Notebook: Young Caddie’s Great Week Ends

12-year-old CCB member Johnny Nathan helps Sullivan to third-round showing at Mid-Amateur


Johnny Nathan, a 12-year-old son of a Country Club of Birmingham member, skipped a few days of sixth grade to caddie for Southern Californian Dan Sullivan, who reached the third round of the U.S. Mid-Amateur. (USGA/Steve Gibbons)
By David Shefter, USGA
October 8, 2013

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A modern-day Eddie Lowery story was brewing at the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur this week, starring 12-year-old Country Club of Birmingham member Johnny Nathan.

Lowery, of course, became famous 100 years ago when he skipped school to caddie for Francis Ouimet at the U.S. Open, where the unheralded 20-year-old amateur stunned the golf world by beating English stalwarts Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. Lowery was only 10 years old and barely towered above Ouimet’s golf bag.

Nathan, a sixth-grader at nearby Mountain Creek Elementary School, didn’t hoof a bag, but pushed the cart for 46-year-old Dan Sullivan, of Pasadena, Calif., who made a dramatic run to the Round of 16. Earlier on Tuesday, Sullivan rallied to defeat former big-league pitcher Erik Hanson, of Kirkland, Wash., in 19 holes, winning the last three of the match after Hanson was dormie-2.    

Alas, Nathan didn’t have a Lowery-like finish, as Sullivan fell in the third round to Bradley Bastion, of Clinton Township, Mich., 1 down, on Tuesday afternoon.

“He now has to go back to school,” said Sullivan. “He’s probably a little bit more disappointed than I am. He made a good week much, much better. It was a lot of fun having him there. I made him work pretty hard going 36 (actually 37) holes today.”

Sullivan was a house guest of Nathan’s parents and when they saw he didn’t have a caddie, young Johnny volunteered. He is a golfer, but plays on the shorter East Course, which was used as the companion layout for stroke-play qualifying. Once Sullivan made match play, Johnny got his parents’ permission to take a few days off.

“That kid is going to have a memory that will last 50 years,” said Hanson. “When we shook hands, [he was so excited], his eyes almost came out of his head.”

Sullivan said Nathan kept him relaxed the entire time. When he played the East Course in qualifying, Nathan even provided some tips.

“He’s a good kid and knows the game,” said Sullivan. “It was fun asking him about his school work. He didn’t tell me about any of his girlfriends.”

Nathan was asked if he had ever heard of Ouimet or Lowery.

“There’s a movie about him right?” said Nathan, referring to the Greatest Game Ever Played.

Sullivan, the 2012 Southern California Golf Association Public Links champion, added that he’s looking forward to watching Nathan progress in school and golf.

“Hopefully I’ll caddie for him in one of these [USGA championships] one day,” said Sullivan.

Back In Play

Ken Tanigawa is a lot happier playing golf these days. He no longer has to worry about a 5-foot putt deciding his paycheck.

“Golf’s the same,” said Tanigawa, who advanced to the quarterfinals in his first Mid-Amateur appearance. “You still try hard, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter [as an amateur]. It’s fun. It’s OK. In that sense, it makes it easy.”

Tanigawa competed professionally for nearly 14 years, including six on the Japan Golf Tour. The 45-year-old Phoenix resident was born in Japan and knew the language and the culture, so after he graduated from UCLA in 1990 he decided to play professionally in his native country. He later moved back to the U.S. and played one year on the Nationwide Tour and bounced around other mini-tour circuits. He made three PGA Tour starts – in 2000, 2001 and 2002 – but missed the cut in all of them. By 2003, he had moved to Phoenix and had enough of the professional game.

“It was a combination of not playing as well as I should have, kids and family,” said Tanigawa, who was redshirted the year UCLA won the NCAA title (1988) at North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, Calif. “I didn’t want it enough.”

Tanigawa and his brother now own a Japan-based manufacturing company that produces private labels for major department stores. Last year, he regained his amateur status and the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur is his first USGA championship since the 1989 U.S. Amateur at Merion Golf Club. He also played in two U.S. Juniors (1983 and ‘84) and the 1985 U.S. Amateur, without much success.

This year, though, his game has rounded into form. He tied for fourth at the Arizona Stroke Play at the TPC Scottsdale and shared third at the Arizona Mid-Amateur at the Country Club of D.C. Ranch. At the recent Goldwater Cup, a match-play event featuring Arizona’s top amateurs against the club pros, Tanigawa won all three matches at Phoenix Country Club.

Tanigawa also plays out of Whisper Rock, a private facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., where many PGA Tours are members. He has teed it up with 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and Bryce Molder.

“They have to give me strokes,” he said.

If anything, that competition prepared Tanigawa for the Mid-Amateur. In Tuesday’s second round, he eliminated Scott Harvey, 1 up, and then toppled Keith Humerickhouse, 4 and 3, to reach the quarterfinals, and an exemption into the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur.

“It’s exciting,” said Tanigawa. “If you can avoid a [sectional] qualifier, that’s good. It’s hard to qualify for this event.”

Short Day

When 1996 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion and 2010 Mid-Amateur runner-up Tim Hogarth became ill Tuesday, it made Bill Williamson’s morning a short one. Hogarth, who believes he had a case of food poisoning, was visibly pale as he stepped to the first tee for his second-round match. He played 3½ holes before deciding to concede to Williamson, who was 3 up at the time.

Well-rested from his unexpectedly quick victory, Williamson ousted Joseph Saladino, 5 and 4, in the third round.

So while competitors such as Dan Sullivan were playing as many as 37 holes on Tuesday, Williamson needed just 17. In Monday’s first round, Williamson only went 14 holes in his 6-and-4 win over John Rudolph.

“It helped me more mentally than physically,” said Williamson, 36, of Cincinnati. “Walking 36 holes is OK physically. Mentally, it’s a grind.”

Once Hogarth conceded, Williamson asked USGA officials if it was OK to continue scouting the course. Permitted to do so under the Rules, Williamson walked the next nine holes before coming back to the clubhouse for lunch.

“I went and looked at the hole locations,” said Williamson. “I hit a few putts. I did it until about 13. I didn’t want to walk up that hill. I thought it was an advantage to be fresh.”

Williamson, an attorney, does stay in top condition by running half-marathons with his wife. He’s completed “about four” in the past few years.

Of course, the best news of the day came after his win over Saladino, knowing he had a guaranteed spot into next year’s Mid-Amateur at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa.

“I told my dad, the second-best word in golf other than champion is exemption,” said Williamson, the 2013 Greater Cincinnati Mid-Amateur champion.

And Williamson is three wins from adding the best word in golf to his name.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

Follow the USGA
Become a Facebook Fan of the USGAFollow us on Twitter @USGA
THE RULES OF GOLF APP
Get The Rules of Golf App For Your iPhone Or Android Today
World Amateur Golf Ranking
WAGR Counting Event
Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
Chevron
   

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image
Rolex
   

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.



Rolex image
IBM
   

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image
Lexus
   

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express
   

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment


AmEx image