Following The Dream: A Mid-Amateur’s Diary
Editor's note: This is the final installment in a series of first-person articles about one man's quest to compete in a USGA national championship -- the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
By Robert Williams
Chapter 5 – Qualifying With Photo Gallery
Bogey, double, double, bogey, birdie, double, par, bogey, bogey, bogey, double, par, par, bogey, quad, bogey, par and par. It all adds up to a 90.
It was not the highest score posted, but disappointing nevertheless. I was right in predicting the qualifying number, as even par was what was needed (there was one round of 71, a 72 and a few others at 74, who played off). In all, four spots were available and two alternates.
Robert Williams (left) checks in to register before his qualifier on Aug. 27 at Gillette Ridge Golf Club in Bloomfield, Conn. (Robert Walker/USGA)
In the field of 88 at the Aug. 27 qualifier at Gillette Ridge Golf Club in Bloomfield, Conn., there were only about 15 scores in the 70s; the majority of the mid-amateurs competing for a spot at the championship at Kiawah Island Club in October shot in the mid-80s. What makes so many single-digit handicappers shoot numbers they rarely shoot? The answer for me really boils down to not enough tournament golf. My father-in-law lovingly referred to my quest this year to play in the U.S. Mid-Amateur as “delusional.” He has competed in several USGA championships and knows of what he speaks.
Tournament golf is just a different game. The environment simply cannot be replicated in casual rounds by yourself or with your friends. Yes, I was nervous, and indecisive shot selection from the fairway and lack of feel while putting were certainly the manifestations of my nervousness. I had a few bad breaks that contributed to the big number, but it was my short game that was the weak link. Forty putts. Enough said.
I had a great time. How can this be possible? I really enjoyed competing in a USGA championship qualifying event, which simply reinforces my appreciation of this great and challenging game. In addition, I had my lifelong best friend Ashley Brasfield on my bag, which made for just another great golf memory. Last, but not least, I had a lot of people pulling for my success, including family, friends at the USGA, colleagues at work and even a smattering of people who have read my “blog.”
Despite the score, I achieved two of my goals, which were to keep the ball in play off the tee and trying my hardest on every shot, no matter what happened. After having my name announced on the first tee, I drilled a 2-iron 250 yards down the middle of the fairway. I missed only three fairways the entire round. Unfortunately, I putted with about as much feel as a pile driver. I am proud that throughout the round I never gave up and although I hit poor shots, I never hit a careless one.
My father-in-law’s use of the word “delusional” primarily refers to my current family situation. Given that I have a 2-year-old daughter, twin 5-month-old boys and limited opportunity to play and practice, his analysis was that this might not be the year offering a realistic chance at success. My score does not disagree, but the dreamer in me did. It would not be golf if it did not serve up a healthy portion of humble pie now and again.
I have a nice, big slice in front of me, and although it’s not going to taste very good, it will only feed my desire to improve my game and do better next time. In the words of a great American we lost last week, “the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
The 2009 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship will take place Oct. 3-8 at Kiawah Island Club's Cassique course.
To read Williams’ previous “Following the Dream” diary entry, click here.