PGA CHAMPIONSHIP AT HARDING PARK and the unique swings from Sunday’s skins game

Will the PGA Championship actually be held in early August? I can tell you that the place is a ghost town now, having played there yesterday. Yes there are some grandstands up, but no seats, no TV towers and no workers doing anything right now.

With the event just a little over 70 days away, will major championship golf return to an empty stadium. I say YES. I don’t think the powers to be in California and San Francisco will be ready to put in place an acceptable system to ensure the safety of the players, volunteers and spectators.

The rough is brutal, and at approx 7300 yards with the 9th and 12th holes converted to par 4’s from 5’s this will be a major test. But will the event really feel like a major to the players and fans watching live on TV?

We can clearly tell from the first televised golf this past Sunday at Seminole, that without the roar of the fans, it just looks like a couple of friends out playing golf. Albeit some good golf was played (despite the 3-4 water balls hit by Dustin) it was interesting to hear the players comments to each other after missing putts. Especially Dustin who did not get many putts on line.

With each player taking different layoffs during this Pandemic, you can clearly tell that extended layoffs even affect the best players in the world. It was especially interesting to see the 4 completely different swings each player possess on the back swing and set at the top, but yet how similar each is at impact.

All of our bodies allow different range of motion, and each player needs to find the optimum way to deliver the club with the most speed, while maintaining the right angles and position of the body at impact. This is exactly why I have always chuckled when players try to copy or emulate a PGA tour swing that will never work with the god given body that we are stuck with.

My advice to you is work more on your range of motion and flexibility, and then see how to properly fit it into your golf swing. Clearly Rory has the best looking swing of the 4 players, he is text book at almost every point of the swing, producing massive lag and speed generation. Rory is a physical specimen, he is crazy strong, crazy flexible, combined with massive hand eye coordination.

But when you exam the other 3 players you see VERY different positions and form. Ricky is so laid off at the top of his swing, I marvel at how he is able to transition into a near perfect delivery position at impact. If you look at Dustin at the top, you would NEVER think this guy was once #1 in the world. He is SOOOOOO shut at the top of his swing, that only his massive strength enable him to square the club at impact and keep it square all throughout the hitting area. But certainly not a swing to emulate.

You may want to try the Matthew Wolff technique of producing a huge leg waggle prior to starting his swing. He does this to feel the position he wants at impact. He’s a lanky guy that loops his club way outside only 3/4 back, and then generates massive lag on his downswing producing drives of 350+ yards.

This photo was taken yesterday at Harding Park. This is the view into the 18th green from about 165 yards. This will be a pivotal and challenging hole in the 2020 PGA Championship.

More coming on the best golf exercises you can do at home.

Stay tuned

SIDE SADDLE PUTTING 101

Just a look at an old video from the US Senior Open when the commentators said perhaps a lot more players may look to Side Saddle putting. But sadly that has not happened.

Take a quick look at this clip.

Check it out the technique

The reason why the Pro’s have not converted is simple, it takes a long time to adjust to the different speeds and length of putts. It took me well over a year to get proficient at judging the speed especially on my longer putts. But then I had a run from 1997 to 2005 when my side saddle (FaceOn) putting was my biggest weapon in my bag, and made me feel like I could win almost anything I entered. Sounds cocky I know, but if you lack confidence in your putting, good luck trying to win a major tournament coming down the stretch with the pressure cranked up.

Go to YouTube and check out some of my videos on the technique required to putt well using this method.

And let me know how it goes.

I’m off to Harding Park for my 2:20 tee time with my good buddy (non Olympic member so cannot play there yet with a guest)

Stay Tuned

WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUUT GOLF

The NCGA recently asked me to write a few paragraphs about what I miss most about golf in its absence from COVID 19. I thought I would share with you my reply, as they posted it on the NCGA website

https://ncga.org/2020/04/17/faces-of-the-ncga-the-players-randy-haag/

Yesterday was the first day I played golf again since the final round of the Florida Azalea in Palatka Florida on March 15th. That’s 41 days without hitting a single shot, putt or chip.

The funny part of this story is to keep in shape, I took an overgrown piece of my property here in Orinda that had 100 trees and small bushes and over 20 rats nests, cleared it, dug up all the roots and Ivy, and built garden boxes out of redwood. I now have 100 feet of corn growing 4 rows deep, and about every imaginable veggie growing. This is something that I have always wanted to do, but never had the time. I am sure we all have been living life differently than in the past with the “Shelter in Place” order.

During this cleanup I found 7 baseballs from my youth (my brother and I would routinely throw baseballs everywhere on the property) and some old tennis balls and other balls and old artifacts.

On Saturday I received an email that The Reserve at Spanos Park was opening on Sunday for golf with the usual precautions built in (single cart riding, no pulling pins, no rakes). I decided to book a tee time and see if I could get three buddies to play. This course is an hour and half drive from Orinda, but was well worth the drive as its a very nice public course and provided us an opportunity to get back out on the links.

I got confirmation that 3 of my best pals wanted to play and would all be there at 11:50 for our time. So on Saturday in the back yard I decided to try chipping an old tennis ball with a 60 degree sand wedge I had out there. I was in shock when I shanked the tennis ball 5 consecutive times, and decided to quit, and that it must be because the tennis ball is so big that it hits the hozzel of the shaft first.

Well my warmup yesterday included many chunks and wayward shots, so the money game was set at a very small roar. We decided to allow a “lunch ball” off the first tee and everyone found a drive they liked. The 1st hole at Spanos is very short, and I drove the ball to just short of the green side bunker leaving me about 35 yards to the pin. I remembered the great success I had in my previous tournament with weakening my grip on all my chip shots.

So there I was, thinking about starting off my first golf in 41 days with an opening birdie. But OH NO, I hit the ugliest chip shank you have ever seen. It literally went sideways, and only traveled 15 feet dead right. I decided to now strengthen my grip, and again I cold shanked it sideways. On my third attempt I actually hit it worse than a shank, it literally didn’t go more than six feet. On my fourth attempt I just straight armed it onto the green and scooped up my ball for a 6X.

This was the start to my new season. I’m not sure what is worse in golf, the yips, or the shanks. I think the shanks are easier to cure, but I had both going on the front nine. I carded a +3 39, my two scratch playing buddies shot 34 and 35, and my 10 handicap buddy shot a 41. At this point I was losing a small fortune.

The back nine was a different story, but every time I was faced with a chip shot, you better believe that I was frightened to death that another shank would appear. Luckily I got up and down twice, made three birdies and shot a 33 on the back nine. And received that my game had not completely left me.

My one buddy, almost didn’t miss a shot, and played a bogey free round of 67 (he won the money) my 10 handicap buddy threw the party, but has a chance to redeem himself as we travel to Elk Grove (again in Stockton) for a rematch.

Even after 41 days off from golf I have a completely different appreciation for golf, life, my health and freedom. So many families have been affected by this horrible virus that we will never live the way we have in the past. My thoughts, prayers and heartfelt affection go out to all those that have been devastated by this virus.

Golf is a wonderful outlet to life and its problems, I am supremely grateful that I had this safe reunion with my friends, which in the end, I do indeed miss those personal inter-relationships more than anything else.

Be safe, be well and stay tuned

PLEASE HELP KEEP GOLF ALIVE

Many factors have resulted in the steady decline of golf globally. It’s up to us, those that love the game to keep it alive.

The link below is a gallant attempt to save another historic golf course in South San Francisco called Gleneagles. The history of this Jack Fleming course is worth reading about. Please first read this Golf Magazine Story About Gleneagles and COVID-19, March 23, 2020, Josh Sens
https://www.golf.com/travel/2020/03/23/gleneagles-golf-san-francisco-muni-monday/

Please help Tom Hsieh keep his dream alive by donating to this worthy cause. Please click this GoFundMe link below to help. PLEASE HELP

https://www.gofundme.com/f/gleneagles-covid19-relief-fund

Stay tuned for more information on the BEST IMMUNE POWER PACK I KNOW OF

GOLF AND LIFE AFTER SURGERY

Those of you that read my blog on a regular basis know that on December 11th I had major ankle surgery to clip a bone that was protruding into my Achilles. Additionally, I had significant scar tissue throughout my ankle. My scheduled surgery for 2 hours, went an additional 2 hours due to the extensive scar tissue.

Prior to my surgery, I sought the advice of my good friend, Dr. Rish Patel, who is a well- known and respected pain management doctor in New York. More importantly, he is also a scratch golfer and understood exactly what I was facing. He recommended that I take a product called Optimend in order to reduce my pain and inflammation. Instead of trying to explain exactly what Optimend is, I have provided information from Activz Global, the company that offers  Optimend below. Full disclosure I am a co-founder of this company and have relied on respected doctors and leaders in the scientific community to give me their unbiased opinion and view of the science validated products that Activz offers.

Optimend is ACTIVZ’ solution to pain and unhealthy inflammation. Healthy inflammation is part of the body’s natural defense system and is designed to combat viruses, bacteria and injury. It’s the body’s way of “purging by fire.” Unfortunately, excessive inflammation can cause a barrage of unfavorable side effects like heat/fever, swelling and pain that can cause damage to the body’s own tissues. Even worse, chronic or “silent” inflammation is now considered to be a major cause of most of the chronic health conditions and diseases we suffer from. 

ACTIVZ scientists combined many years of science and research regarding turmeric, curcumin and boswelia and  with cutting-edge technology and science to create a powerful product that effectively alleviates pain and inflammation In their normal state, turmeric and curcumin (the most active component of turmeric) are large, unstable molecules that are not easily absorbed and utilized by the body. Optimend addresses this problem in several ways. First, it contains a special metabolite of curcumin, called tetrahydrocurcumin, that by itself is more bioavailable than regular curcumin. Next, each molecule is wrapped in a CyLoc™ dextrin molecular “cage” and specially treated with DexKeyTM technology that allows the molecule to release its power into your body with maximum absorbability.

My understanding of Optimend is that Tumeric has been used for thousands of years, and is widely considered to be very good for our bodies. What I didn’t understand about Tumeric is that its not easily absorbed in our bodies. Given the safety profile of the product, especially compared to opiods and even over the counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophenI, instead I was advised to take  large doses of Optimend,  to deal with the pain and inflammation caused by my injury and subsequent surgery.  

I began Optimend prior to leaving for Costa Rica for the Costa Rica Amateur in November. Previously I had been withdrawing from most events, and was hopeful that  Optimend would allow me to compete .. I ended finishing 3rd in that event, and felt a major difference over a very short period of time while taking 6-8 Optimend pills a day. Prior to my surgery, in my preop meeting with my surgeon, I asked him how long it would take for me to get back on the golf course. He said I’d be in a cast from December 11-27th and then a large walking boot for an additional 4-6 weeks. After some physical therapy in February, he thought I might be able to play in mid to late Feb. I was most concerned about being able to tee it up in the SF City Golf Championship that commenced on Feb 18th which is an event I have not missed since I was 16 years old. He didn’t sound very optimistic about meeting that date to be ready for a major competition.

I wore a large cast that I really didn’t enjoy wearing for 16 days. But to the shock of my doctor and the staff that removed the cast, my swelling was very limited and my foot looked much better than what the doctor had expected. The doctor asked me what I had been doing, I told him about Optimend and he asked for some information on the product. Here is a photo of my foot when the cast was removed, sorry for the unpleasant photo but you can see their is blue bruising, but very little swelling.

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I actually only wore the walking boot for one day, as I felt I really didn’t need it. Each day that passed I was seeing significant improvement. I had a series of  physical therapy appointments scheduled, but I only went to one of them and suspended the rest.

One day before my 61st birthday, on Jan 8th I played my first round of golf. I walked and carried my bag at the Olympic Club Lake course, which is not an easy walk. I wanted to stress test my ankle to see how sore it would be after walking and swinging for 18 holes. The result was astounding as I again played on Jan 9th and enjoyed a birthday round. I then knew that I would be more than ready to compete for the start of the SF City Golf Championship.

I did this all while maintaining my use of Optimend. I continued to show and feel significant positive results from lower inflammation, combined with better range of motion in all my aging joints and body parts.

My game leading up to the start of the SF City was already well beyond any point in 2019, and I had renewed hope for having a great season in 2020. My goals for the 2020 season were stated in a previous blog post, but my primary focus was on each nine holes, to be at par or better. In the SF City I shot an even par 72 at Harding Park and tied for 3rd in the qualifier. I played under par golf in all of my match play rounds. I then went to Sea Island and played below my expectation shooting 71,71,74 followed by the 71,74,70 at the Moot Thomas in Ocala. At that point I stood 6 over par for the first three events, and was determined to get my total for the year back closer to even par. With a 65,68,70 at the Florida Azalea I am  at -1 on the year.

Going into surgery on Dec 11th these results were not thought to be possible, but through taking several products from Activz I feel my real advantage on the golf course is my lower inflammation and bolstered immune system.

In an effort to help all those that are concerned about these issues, I have asked the company to offer me fellow golfers the ability to try their products at a significantly reduced price. In a few days I will post a link that will allow you to order these products at a discount, along with detailed product information that can be found on their website http://www.activz.com.

During these times of high concern for our health, I want to reach out to everyone and share my story of what I believe has made a significant and profound impact on my health. I have not been sick one day over the past 18 months, not a cold, flu or sore throat. I attribute this all to the products described below.

GNM-X: As the world’s most potent Nrf2 activator, it reduces oxidative stress, making cells better able to withstand attack; it also modulates “survival genes” and those which affect the innate immune system.

LINQ: 70% of our immune system resides in the gastrointestinal system and the butyric acid found in LINQ activates immune system genes and repairs endothelial cells that keep viruses, toxins and bacteria from entering our system.

With so much mis-information (or what Trump says- “fake news”)about supplements and products making false claims, the purpose of starting Activz was to offer people products that rely on reliable science that validates their existence. I am not a doctor, nor am I making any recommendations to you. I am sharing a story with you about what I have experienced using these products.

THIS IS THE OFFICIAL STATEMENT MADE TO THE PUBLIC FROM THE ACTIVZ SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD

Strengthening Your Immune System: 
Pro-Active Steps to Stay Healthy
The emergence of COVID-19 has brought about a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety. We know that you and your families are being inundated with reports on the spread of COVID-19, preventative actions and steps to take if you contract the virus. We, as the scientists, doctors and members of the Activz Scientific Advisory board, feel it is important to offer our guidance to the Activz community on what people can do to protect themselves and their families. The good news is that we are endowed with a great immune system that is designed to keep us healthy. It’s our natural defense system, not just against COVID-19, but against other viruses, bacteria and toxins that we encounter every day. And there are some simple things we can do to strengthen our immune system, not just to resist COVID-19, but to enjoy better, everyday health.

Play Defense! Minimize exposure.  Avoid public transportation, large crowds and practice “social distancing” (maintaining at least 6 ft. between you and others).Avoid touching your face.   Wash your hands often. Soap and water work just fine, but wash frequently, especially after having been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.Strengthen Your Immune System!Eat a healthy diet.  Proper nutrition is essential. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.Go for a walk.  Exercise is great for immune function, but don’t worry about elaborate exercise programs.Get enough sleep. Prioritizing sleep is one of the most important things you can do to strengthen your immune system.Minimize stress. Try meditation, deep breathing exercises, spending time with loved ones (Facetime, Skype and Zoom are great!) and listening to soothing music.The Importance of Activz products
  

Our products directly influence genes which play a key role in the immune system and in strengthening the body against attacks. Together, they provide great hope for getting us through this crisis safely.

GNM-X: As the world’s most potent Nrf2 activator, it reduces oxidative stress, making cells better able to withstand attack; it also modulates “survival genes” and those which affect the innate immune system.

LINQ:  70% of our immune system resides in the gastrointestinal system and the butyric acid found in LINQ activates immune system genes and repairs endothelial cells that keep viruses, toxins and bacteria from entering our system.

OPTIMEND: Decreases inflammation and fortifies cells against damage.
While there is no way to avoid being exposed to or affected by COVID-19 or other threats to our health, by following these simple steps, we can resist illness and greatly improve our health.
We wish all of you continued health and will keep you updated on how Activz can keep you and your loved ones healthy and happy.
 
ACTIVZ Advisory BoardDr. Joseph C. Maroon 
/ M.D., FACS
Dr. Maroon is a sports medicine expert and has served as the team neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers for over 20 years. He is also a member of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee, and is the medical director for World Wrestling Entertainment.Vice Admiral Mat Winter (USN, Ret)
/ Former Director of the Office of Naval Research / Former Joint Strike Fighter Program / Former Office of Secretary of Defense
 
Winter’s major acquisition tours include assistant deputy program manager for the Joint Standoff Weapon System; chief engineer for Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Flight and Propulsion Control; deputy program manager for the Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile program; and his major acquisition command tour as the Precision Strike Weapons (PMA-201) program manager.Dr. Brett Earl
/ MD
Dr. Brett J. Earl is a Board Certified Physician with over 18 years of experience in his field. He has been published numerous times and serves on various Medical Boards in Utah and his clinical expertise includes Ozone, RenuO2 Procedures, PRP Injections, Nutrition, Ultraviolet light IV Infusions (UBI), Supplement Optimization and IV Recovery and Rejuvenation.Dr. Amrish Patel
/ M.D.
Dr. Amrish Patel is a Board Certified Physician with over 18 years of experience in the field of Anesthesiology, Orthopedics and Pain Management. Dr. Patel focuses on pain management cases including: lumbar and cervical epidural steroid injections, lumbar and cervical facet joint injections, laser assisted denervation of lumbar facet joints and radio-frequency ablation of cervical facet joints and lumbar discograms.Dr. Daniel Hernandez
/ PhD
Dr. Hernandez has been deeply immersed in science of free radical biology for many years. In particular, he focuses on the role that free radicals, antioxidants and redox modifications play in triggering inflammation.Jeff Bost
/ PAC
Jeff Bost PAC has been a Neurosurgical Physician Assistant and associate with Dr. Joseph Maroon since 1987. He is also a Clinical Instructor and Clinical Assistant Professor. He and Dr. Maroon have special interests in minimally invasive spine, concussion and brain surgery and have collaborated on scores of scientific medical papers and books in these areas.

A WILD RIDE IN THE FLORIDA AZALEA

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

Randy Haag