Seventeen years since he last teed it up in the U.S. Amateur, Major Andy Aduddell has a refreshing perspective on his prospects as a competitor this week.
"I know now if I get into match play, I’ve got a shot; at least I feel like I do," said Aduddell, 38, of Avondale, Ariz., after his round on Monday. "I didn’t believe that when I was younger, even when I was hitting the ball as good as I ever was."
A bold declaration from a man who last competed in the championship in 1996, made even bolder considering that the former University of Texas Longhorn all but gave up the game for the better part of a decade. Aduddell had a stint as an assistant coach at his alma mater, briefly dabbled in the financial services industry, then played professionally on the mini-tours. A convergence of events led him to enlist in the Air Force, a dream he had been harboring since childhood.
:I was playing some of my best golf and was getting ready to play in a tournament at my home course (Corpus Christi Country Club) when the events of 9/11 occurred," he recalled.
A few weeks later at his next tournament in Lake Charles, La., Aduddell was winning by four strokes after two rounds when a rain storm confined him to his hotel room. That’s when he did some Internet research about joining the armed forces, and called a recruiter. When he wasn’t successful in his bid to earn a PGA Tour card for the 2002 season, he decided to take the plunge and enlist.
"I made an 8 on a par 3 of the last hole of the last round of the first stage of qualifying school, when a double bogey would have gotten me in," he recounted. "It was at that point that I said to myself, maybe this isn’t what I’m meant to be doing."
What followed was a journey that is continuing this day for the Air Force major. After officer training at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama and pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Okla., Aduddell reached his ultimate goal of learning to operate F-16 fighter planes at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, where he currently serves as an instructor. In between was a two-year stay in Korea and time at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, where he met his wife, Becca.
While he hasn’t served in combat, Aduddell wouldn’t change anything about the way his career has unfolded. During his military tenure, he has logged more than 2,000 general aviation hours, including more than 1,400 hours in F-16s as an instructor and on training missions.
"I still remember the day I was told I was flying F-16s," he recalls fondly. "When kids build models they don’t build models of buses, they build models of Ferraris and fighter jets. Would you rather drive a Ferrari or a bus? To me it’s the most rewarding career."
One thing his newfound career as a military officer didn’t include was golf, competitive or recreational. Aduddell estimated that he played only 10 to 15 rounds over a seven-year period. It was a chance meeting with Ed Gowan, the executive director of the Arizona Golf Association, that got him back into the game. The two met at the Patriot All-American Junior Golf Tournament in Phoenix, and, after some prodding from Gowan, Aduddell played competitively for the first time in nearly 10 years, finishing fourth in an event in Lima, Peru, in May of last year.
"I shot even par or one under over four rounds at a very hard golf course, and thought to myself, ‘OK, either players aren’t as good as they used be, or maybe I’m not that bad,’" he said with a laugh.
Upon his return, Aduddell quickly began to compete at a high level. He claimed the 2012 Arizona Amateur and Mid-Amateur titles, then the All-Armed Forces Championship, setting a tournament scoring record in the latter.
Despite the long hiatus, playing with amateur golf’s elite is nothing new for Aduddell, who played in four straight U.S. Amateurs from 1993-96 and remembers when his Longhorn team would square off in tournaments against a Stanford squad that included Tiger Woods, Notah Begay III and Casey Martin.
Aduddell opened with a 77 on Monday at The Country Club, despite not playing all that badly. Rarely are there days like this, where you can honestly say your score didn’t reflect how well you played, he said. Aduddell will have to shoot a solid score on Tuesday at the companion course, Charles River Country Club, to make match play. Should he fail to advance, however, there’s another way that he has changed since he last competed at this level.
"Getting here has been the experience. Getting to play here at The Country Club, I’ve been reading up on the history of it," he said. "When I played in the Amateur at Newport Country Club in 1995, I had no appreciation for it; I don’t even think I took a picture while I was there. You just appreciate your presence here."
Scott Lipsky is the social media specialist at the USGA. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.