Notebook: Working Man’s Amateurs

Mason Casper, the grandson of 1959 and 1966 U.S. Open champion Billy Casper, delivered a 1-over 71 Tuesday but couldn't overcome his first-round 76, failing to make match play at the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. (USGA/Joel Kowsky)
By Andrew Blair
July 16, 2013

LORTON, Va. – While an influx of young players continues to dominate, the U.S. Amateur Public Links also has its share of amateurs for whom championship golf is not a full-time pursuit. These are primarily mid-amateurs (ages 25 and older) who work on their games when they can and take time away from their families and occupations to compete in national championships such as the APL, held this year at Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton, Va.

They’re golfers like Jim Dufficy, a 44-year-old ironworker from Tinton Falls, N.J., who plays about once a week. He reached the event through the qualifier at his home track, Hominy Hill Golf Course in Colts Neck, N.J., and knows that even making it to the APL is an accomplishment in its own right, even though he failed to qualify for match play.

Off the course, he’s a member of New York’s Ironworkers Local 40. The small union has played a large role in the rebuilding efforts following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“We were there when it happened,” he said. “We were there for the recovery effort. Now, we’re finishing up the Freedom Tower. We’ve been there since the beginning.

“A lot of our families built the original structures, so it was very emotional being there at the beginning. It has come full-circle to put a new one back up. It’s pretty special to be there.”

Dufficy was in the same group of three with Trent Karlik, 34, a high school computer teacher from Pittsburgh. Ultimately, missing match play will likely hold little significance for Karlik. It’s the experience of playing in his second Amateur Public Links that he’ll remember. Karlik knows his golf game is a work in progress and that success in the game requires some of the same skills needed to be a teacher.

“You have to be patient a lot. With the students, they can get out of hand, just like with golf,” Karlik said with a laugh. “It can get out of hand sometimes. If you’re patient enough, it will pay off.”

Greg Condon, of Orange County, Calif., squeezes in a round before work as a manager at C&L Container, a company that distributes potatoes from the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. Then, he plays until dusk after finishing his day at work.

Condon’s son, Luke, helped reinvigorate his interest in the game and is on his bag this week.

“[Luke has] been great for me. There was a time when I didn’t compete as much,” Condon said. “At 10 years old, he really started playing. Every day it was, ‘Dad, let’s go. Dad, let’s go.’ That kept me going and I got back to competing again and trying things like this. It’s been good for me.”

It took Chris Igawa and his travel party 19 hours to get from his home in Hilo, Hawaii, to the APL. A dentist, Igawa, had his father, wife, daughter, mother and father-in-law in the gallery and has his swing coach as his caddie. They’re making a vacation out of the event as the family plans to take in the sights of nearby Washington, D.C.

All in the Family

Mason Casper, of Springville, Utah, doesn’t have to look far for expert advice when it comes to competing in national championships. His grandfather, Billy Casper, won the 1959 and 1966 U.S. Opens, and is a World Golf Hall of Fame member who is one of the most prominent historical figures in the game.

Casper, 25, delivered a second-round 1-over 71, a five-stroke improvement from his 76 on Monday, and relied on a time-honored tip that his grandfather likes to emphasize.

“Make sure to play good course management,” Mason said of his the advice. “On [Monday], I didn’t really do that very well, but today I did a lot better. I shot a better score. That’s the most important thing he stresses—course management.”

Mason is respectful of the family heritage, but said he doesn’t feel burdened by trying to live up to the Casper legacy.

“I like to have my own identity. I like to be able to show I can play on my own,” said Mason, who graduated from Utah Valley University this spring and plans to turn professional down the road. “In terms of respect for the game, I appreciate everything that my grandfather accomplished. His career was unbelievable. What he’s accomplished has definitely given me motivation to accomplish some of those things as well.”

Cowboys Up

Three members of the perennial powerhouse Oklahoma State University golf team –Ian Davis, Talor Gooch and Jordan Niebrugge – will advance to match play on Wednesday.

Davis, a rising senior, shot 6-under 134 (65-69) to earn second low qualifying honors. The distinction is another addition to his season of strong play, having won the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate in the fall and finishing third among program stroke-average leaders during his junior campaign. He has a straightforward strategy once match play starts.

“You do what Jim Valvano told his team: ‘Survive and advance,’ ” he said.

Fellow senior Talor Gooch (Midwest City, Okla.) returned a 3-under 137 (68-69). Davis and Gooch, each 21, have known each other since their junior golf days and their hometowns are only 30 minutes apart. 

Sophomore Jordan Niebrugge, 19, posted a 2-under 138 that included a contingent-best 67 on day two of qualifying. The Mequon, Wis., native notes that the Cowboys’ lineup goes about 10 deep, so he has to fight to gain one of the top five starting spots that typically comprise a team in an event.

“All the competition in qualifying and everyone gunning for spots has been good for the team and good for pushing yourself to be better,” he said.

Andrew Blair is director of communications for the Virginia State Golf Association. He is assisting the USGA this week at the APL.

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