Blast From Past Has Unheralded Mosley in Quarters
September 25, 2018 | Charlotte, N.C.
By Stuart Hall
At age 36, Rusty Mosley is still too young to be considered a relic in the amateur golf community. The same, though, cannot be said for his driver.
Using the Titleist 983K model that was in his bag during his senior season at Florida State University 13 years ago, Mosley is becoming a surprising storyline at the 38th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Charlotte Country Club.
Early Tuesday evening, Mosley rallied from 3 holes down through 13 holes to defeat top-seeded and medalist Stephen Behr, of Florence, S.C., 1 up, in the Round of 16. Mosley eased a downhill 25-foot par putt into the hole at the 18th for the dramatic win. He also defeated Kyle Davies, of Iowa City, Iowa, 5 and 3 in Tuesday morning’s Round of 32.
The Vidalia, Ga., resident will face 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad, of Newport Beach, Calif., in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
Now, about that driver.
“I'm trying to get a new driver from Titleist,” said Mosley. “I went and got fitted and they didn't send it in time. I'm the only guy in the field hitting a 983K. When the guy [on site] was doing the survey [of each player’s clubs and balls] he was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I was like, ‘Hey man, it goes straight.’”
Straight, perhaps, but certainly not long. A few years ago at a local golf store, Mosley tested the trusty, but aged driver on a launch monitor against a newer model. He was losing about 12 yards in distance.
Mosley then inquired about the cost of the new driver.
“’About $600,’” the store employee told Mosley. “I said, ‘I'm good.’”
But the driver is only half of Mosley’s almost remarkable Mid-Amateur tale. After his middling four-year collegiate career in Tallahassee, Fla., ended in 2005, he dropped off the competitive golf grid.
His name did not appear in the field of any state or national amateur tournament. While he attempted, but failed, to qualify for last year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur, he finally resurfaced with an eighth-place tie at the Georgia State Golf Association’s Mid-Amateur Championship in late May. Mosley then failed to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Championship before making this week’s field.
“My son is 10 and he is playing junior golf, and I want him to see me play like I used to and know that he’s capable of [achieving] it, too,” said Mosley, a production manager for Cintas. “We come from a small town, but I went to a big school on a scholarship to play, and he needs to know he's capable of doing it.
“I kind of wanted to prove to myself that I still got it. I don't want to waste these years and not play competitively.”
Mosley is certainly not frittering away this week. For having been absent from the competitive fray for so long, he admits that the mental mindset has been his biggest opponent.
“It's never come easy to me,” said Mosley of the game. “People say at home it looks easy, but it's never easy. Golf is so much mental. I was 2 up today [against Behr], then I got down 2, I just kept telling myself, ‘You're not mentally weak. You can finish this off. You can come back and make some birdies.’ So the mental game is what I'm most impressed with so far this week with me.
“My goal starting the week with match play was not to give away holes with bogey. I did once or twice today, but to come back like that, it proved to myself that I'm where I'm supposed to be.”
Getting his game national championship ready was no small task. Vidalia, which has a population of 10.473, no longer has a golf course. So once Mosley qualified for the Mid-Amateur, he committed to making the 30- to 40-mile drive to the nearest course to “hit balls and chip and just try and get my stroke down,” he said. To play a course with greens remotely close to those here at Charlotte Country Club, Mosley trekked to either Savannah, St. Simons Island or Sea Island, the closest of the three being approximately 90 miles away.
Mosley has put in the time and the sweat. After losing the 12th and 13th holes to fall 2 down to Behr, he reached deep inside himself to mount the comeback. When his final putt dropped, he gave an emphatic fist pump. Then after the obligatory post-match handshakes and a few hugs from family, Mosley walked off the back of the 18th green and squatted with his head down. A tear would have been appropriate.
“I'm trying to soak this in,” said Mosley. “[ESPN college basketball analyst and former Duke University player] Jay Bilas did the speech on Thursday night and just talked about soaking it in. I didn't do a good job of that at Baltusrol when I was there [for the 2000 U.S. Amateur]. I was 18 and young and stupid, thinking I'll do this a dozen more times.”
Heck, he didn’t even play competitively for more than a dozen years. But now that’s he’s back, he’s growing stronger and more comfortable by the day.
And even if the new driver arrives in time for the quarterfinals, Mosley isn’t changing.
“No way,” he joked. “Not now.”
Not after 13 years.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA digital channels.