JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Beau Hossler wasn’t trying to sound arrogant. He was just answering a question. But he answered it directly.
After neatly making it through the 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying at 3-under-par 140 at Atlanta Athletic Club, the newly minted Western Amateur champion didn’t hesitate when he was asked whether he was ready to win the 114th U.S. Amateur Championship.
Yes, absolutely, he said, almost nonchalantly. Yeah, I have felt like that before, but I hadn’t proven myself to make a comment like that. I don’t say that arrogantly at all. I just feel like I need six good rounds of golf, and if I do the things I need to do, and if I perform to the level of my ability, I can beat anybody in this field. But any of the 64 left can beat anybody else. So I have to play really well.
He’ll have a chance to start proving himself today when the California teen and 63 other survivors begin the match-play portion of the championship on the Highlands Course at AAC. Hossler, 19, of Mission Viejo, Calif., meets Jon Rahm of Spain at 11:30 a.m. EDT in the first round of head-to-head competition.
Hossler should be filled with confidence. He is coming off a summer that included not only his victory in the Western Amateur, but also runner-up finishes at the Porter Cup and the California Amateur. A two-time Southern California Am champion, Hossler is on a bit of a roll coming into his fourth U.S. Amateur.
I guess the summer, just both in the California Amateur and the Western, I've learned that I'm a good match-play player, he said. Before that, I had not had much success, but I think I'm like 9-1 or something this year in match play, so that's pretty good.
Hossler has proven pretty good in big tournaments before. There was that little event two years ago near San Francisco in which he led for a brief time in the second round before finishing tied for 29th. You’ve probably heard of it. That was at The Olympic Club in the 112th U.S. Open, eventually won by Webb Simpson. Hossler, then 17 years old, caused quite a stir, becoming the youngest player to make the cut in the national championship since World War II and then jumping onto the leader board on Saturday.
That was a magical week for Hossler. But, having played golf since he was 8 years old, he’s fully cognizant of the fact that it’s difficult to sustain form.
Golf is a game of peaks and valleys no matter who you are, whether you are Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy. It’s hard to sustain your top form all year-round, he said.
But the U.S. Open was a nice peak.
Yeah, good timing. Once you play well in an event like that, people expect you to play well for years to come, and I’m not going to put those expectations on myself, because you can’t go out there every week and get the most out of your round.
The only expectations I feel are the ones on myself, he added.
Which gets back to his expectations at AAC. Hossler, whose best showing in this championship is advancing to the round of 32 in 2011, is simply a different golfer now, not only after a year at the University of Texas, but also with the work he has done after leaving Jim Flick and working with Adam Porzak, who runs his own academy in San Diego.
Though there haven’t been any drastic changes to his swing, Hossler said he has worked out a few kinks, getting the club out in front of him more and controlling his trajectory, previously one of his weaknesses. But it’s his short game that has lifted him to a new level. After his Western victory, he didn’t touch a club for five days except to work on chipping.
He said he is a more complete player, good in any format, which is what the U.S. Amateur requires. Match play is upon him now, and he looks forward to the challenge with great belief in what he can accomplish.
I just have gotten more confident as a player, match-play player. It's a different game but at the same time, it's the same game, he said. You have to go out there and if you make good scores on holes, you're going to win holes. If you make bad scores, you're going to lose. I'm really impressed with the way that I've handled myself down the stretch. I've played some really good golf when I needed to at crucial moments, which has been great for my confidence, really big birdie putts, and up-and-downs, my short game this summer has been really good.
I just have to let my game come out and I believe that I’ll be fine.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on usga.org and usopen.com.