Bridgehampton, N.Y. — A month ago, Tim Hogarth left the U.S. Amateur Championship a broken golfer, and even that is being polite.
I was embarrassed and beaten into submission, said the Northridge, Calif., resident of shooting a 17-over par 88 in his stroke-play round at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash.
This week at Atlantic Golf Club on the eastern end of Long Island, Hogarth made a degree of amends with golf by advancing to Thursday’s scheduled 36-hole final before losing to Nathan Smith, 7-and-5.
Today was like playing a $1 million Nassau, Hogarth said. It was priceless. I just came out and tanked. I don’t think I’ll ever feel good about what happened.
Hogarth’s self-assessment is a bit harsh in the immediate aftermath of losing. Smith shot the equivalent of 5-under 67 in the morning (with the usual concessions) and built a 5-up lead.
I thought he had some great shots, said Smith, 32, of Pittsburgh, Pa., who joined Jay Sigel as the other three-time winner of this championship. I thought he was actually probably a better wind player than with some of the shots he played.
In fact, I was really fearful in the second round. I thought he was really gonna get hot. I never felt like I had a big enough lead on him.
Hogarth still carries with him the scar of Chambers Bay, though.
At age 44, Hogarth openly wondered if his game was still competitive at the USGA championship level. Yes, Hogarth has continued to amass titles at the state and regional level, but 14 years had passed since he won the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
He struggled with whether to even qualify for the Mid-Amateur, which was scheduled seven days after his Chambers Bay experience. Yes, he went back and forth with the decision, but deep down he knows he still has the game.
Maybe not to win the U.S. Amateur, but surely the Mid-Amateur. That was on display this week when he shared medalist honors with Smith and Scott Harvey, of Greensboro, N.C.
Yes, I think I can still compete, he said. I just didn’t bring the game I needed to bring to beat Nathan and that’s the disappointing part.
Given time to reflect, Hogarth has come a long way in the past month.
I didn’t have much time to put the pieces back together, not only with my game, but mentally, said Hogarth of the days prior to Mid-Am qualifying. It was just so overwhelming. I thought the days of me playing well [at this level] were over.
He decided why not, shot a 68 to finish second at Goose Creek Golf Club and advanced to this week’s 30th Mid-Am at Atlantic Golf Club bought him some time. Still … there were the doubts.
I qualified with a sketchy game, he said, and even getting on the plane to come here was not great. I was on the verge of [my game] going one way or the other.
The Mid-Amateur field quickly found out which game Hogarth brought.
Early Thursday morning, under a dark sky with quick winds and a light drizzle, Hogarth readied himself to face Smith and a chance to make history. No player has ever won the APL and Mid-Amateur.
I didn’t warm up well, didn’t like the prospects of the weather and it went downhill from there, said Hogarth, who was quickly 2 down after Smith birdied the second and fourth holes. By the eighth, he was 3 down.
When I birdied eight and nine to put the match back to 1 down, I needed to step up and show him that I wasn’t going anywhere. I hit two bad shots on 10 and 11, gave the holes right back and off I went into the abyss.
As he sat in a near empty Atlantic Golf Club’s lockerroom, Hogarth was looking forward to heading home to his wife, Sandy, and sons, Justin and Jeremy. Certainly Atlantic Golf Club had been better to him than Chambers Bay.
But when Hogarth steps on the flight home, he will still wonder in which direction his game is headed.
Stuart Hall is a USGA freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship websites.