer, and past champion Ronnie Tumlin that the event had a nickname “The Doug Hansel Invitational” as Doug has won the event 4 of the past 5 years, and is the #2 ranked Senior amateur in the world, and just finished under par and in the top 3 at the Jones Cup. Doug is a past USGA Senior Amateur champion and always is a threat to win every event he enters.
Ronnie went on to ask me if I thought I could compete against Doug, and said all the west coast players in the past have come back home with their tail between their legs after getting whipped by Doug. He of course was just stating how well the course fits Doug’s game, and that obviously he is very comfortable and confident on it. I did not tell Ronnie I was going to beat Doug, I just said I hope to be competitive, that’s all I want from any event I enter, to have a chance on the last day.
I was paired the first round with two really nice guys, but their games were not sharp on this opening day, which was not the case with my start. I stuck to my strategy and played aggressive when it was a good risk, and more conservative when it was not a good risk. I found myself making a few early mistakes that I erased on the back nine as I made birdie after birdie. With only two holes to play (the tough 18th hole playing 475 yards long, and the short 1st hole playing 325 yards) I got too -6 with a great birdie on the 17th hole. After a good drive on the 18th hole I made a mental mistake by not hitting enough club, leaving a very tough chip shot from the short side of the green. After a rare poor chip I was left with a sliding 25 foot par putt. I wanted to make sure that I left with no worse than a bogey on the hole. I was honestly shocked when I miss hit my putt, but watched it break in the opposite direction than I anticipated and rolled in the hole for a saving bogey. I felt that was a gift, and I needed to end strong on my last hole.
On the first hole, I roped hooked my 3 wood, that got extremely lucky leaving me with an open shot only 60 yards from the pin. After a chunked approach short of the green in the bunker I left with a very unsavory bogey to finish with a -5 65 and a two shot lead over Doug. Since I knew I was paired with Doug on round 2, and that I needed to clean up some of my mistakes from day 1 despite the good score of 65.
Round two my playing partners were Doug Hansel, Jack Hall and Larry Cotton. Doug and I didn’t get off the a very good start with an opening 3 putt, followed by 2 other bad bogeys going +3 after 5 holes. I got it back going with a solid eagle on the par 5 4th hole getting me back to +1. I was a bit tight opening the round, but found my groove with the putter as the round progressed. I only had a small lead over Doug going to the 10thhole, our 15th hole on the day. I found myself short of the green in 3 shots, with a tricky chip shot to a front pin. With my new chipping grip weakened left hand grip, I found it easier to engage the bounce on this sticky grass. With confidence I knocked this chip shot straight into the hole for a much needed birdie to claw back to even on the day.
On the 11th hole, one of my playing partners missed a very short par putt, and in frustration threw his ball as far as he could and into the bushes 40 yards away, and followed it up with a 30+ yard wing of his putter towards the next tee, all while yelling many 4 letter words. Honestly I was quite shocked by this, it was a very poor display of sportsmanship and it rattled me as I tried to focus on the last two holes we had left.
I gave myself a little extra time to focus on a tricky tee shot on the par 3 12th hole with a corner right pin sitting on a slope. I hit a very good shot pin high about 20 feet and rolled it in for a very important birdie. The 13th hole is a very good risk/reward hole as its only 295 yards long, but has trees tight down the left, and a hazard down the right. I hit a great drive short of the green followed by a decent chip to 10 feet from the hole. This tricky downhill slider was a bonus putt that allowed me to get my round to -2 68, but more importantly an overnight 5 shot lead, and a 7 shot lead over the ever dangerous Doug Hansel.
I knew on this course no lead is safe with a hot round someone, especially Doug could go very low on me. I knew the weather was going to be perfect leading to ideal scoring conditions. I have not led a major amateur event in quite some time, and I will admit I did not sleep well Saturday night as my mind was constantly going over each hole on the course and what my strategy would be with such a large lead. Large leads are great, but they can also produce a lot of stress when thinking about how can I blow such a large lead. Of course that’s not what you want to think about, ideally you have a game plan that you stick to, and play one shot at a time. WAY easier said than done. I knew I was going to be nervous and that my putter would be challenged as that’s where I struggle most under pressure.
What happened on the final round I have never ever experienced before, it was the wildest roller-coaster I have ever been on during the final round of a major amateur event. So here it goes. The first hole I finally was able to find the fairway with a 3 wood, leaving 89 yards to the back pin. I hit a decent shot to the back pin, but clearly I was not in control of my putting speed, as I rolled my 15 footer 5 feet past the hole. Once over this putt, I felt the pressure and decided to go eye closed. To my delight after my “in the dark” putt, I opened my eyes to watch the putt roll straight into the middle of the cup for a starting shaky par.
What happened next on the next two holes has NEVER happened to me before, and I still cannot quite believe what happened. After a strong tee shot I was left with 105 pin and 92 over the front bunker. It was a good yardage for my 54 degree sand wedge. The pin was middle left requiring a middle of the green target, anything left would roll down the side slope leaving a long and tough shot. I hit a miserable pulled shot, that bounded down the slope and into the rough leaving me a tough short sided flop shot of about 15 yards. With my new weakened left grip I felt a lot of confidence with the shot, and to my sheer amazement and pleasure I watched my ball find the bottom of the hole for a very unlikely birdie. Unfortunately for Doug he three putted the green to fall back to 9 shots back after just two holes.
The third hole is the toughest par three on the course, but on this final round the tee was moved was up leaving a 125 yard shot straight up the hill to a back right pin location. It was a perfect gap wedge for me, to my dismay I saw my shot going long left into a terrible side hill lie in the back bunker. What happened next is something that I’ve never done before ever. I was looking at the shot hoping to get this ball on the green and just make a safe bogey. Going long would be a disaster as the green sloped away from me, and there was OB long. Short would leave a tough downhill two putt, so I needed a quality shot. I struck the ball too close to the ball, and I was in utter shock when my ball flew straight down into the hole, never touching grass for a birdie two.
At this point I have a 10 shot lead over Doug with 15 holes to play, I’ve got back to back par 5 holes that I hit 4 iron rescue on giving up on hitting them in two shots. I made two solid pars, while Doug made 2 birdies to climb to 8 down. He drained another birdie on the par three 6th hole to get to 7 down. We tied 7 with pars, but again he gained another shot on me on #8 when I 3 putted from the back of the green. The ninth hole was a JOLT to my system when Doug hit his approach with a sand wedge short on the false front and saw his ball pull back off the green. With a back pin and 90 feet to go, I thought I might possibly gain a stroke on Doug. But instead I watched as Doug rolled his 90 foot putt to the hole, putting more pressure on my 30 footer that I then knocked up to two feet. I felt the pressure over the putt, and with eyes closed I moved my body slightly and missed the 2 foot putt leading to a big two shot swing. Now Doug was only 4 shots back.
Now with 9 holes to go, I was going to need to play solid golf, perhaps even under par golf to close out this event with a W. We both hit great tee shots on 10, Doug went for the green in two with a rescue club and came up just short on the front fringe. I hit a rescue that didn’t carry the front left bunker leaving me a tough long bunker shot to a back pin. I hit a great shot 10 feet from the pin and was greatly relieved. Doug hit another quality putt to 2 feet and made his 5th birdie in a 7 hole stretch. After missing my birdie try from 10 feet, I found myself with only a 3 shot lead with 8 holes to go, it was GAME ON!!!
On the 11th tee I decided I was going to ramp up my effort to play a little more aggressive, as the conservative approach was not working. From thet point on my game sharpened up, and I hit quality shot after quality shot. After tying pars on 11 and 12, I maintained my 3 shot lead to the 13th hole, the drivable par 4. Doug up first made his first real mistake of the day hitting his tee shot dead right and lost in the hazard resulting in a costly bogey. I made a solid par, and followed it up with a quality shot over the pin on the par 3 13th hole leaving me a 20 foot straight downhill putt. Doug going straight at the pin, slightly pulled his shot leaving him a very tough chip which lead to another bogey. My tough downhill putt again I didn’t control my speed well hitting my putt 6 feet past the hole leaving a critical 6 foot par putt that would give me a 5 shot lead with 4 holes to go. With eyes closed I hit this steeply uphill par putt and opened my eyes in time to see it just barely roll into the front of the cup.
My 5 shot lead gave me incredible comfort resulting in quality shots coming in with a birdie on the 17th hole putting me 6 up with one to go. An ending bogey only cost me bragging rights of having all three rounds in the 60’s. In an effort to make a flight back home from Jacksonville, I was eager to sign my card and hit the road. Doug had kept my card and recorded a 4 on the 18th hole, the only mistake on the card. I’m sure it was an oversight on his part, but had I not caught it, I would have been disqualified and devasted. It’s a lesson to all too carefully check your cards and compare your scores to what you record, and then double check vs what you shot to par.
Winning this amazing event was such a wild emotional ride, Doug gave me one hell of a scare, as he is capable of shooting 62 on any given day. But in the end, I had the better 3 days, with some incredible luck and skill.
My hat is off to all those that care for that amazing golf course with a total maintenance budget of $100,000 a year. All those I met at this event I truly enjoyed, the staff and those competing is truly what makes these experiences so enjoyable. It’s always nice to win, but there is a much bigger purpose and reason to compete. The 2020 Florida Azalea will always be dear to my heart, especially with what’s happening to our world currently.
In closing I want to stress to all of you the importance in reading my next post. It will provide you with information regarding the reason why I was able to play at this high level after 90 days from major ankle surgery. This information will be important in keeping your families and friends healthier and enable you to reduce your inflammation and bolster your immune system. So stay tuned this information is coming tomorrow.
Be safe, stay healthy and remember that this too shall pass.
All the best
The trip the to the semi-finals in the SF City was a grind, but birdies won holes. This was not the case in the semi-finals against 55 year old Larry Salk. During my match with Larry, I quickly realized he was not going to miss many putts of any length, and that I needed to play my absolute best to beat him on a very windy and tough day at TPC Harding Park.
Larry during the round made a 3 on nine holes of the 17 we played, he made birdie 3 on hole #1, made a par 3 on hole #3, he made a 3 for birdie on hole number 5, and birdie three on hole number 7, a par 3 on hole number 8, a par 3 on hole number 11, an eagle 3 on hole number 12, a birdie 3 on hole number 13, and a par 3 on hole number 17.
Typically when I am -3 through 17 holes I would expect to win a match, but not on this day. Larry played great and I expected him to win the final match on Sunday. No disrespect to defending Champion Jim Koll, but Larry’s play was in a different league and his distance off the tee would rival any of the kids playing in the Championship flight.
However his assumed victory was not to be in the final match. I sent a congrats text to Jim Knoll, who replied back that he birdied 3 of the first 4 holes out of the gate on Sunday. Sometimes when you get any player down early, it changes everything. Jim put away Larry handily with a 5 and 4 margin.
My match ended on the 17th hole at 12:20 on Saturday, which meant to I had 66 minutes to get to SFO, check in, get through security and to my gate. It was a long shot, but somehow I made my flight to Jacksonville arriving at midnight. After an hour plus drive to Sea Island on Sunday morning and a practice round, I was ready to tee it up early on Monday morning in the Jones Cup. As I’ve previously reported the Jones Cup field is one of the best in all of Senior Golf with 8 of the top ten ranked players in the world in the field. This was my golden opportunity to move up in the rankings.
My start was quite magical with high winds, and difficult pin positions I made a opening birdie on #1 then birdied number 2 and 3 to open up to a fast -3. I followed that up with some pars on the difficult holes 4 and 5, and got to -4 with another birdie on #8. Knowing that #9 was going to play tough, I hit two solid shots to the middle of the green leaving a 30 foot uphill and then slightly downhill putt. These are the tough putts on these fast greens. You don’t want to come up short, but certainly don’t want to go back down the other side leaving a long par putt. I hit my first putt way to hard, but it was online and looking to possibly go in, at the last second the putt hit the side of the hole which accelerated it past and away 6 feet. I lipped that out and left with a very disappointing bogey 5.
Things didn’t get any better on #10 a down wind hole playing only 380 yards. I hit a big three wood to 98 yard of the hole which was on the from of the green just over a very large and deep bunker. Even though this shot was downwind, sometimes the wind knocks down these types of shots. I tried to take a bigger than usually swing and completely laid the sod over hitting my ball half way to the green in an even tougher predicament than before. Now I was short of the bunker in the high grass, downwind with no chance to stop this shot on the putting surface. I hit it over the green, chipped back to 2 feet and missed the 2 footer as the wind was pushing me all over the place.
So quickly I went from -4 to -1 with pure mental errors. And from there made two more unforced errors and ended with a +1 71 and 3 shots out of the lead. My back and body felt great the first two rounds, but my decision making with the wind was flawed and I kept hitting poor shots into the wind, not taking enough club to flight my shots down. The second round came in at +2 for 72 and a 143 total and a T8th position.
The weather didn’t look promising for round 3 with rain and thundershowers in the forecast. But a gap did open and off we went at 9:15 shotgun start. I got it to -1 after 5 holes, but certainly didn’t feel like I had my good follow through working on this final day. And as I typically do, on days when I am not at my best physically I also struggle mentally and grow impatient. It was a mistake to be playing hoping for a rainout to secure a T8th finish in the event. Instead I played poorly and kept making the same mistake of under clubbing myself. This led to 5 bogeys over the last 13 holes and a +4 finish. Only 2 players in the top 20 shot higher than +4 on a day of good scoring due to lower wind conditions.
Not surprisingly the top ranked guys all finished very high in the event with raining US Senior Amateur Champion Bob Royak, taking the first place trophy with a fine -4 total, followed closely by world number 1, Gene Elliott at -3
Finishing T14 was a huge disappointment after getting it to -4 starting off on my first nine holes. After the round I drove in the rain to a place I have never been before called Ocala Florida where the Moot Thomas Championship starts today with a 1pm shotgun on a muni course called Ocala Golf club. The course will play about 6,000 yard long and a three day total of -10 or better will be needed unless the wind blows hard.
The contrast from Sea Island to Ocala couldn’t be any greater from a well manicured resort course that hosts a PGA tour event on the Seaside, to a muni that goes back and forth, with no views, and has greens that roll half as fast as Sea Islands.
But here I am, hoping to learn from the flaws of the Jones Cup, and apply more patience and thoughtfulness to my approach. I am here, I shall make the best of it.
SF CITY FINAL RESULTS
Jones Cup results
|2020 Jones Cup Senior Invitational Final Round Leaderboard|
2020 Jones Cup Senior – Senior Division (55+) – Senior Division (55 years of age and older) Division
|Pos.||Player||Total To Par Gross||R1||R2||R3||Total Gross||Purse|
|1||Bob RoyakAlpharetta, Georgia||-4||68||67||71||206||$700.00|
|2||Gene ElliottWest Des Moines, Iowa||-3||69||70||68||207||$500.00|
|3||Steve HarwellMooresville, North Carolina||-2||70||69||69||208||$450.00|
|4||Jack LarkinAtlanta, Georgia||-1||70||70||69||209||$425.00|
|T5||Jerry SlagleSouthlake, Texas||+1||68||72||71||211||$375.00|
|T5||Doug HanzelSavannah, Georgia||+1||71||68||72||211||$375.00|
|7||Jack KearneyPeachtree City, Georgia||+3||72||71||70||213||$325.00|
|T8||Allen PeakeMacon, Georgia||+4||72||71||71||214||$287.50|
|T8||Danny NelsonSavannah, Georgia||+4||70||74||70||214||$287.50|
|T10||Richard KerperOldsmar, Florida||+5||71||68||76||215||$225.00|
|T10||John SkeadasSavannah, Georgia||+5||72||72||71||215||$225.00|
|T12||Joe PalmerNorwalk, Iowa||+6||73||70||73||216||$137.50|
|T12||Ken KinkopfJupiter, Florida||+6||72||72||72||216||$137.50|
|T14||Randy HaagOrinda, California||+7||71||72||74||217||$25.00|
|T14||Chris HallMarietta, Georgia||+7||72||73||72||217||$25.00|
|T14||Walter ToddLaurens, South Carolina||+7||71||75||71||217||$25.00|
|T14||Tommy BrennanCovington, Louisiana||+7||74||72||71||217||$25.00|
|T14||Brian KeenanTampa, Florida||+7||73||74||70||217||$25.00|
|T14||Rusty StrawnMcDonough, Georgia||+7||72||76||69||217||$25.00|
|T20||Robert FunkCanyon Lake, California||+8||72||71||75||218||$0.00|
|2020 Jones Cup Senior Invitational Final Round Leaderboard|
|T20||Jeff KnoxAugusta, Georgia||+8||71||74||73||218||$0.00|
|T20||Buzz FlyMemphis, Tennessee||+8||75||71||72||218||$0.00|
|23||Grady BrameHammond, Louisiana||+9||74||73||72||219||$0.00|
|24||Kip EstepRockwall, Texas||+10||76||76||68||220||$0.00|
|T25||Donald O’ConnorMcKinney, Texas||+11||75||71||75||221||$0.00|
|T25||Tom LapeAtlanta, Georiga||+11||76||72||73||221||$0.00|
|T25||Kirk WrightOklahoma City, Oklahoma||+11||77||75||69||221||$0.00|
|28||Roger NewsomVirginia Beach, Virginia||+12||73||76||73||222||$0.00|
|T29||Pat StayerDallas, Texas||+13||76||71||76||223||$0.00|
|T29||David OasCarlsbad, California||+13||75||72||76||223||$0.00|
|T29||Jack HallSavannah, Georgia||+13||71||79||73||223||$0.00|
|T29||Trey FreemanSt. Simons Island, Georgia||+13||72||79||72||223||$0.00|
|T33||Geno BerchiattiGreenville, South Carolina||+14||72||75||77||224||$0.00|
|T33||Steven HudsonBirmingham, Alabama||+14||80||71||73||224||$0.00|
|T33||Douglas GradwellPlumville, Pennsylvania||+14||73||78||73||224||$0.00|
|T33||Frank VanaBoxford, Massachusetts||+14||73||81||70||224||$0.00|
|T37||Larry NunezAustin, Texas||+15||75||73||77||225||$0.00|
|T37||Mark NickersonGreensboro, Georgia||+15||77||71||77||225||$0.00|
|T37||Eddie HargettBlythewood, South Carolina||+15||75||77||73||225||$0.00|
|T40||Greg GoodeSalina, Kansas||+16||75||75||76||226||$0.00|
|T40||Michael KelleyWesterville, Ohio||+16||74||77||75||226||$0.00|
|T40||Donny PhillipsSuwanee, Georgia||+16||75||79||72||226||$0.00|
|T43||Rich BucknerGainesville, Virginia||+17||74||77||76||227||$0.00|
|T43||Peter DeTempleLexington Park, Maryland||+17||75||76||76||227||$0.00|
|2020 Jones Cup Senior Invitational Final Round Leaderboard|
|T43||Stevie CannadyPooler, Georgia||+17||78||75||74||227||$0.00|
|T43||Gordy McKeownLittle Rock, Arkansas||+17||73||79||75||227||$0.00|
|T43||Paul RoyakTampa, Florida||+17||79||77||71||227||$0.00|
|T48||Keith DeckerMartinsville, Virginia||+18||77||75||76||228||$0.00|
|T48||Jim LehmanMinnetonka, Minnesota||+18||79||75||74||228||$0.00|
|T48||Vance AntoniouSarasota, Florida||+18||77||77||74||228||$0.00|
|T48||Steve MaddalenaJackson, Michigan||+18||74||81||73||228||$0.00|
|52||Scott RayCentral City, Kentucky||+20||75||80||75||230||$0.00|
|53||Emile VaughanPike Road, Alabama||+21||72||82||77||231||$0.00|
|54||Mark BenefieldPeachtree Corners, Georgia||+22||75||82||75||232||$0.00|
|T55||Jonathan ValuckOklahoma City, Oklahoma||+23||74||82||77||233||$0.00|
|T55||Matt GrandyGreenville, South Carolina||+23||82||74||77||233||$0.00|
|T55||John WrightFairhope, Alabama||+23||77||80||76||233||$0.00|
|T58||Craig ScheibertSavannah, Georgia||+24||76||78||80||234||$0.00|
|T58||Brad RendellWinnetka, Illinois||+24||80||80||74||234||$0.00|
|T58||Mike FunkPooler, Georgia||+24||81||77||76||234||$0.00|
|T61||Rand MendezWilmington, Delaware||+25||83||78||74||235||$0.00|
|T61||John LombardozziHerndon, Virginia||+25||79||83||73||235||$0.00|
|T61||David ProkopHaymarket, Virgnia||+25||77||82||76||235||$0.00|
|T61||Bob BeckAllentown, Pennsylvania||+25||74||81||80||235||$0.00|
|65||Jim RomanielloStamford, Connecticut||+28||75||80||83||238||$0.00|
|66||Keith HolmesMacon, Georgia||+30||82||79||79||240||$0.00|
|67||Tripp KuhlkeAugusta, Georgia||+31||80||80||81||241||$0.00|
|68||Joel HickmanBoise, Idaho||+41||82||87||82||251||$0.00|
|2020 Jones Cup Senior Invitational Final Round Leaderboard|
|WD||Todd HendleyColumbus, North Carolina||–||73||WD||WD||$0.00|
| WD||Rick CloningerMcDonough, Georgia||–||77|| WD|| WD||$0.00|
| WD||Roger HoitNew York, New York||–||78|| WD|| WD||$0.00|
|NC||Michael HughettOwasso, Oklahoma||–||75||80||NC||NC||$0.00|
|T otal Purse Allocated: $4,600.00|
|2020 Jones Cup Senior Invitational Final Round Leaderboard|
2020 Jones Cup Senior – Super Senior (65+) – Super Senior Division (65 years of age and older) Division
|Pos.||Player||Total To Par Gross||R1||R2||R3||Total Gross||Purse|
|1||Mark WestonWindermere, Florida||+2||70||71||71||212||$600.00|
|2||Allan SmallSavannah, Georgia||+4||71||71||72||214||$450.00|
|3||Marc FriedSolon, Ohio||+9||72||74||73||219||$350.00|
|4||John ArmstrongFrostburg, Maryland||+10||75||72||73||220||$300.00|
|5||Brian JohnstonPeachtree Corners, Georgia||+12||75||76||71||222||$200.00|
|T6||Corky NelsonDallas, Texas||+13||74||76||73||223||$50.00|
|T6||Don MarshJohns Creek, Georgia||+13||79||74||70||223||$50.00|
|8||John OsborneVero Beach, Florida||+15||81||71||73||225||$0.00|
|T9||Pete AllenSouthport, North Carolina||+16||75||76||75||226||$0.00|
|T9||Don DonatoniMalvern, Pennsylvania||+16||75||77||74||226||$0.00|
|T9||David CrockerBluffton, South Carolina||+16||75||77||74||226||$0.00|
|T12||Don RussellTequesta, Florida||+17||73||79||75||227||$0.00|
|T12||George WalkerFairhope, Alabama||+17||75||78||74||227||$0.00|
|T12||Alan ThielemannWoodstock, Georgia||+17||83||72||72||227||$0.00|
|15||Phil PavoniMacon, Georgia||+19||82||71||76||229||$0.00|
|16||Bob CasamentoPalm Coast, Florida||+21||84||75||72||231||$0.00|
|T17||Don KuehnKansas City, Missouri||+22||81||77||74||232||$0.00|
|T17||Mark BaxterTequesta, Florida||+22||82||79||71||232||$0.00|
|T19||Larry WoodsLouisville, Kentucky||+23||77||78||78||233||$0.00|
|T19||Dave BellBluffton, South Carolina||+23||75||81||77||233||$0.00|
|2020 Jones Cup Senior Invitational Final Round Leaderboard|
|21||Frank CostanzoSavannah, Georgia||+25||78||81||76||235||$0.00|
|T22||Curt KnorrDunwoody, Georgia||+26||77||83||76||236||$0.00|
|T22||Dale PorterLeland, North Carolina||+26||83||80||73||236||$0.00|
|24||Charlie Van SwearingenW. Bloomfield, Michigan||+27||78||84||75||237||$0.00|
|25||Bob YoungDunwoody, Georgia||+29||84||81||74||239||$0.00|
|26||Frank WrennGreenville, South Carolina||+30||77||79||84||240||$0.00|
|27||Mike RayAtlanta, Georgia||+37||82||82||83||247||$0.00|
|28||Charlie AndersonJohns Creek, Georgia||+53||82||92||89||263||$0.00|
| WD||Jim de LeonBluffton, South Carolina||–||71||79|| WD|| WD||$0.00|
|WD||James CastagnaSandy Spring, Maryland||–||90||80||WD||WD||$0.00|
|WD||Mills RendellWinnetka, Illinois||–||86||88||WD||WD||$0.00|
| WD||Chip WardSouth Burlington, Vermont||–||77|| WD|| WD||$0.00|
|T otal Purse Allocated: $2,000.00|
Its a new year, and its a new golf schedule. The World Amateur Golf ranking http://www.wagr.com allows you to now use the filters for all amateurs 55+ years old coined a Senior Amateur. The golf authorities have now changed the way they rank the best amateurs in the world.
Previously all your qualifying events were weighted equally over 104 weeks (2 years). After 2 years the points fall off and you’d need to replace them with current performance. It certainly did not reward the players playing well in the current events. In 2020 your WAGR point events lose 2% a week in the second year going to zero on a straight line over 50 weeks.
Why does the WAGR ranking system matter? It matters for many reasons 1. the top 15 ranked Senior Amateurs in the world are exempt into the USGA Senior Amateur (which is hard to qualify for, typically 80 players for 4 spots) 2. Most amateur events now look to the WAGR ranking to accept players into the elite events.
A lot of players still are not aware that 2 day events, and best ball events do not receive any WAGR points. You can play in all the 2 day and best ball events and win them all, and you’ll never show up on the World Ranking system. Which is why for the first time in my amateur career I am forgoing the top NCGA events that are 2 days and best ball events to focus on the 3 day senior amateur majors.
My WAGR ranking at the end of 2019 was #8 of the 55+ plus players in the world.Since they changed the points system for 2020 I have dropped to #23 in the world. So I have entered perhaps more WAGR qualified events than any player in the world for 2020.
Tomorrow I tee it up at TPC Harding Park in the San Francisco Semi-Finals at 8:40. I have also entered the Jones Cup in Sea Island Georgia that begins on Monday (I have a 9:40 tee time) so when I looked at my schedule I know that I would either be leaving on Saturday (tomorrow) or on Sunday afternoon, assuming I made it to the final match. So I used American Airline miles to book a flight to Jacksonville leaving at 1:26 from SFO on Saturday, that even if I go down in defeat, I still may not make this flight. There is another flight at 2:00pm that also gets in at midnight in Jacksonville, followed by an hour drive up into Georgia and to Sea Island.
I DO NOT WANT TO BE ON ANY FLIGHT TO GEORGIA TOMORROW. I want to finish what I started at the SF City and win my 4th city title. I will happily forgo a Sunday practice round at Sea Island to play in the final match. I’ve always said there are bigger events to win than the SF City, but not in my heart. I am from the Bay Area and have followed the storied history of this event for almost 50 years. I also have a Southwest Flight to Georgia on Sunday at 2:30 pm that also gets me in at Midnight, that is my preferred arrival and flight:)
My 2020 schedule is WAY different than any other year, and yes my goal is to become the #1 ranked Senior Amateur in the world. I write that to you knowing that I have some critics that think I am arrogant, and full of myself, cocky and stuck-up. My only response to that is, they can think what they want, I love and respect the game of golf and I have met the most amazing people through this game. What you’ll find is the best players also have confidence, they are competitive and they work hard to perfect their games to be the best they can be. If that is cocky or arrogant, then ok.
If you don’t have stated goals in life, you will never get close to what your biggest dreams are. I have already over-achieved in anything I thought I would ever be able to accomplish in golf. I never thought I would achieve 1/10th of what I’ve done. Meanwhile I know there are other amateurs that I have competed against that have always been better than me. These are the guys that I respect most in the game and the way they conduct themselves both on and off the course. Two of my favorite examples are Tim Jackson who has won 2 USGA Mid Amateurs and played in 2 masters, and also my good friend Chip Lutz, Chip has won 3 British Senior Amateurs, 3 Canadian Senior Ams and one USGA Senior Amateurs. I have never won a national championship, and know to do so, you need to have NO weakness in your game. There cannot be a hole in one aspect of your game because it will get exposed and fraid under that kind of pressure.
I’ve got so many runner up finishes, that nag at you knowing you were so close to winning the big prize. Just to name a few, I’ve been runner up in the California State Amateur, runner up in the British Senior Amateur, the SF City 3 times, Crump Cup twice, NCGA amateur 3 times and many others. Those close calls will either ruin you or motivate you.
Right now coming off ankle surgery, I am motivated. My goals for 2020 are set:
Okay having the goals is great, but most have the goals and don’t know how much work is required to even come close. So what am I doing to help achieve these goals.
So off I go tomorrow morning to the Olympic Club early to stretch, take a jacuzzi and get ready for my 8:40 Semi Final match with my bags packed in the car. My journey after the SF City takes me to Georgia for the Jones Cup March 2-4th, March 5th is the practice round for the Moot Thomas in Ocala Florida March 6-8th. Then I travel to Florida Azalea being held March 13-15th, I then fly to San Diego and drive two hours to Pauma Valley on March 16th through the 21st and finally back home for 9 days before the next 2 event in Palm Desert.
Stay tuned for results on the SF Senior City and the rest of my new events
If you follow golf in California, or even in the United States the last 50 years you probably know who Gary Vanier is. His accomplishments are too long to list here, but one of my favorite memories of Gary is when he was playing one of Johnny Miller’s sons in the US Amateur at Pebble beach in 2000 when Gary was about 50 years old, and Johnny Miller was on the coverage team. Johnny during the TV broadcast made a snide comment about Gary having a bag full of rescue clubs. An hour later in the match young Miller was shaking Gary’s hand in disbelief that he lost to this “old man” with 4 rescue clubs in his bag. Well young Miller isn’t the only player to shake his head after playing Mr. Vanier.
Gary has made a career out of beating accomplished players in major amateur events. After a brief stint on the PGA tour, where Gary lead a PGA tour event after 36 holes, he never really gave himself the years to mature as a pro golfer. I believe he would have won on the PGA tour given more time out there. But instead Gary used his Stanford education to create a very successful securities business, leaving him some free time to hone his amazing golf game and win probably over 100 amateur events in his storied career (which is not close to being complete).
In my early days as an upcoming amateur I had nothing but respect, and yes a bit of fear when even being around him. Despite being quite affable once you know him, many see Gary as quiet and standoffish. Over the years of knowing Gary better and better, I’ll say he’s got a great sense of humor, he’s respectful, a very good man and one hell of a competition.
When I am asked what my greatest golf accomplishment is, I never need to think long about it. I have won bigger events than the SF City Golf Championship, but the History of this 100+ year old event is special and meaningful in the laurels of amateur and professional golf. Big names like Tom Watson, Johnny Miller and Nate Crosby never won the event. So when asked about my best golf accomplishment it clearly was in 1999 when I played someone that had won a record six final matches, and had never lost in a finals before, that being Gary Vanier. It’s true I had a dream in 1999 before the event that we would end up playing in the finals that year, and I would be victorious. What a dream it ended up being as we were in different sides of the brackets it was possible, but with 62 other players making match play, it was a SUPER LONG SHOT.
But match after match we marched on, and in those days the semi-final match was 36 holes followed by a 36 hole final. Gary and I both made the semi final matches and won in tight hard fought battles which is super fatiguing both mentally and physically, which does not leave a lot in the tank for the next day when you wake up in the morning and your legs are tired and you don’t feel like you are rested at all. In 1999 I had just turned 40 and Gary was 49, so fatigue was going to play a part in our match.
The anticipation of playing Gary that day came quick, as I did’nt have a week to think about playing him which was a good thing. It was a quick turnaround and off we went exchanging blows. I reached the 17th hole 1 up and proceeded to birdie 17, 18, 1, 2 and the 4th hole, while only gaining one hole on Gary. He was and is the toughest match play competitor I’ve ever know or played. He NEVER seems to give you a hole, even when he’s out of position he finds a way to make you earn each and every hole.
Gary closed the gap on me late in the round and took a one up lead on the 12th hole with an eagle 3. I squared the match on the 14th with a par, and took a one up lead into the 17th hole after I made a birdie 3 on the 16th.
With about 500 people watching us and surrounding the green, I can clearly remembering how nervous I was inside, and how I needed to calm myself to hit a 7 iron to a front right pin. My shot took off on a perfect line, and landed 4 feet from the hole. After Gary missed his 20 foot birdie attempt, I settled over my putt knowing that I had 4 feet from accomplishing something I never thought possible growing up as a kid, reading about this great championship. When that 4 foot putt went into the middle of the hole it was the greatest golf moment in my life. The opportunity to play and beat the best the game has to offer is something that I could only dream of, that day changed my life forever in becoming a City Champion.
So when I knew I was playing Gary in the Quarterfinals of the Senior City Championship on Sunday, I knew I needed to bring my very best game. Gary will turn 70 this year, and still has a lot of game, and I’m sure has already shot his age hundred times. In the City Championship when we are paired in groups of 4 in match play, you always get a preview of who you’ll play next. In Gary’s match against my pal Mike Staskus, I watched Gary get up and down from a short sided bunker on 15, that would have put him one down, instead he hit a miraculous shot to a foot and tied the hole. He was unflappable on the back nine and won his match with Mike on the 17th hole.
For those of you that were not outside this weekend, let me tell you it was cold and windy. And since we are super privileged to be playing at TPC Harding Park, the rough is super thick and long getting ready for the PGA Championship this coming May.
Knowing you need your very best game to beat another player does add pressure, and to perform under pressure you need to have the confidence that your game is ready and prepared for these bigger moments. We play and practice to put ourselves in position to play under more pressure than we are accustomed too. And match play in the City Championship creates that kind of pressure.
I happened to get off to a good start by almost holing my second shot leaving a 4 inch conceded birdie for a one up lead. On the second hole I hit another long straight drive leaving me with only a wedge to the green. Gary hit his famous rescue to the left side of the green and ended up making a 8 foot putt for par to tie the hole. Gary then two putted from 100 feet on #3 while I 3 putted. He then made a 40 footer on #4 to take a one up lead. I was thinking to myself, here we go, the battle is on.
My mindset was do nothing different as I knew my game is solid. I just needed to keep hitting solid shots and putts and forget about what the other guy is doing. That’s not easy to do, but after pulling even on #5 and going back one up on #6 I had the confidence to play some of my best golf in many years.
Here is a quick summary of the holes to follow, second shot close on #7 lipped birdie putt, Gary missed green chipped to 4 feet and he made par. On #8 wind howling in our face, pin was back left playing 192 yards, I hit a solid 5 iron that ended 20 feet from the hole. Gary missed green chip to 5 feet and made the tying par putt. On #9 into the wind I hit my third shot from 70 yards to 4 feet and won the hole with a birdie to go two up.
My best hole was the par 5 number 10 with a good drive a 4 rescue I knocked it on the green in 2 shots and made the putt for eagle to go 3 up. On the 11th hole I hit a very good shot to the back of the green while Gary was in the bunker, and was expecting him to hole out the bunker shot, which he almost did. After a halve on 11, I made a 4 foot birdie putt on 12, and then a winning par putt from 10 feet on the 13th to go 5 up and put the match out of reach. I did three putt 14 from long range, but came back to win the 15th hole for a 5&3 win against a very very tough competitor. I know if I had not made the 10 foot par putt on the 13th hole, this match may still be going. When you have a chance to get another arrow in Gary, you must not give him extra chances.
Gary is one of my favorite golfers, and I consider him to be a close friend. We have played in many best ball events together and honestly I cannot remember us ever not winning when paired together.
He is super deserving and should be inducted into both the NCGA and Olympic Club Hall of Fames, which should occur soon.
Next up I have a date in the semi-finals on Saturday with the SUPER long hitting Larry Salk.
I did want to personally thank the friendly spectator whom came out in the freezing weather in shorts to watch our match. I’d use your name if I had remembered it, sorry about that, but please leave a comment here.
I highly recommend any golf fan to come out to any of the matches next weekend to see how amazing Harding Park looks, it really is an amazing place.
Down below the photos is courtesy of Mike Benham, thanks Mike for coming out. Gary and I are wearing many layers of clothing, and this is a good shot of my side saddle putt on its way on hole #2.
One of the most popular questions I get is what clubs should I buy. That is a very good and important question. The two most important factors are what looks and feels good to you, and how properly fitted you are.
I would take a great fitting over look and feel, as fitting has more to do with the proper shaft, then the proper head configuration. In this day and age of high technology, it is relatively easy to find a way to get properly fitted. Both TailorMade and Titleist have rover fitting sessions at most all the local clubs in your area. Always ask and find out when they will be at your location next. Usually these fitting sessions are free, but don’t be foolish and reject a fitting if there is a nominal cost associated.
My own personal experience has been tremendous with both Titleist (for 25 years) and now TaylorMade for the past 10 years. They have provided me with balls, gloves and clubs, saving me 10’s of thousands of dollars on equipment. But honestly I would not use either just for a free golf set, I chose them because they have in my opinion the best options as a player to play my very best golf.
I think they also have the best golf balls in the game, and I switched from a Titleist ball to the new TaylorMade TP5x just last year. And in 2019 I recaptured Northern California Senior Player of the Year, and my world ranking as a Senior went to 8th. The ball does make a difference!
As you’ll see in the Golf Digest hot list for best clubs for 2020, all the top brands are well represented and have good descriptions of their equipment. The difference I believe is the fitting that is made available to the players, and TaylorMade is the leader in my opinion. This Wednesday I have a one hour fitting (free) at the Olympic Club, that will put me on a launch monitor to determine what equipment will be best suited for my club head speed, angle of attack, and smash factor. I am super excited to try the new TaylorMade SIM family of clubs in the Driver, Fairway SIM and Hybrids.
I think Golf Digest did a good job with this evaluation
So PLEASE use the pro’s that know how to properly fit you into clubs that will perform at the highest level for you.
And as always, nobody pays me to tout their equipment, I use what I think makes me compete at the highest level.
Stay tuned for more on Side Saddle (FaceOn putting)
It all starts with fitness, which leads to mental strength and stamina. I PROMISE you that if you just do Jennifer’s exercise with the band around your thighs, you will notice a HUGE difference in your mobility and even more important, you will reduce or eliminate your back pain.
If you deem this Blog worthy, please share with others. I accept no advertising, I don’t edit my rants, and I will provide you with I hope some valuable insight into how I train and prepare to play my best golf.
The truth is on Thursday I turn 61 years young. Currently I am the 8th ranked senior golfer in the world, and my goal is to become #1, and to win a National championship in 2020. My sincere belief is that my best golf is ahead of me, not behind me. Perhaps that’s not realistic, but that is my mind set. My favorite saying “The golf ball has no idea how old I am” so why should I let that affect my mindset.
But it all starts with FITNESS, please make a commitment to join me in doing these amazing exercises. I’d love to hear your stories of success in 2020.
Here you go:
Stay tuned, and PLEASE try some of these, you’ll be glad you did!!