JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Danny Yates
hasn’t played much golf in the last 10 years. A hip injury that has required three
replacement procedures after an automobile accident has left the 1992 U.S.
Mid-Amateur champion and 1988 U.S. Amateur runner-up only a shell of the player
he once was.
“But you know golfers … we never
give up,” Yates said, a toothy grin crossing his still boyish face. “I’m
starting to come around.”
Yates was seated in the clubhouse
at Atlanta Athletic Club Sunday morning taking a few minutes to chat before
going out to watch the final of the 114th U.S. Amateur between Gunn Yang of
Korea and Corey Conners of Canada. Few people in attendance at the championship
carry more heavyweight credentials than Yates, particularly in Georgia at this
venue, which can claim Bob Jones as a founding influence.
An Atlanta native, Yates is the
nephew of the late Charlie Yates, one of the true lions of Georgia golf. A member
of AAC when it was located at East Lake – the club moved to its present
location in 1967 – Charlie Yates was one of Jones’ closest friends. He was an
accomplished golfer whose victories included the 1938 British Amateur Championship,
and he was a longtime member of Augusta National Golf Club. A picture of the
elder Yates and Jones hangs on a wall in the club dining room. Yates’ father,
P. Dan Yates Jr., also was a fine player and a member at Augusta National.
All three Yates men won the
Georgia State Amateur and are members of the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, with
the youngest of the trio, P. Dan Yates III, inducted in 1994.
“Growing up playing amateur golf
and being here at what is the home of Bobby Jones, who of course meant so much
to amateur golf, this is a special week and a very special occasion for the
club and the members,” said Yates, 54, who is a member at East Lake and
Peachtree Golf Club.
Yates has enjoyed a longtime
relationship with the USGA, starting with the 1966 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship
at California Country Club in Whittier, Calif. “You could tell that there was
just a different feel about a USGA event, that it was a championship,” he said.
“I’ll always remember, the blue hole markers with the stand that had the par
and the yardage, that just suggested a specialness to the event.”
Yates went on to have a sparkling
amateur career that included berths on two Walker Cup Teams, in 1989 and ’93, a
victory in the 1992 U.S. Mid-Amateur, and two turns as Walker Cup captain, in
1999 and 2001. He also was a member of the USA World Amateur Team in 1988.
That followed his best run in the
U.S. Amateur earlier that year. Intent on playing in the 1989 Walker Cup at
Peachtree Golf Club, Yates increased his summer tournament schedule, and he found
his form at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., where he fell in the final, 7
and 6, to Eric Meeks.
“Things just came together, and I
hadn’t really won anything in years,” Yates recalled. “I just got better and
things fell into place. I loved the Homestead. It had a great setting and feel,
and the whole atmosphere put me in the right mind to play well. Until I got to
the final, I played better than everyone I faced. Match play is a funny game.
You just have to play better than the guy you’re playing. Then Eric played a
lot better than I did.”
Yates is still walking with a
limp after the latest surgery on his right hip, but at least he is walking –
and playing golf again. His doctor told him he is perhaps a year from a full
recovery, but that doesn’t stop him from having high expectations when he
ventures out to the golf course. Once you compete at a certain level, it’s
difficult to accept mediocrity.
“I have fun with it, but it is a
little frustrating to play the way I play at the moment,” said Yates. “But I am
getting to where I’m enjoying it again. For a while it wasn’t much fun. But
when you hit some good shots, you start to think you can do it again. And I’m
starting to think that way.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance
writer who writes frequently for USGA websites.