Minnesota native Jim Sorenson, then an All-American at Texas Christian University, claimed the 1985 U.S. Amateur Public Links title with an impressive 12-and-11 win over Jay Cooper at Wailua Golf Course in Lihue, Hawaii (Kauai), which is still the largest margin of victory in the championship’s history. Sorenson nearly pulled off back-to-back titles, but he lost to Arizona State All-American Billy Mayfair in the 1986 final at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons, N.C. Sorensen later played on the victorious 1987 USA Walker Cup Team before turning professional. For the past 18 years, he has run a highly successful company that makes training aids for golf, baseball, tennis and basketball. Sorenson, 50, resides in Evergreen, Colo., and is hoping to add to his USGA resume by qualifying for a U.S. Senior Open.
What are your memories of that week in Hawaii?
It was storybook. We rented boogie boards and went out on the waves for a couple of days. It was magic.
Years later, I was in Hawaii, and went into the [Wailua] pro shop and the same pro was working there. He recognized me right away. “I know you. You’re Jim Sorenson.” That was very cool. It was a great week. I was fortunate to have some great weeks [in golf], but that was a special one.
You earned quite a lopsided victory in the final match. What was that like?
I was 11 up after the morning [round]. Then it was a matter of running out of holes. I think I shot around 68 in the morning and [my opponent] shot 81. He had a few big numbers. I played really well. I think I was 1 or 2 under for the remaining holes.
My oldest brother [John] was caddieing for me and somebody drove us over to McDonald’s for lunch. We were sitting there talking. I was saying this is a lock. And he is telling me you can’t think that way. You’ve got to grind it all the way. So, the kid I was playing birdied [hole No.] 1. All of a sudden, my brother looked at me and told me I’d better fire up, otherwise this thing is going south.
Your margin-of-victory record was nearly equaled in 2012 by T.J. Vogel. Were you nervous?
Every year the APL comes around, I’m always waiting to see what the final score is from the 36-hole final. [In 2012], it was 12 and 10. I called my oldest brother up and said, I’m just a little confused. Is 12 and 10 better than 12 and 11? He told me: “12 and 11 is better than 12 and 10. Why are you asking me?” Because the guy who won it this year won 12 and 10 and I was wondering if our record was going away. We had a good laugh over that.
In 1986, Billy Mayfair stopped your title defense in the final.
He played really well. He was probably eight under par in 34 holes. He had me 2 down at lunch, and I got it to all square in the afternoon round after eight holes. Then on this par 3, I hit an 8-iron to about 8 feet. He hit 8-iron over the green into a terrible lie in the rough. He holes it out for 2 and I missed. He was 1 up and that was the end of it. He was a player.
Are you saddened by the USGA’s decision to retire the APL?
It is disappointing to see. I think it was a great championship when I played it. It gave an opportunity to a different group of players who were scrappers and came up through the public-course ranks. There are a lot of great public courses [in Minnesota]. It’s just a grass-roots kind of state.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.