NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Don Dubois has done a lot of special things in his illustrious amateur golf career that spans 40-plus years.
He qualified for a pair of U.S. Opens, including the 1986 championship at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y. He lost to future U.S. Open champion Steve Jones in the quarterfinals of the 1976 U.S. Junior Amateur at Hiwan Golf Club in Evergreen, Colo. He made a hole-in-one in a second-round match of the 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Wilmington (Del.) Country Club.
And in 2005, at the age of 46, Dubois claimed the California State Amateur, defeating 17-year-old high school senior Joseph Bramlett, 2 and 1, in the 36-hole final at Pebble Beach. Bramlett went on to star at Stanford University and has played on the PGA and Web.com Tours.
But the cherry on top of the sundae might be this week’s U.S. Senior Amateur at Big Canyon Country Club. It’s not just another USGA championship for the title insurance executive who turned 55 on May 28. This will be Dubois’ 12th USGA championship, but his first on his home course.
When asked how long Dubois had this event circled on his calendar, he just smiled. Few golfers get this kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The toughest part for Dubois was qualifying, which he did on Aug. 25 at La Jolla Country Club, north of San Diego. Dubois carded a 73 to garner one of the five available spots.
It’s actually tougher qualifying for it, said Dubois. Some people don’t understand how difficult USGA qualifiers are.
Seven Big Canyon members were in the La Jolla sectional and only Dubois advanced. He certainly will come into the championship prepared. He tuned up for the Senior Amateur by playing last week’s U.S. Mid-Amateur at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa., where he was defeated in the first round of match play.
But playing on your home course is different. Matt Mattare, whose father, Gene, is the general manager/director of golf at Saucon Valley, endured that pressure at the Mid-Amateur. He called the qualifying round for the championship the most pressure-filled 18 holes he has endured. Once at the championship, Mattare felt at ease, despite the added expectations from members, family and friends.
Dubois expects a similar following at Big Canyon, which hosted the 2000 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and served as a sectional qualifying site for last year’s U.S. Open.
They are excited about hosting the event and they are happy for me, said Dubois. They’ll be newsContenting for me.
This won’t be the first time Dubois has competed in a prestigious event at Big Canyon. The club hosted the 2011 Southern California Golf Association Amateur, where he finished in the top 20. Dubois also lost a couple of playoffs at Big Canyon for spots in the U.S. Amateur.
As for playing the Mid-Amateur the week before the Senior Amateur, Dubois said performing under championship pressure will help prepare him to compete against the game’s best 55-and-over golfers. The two qualifying venues at Saucon Valley Country Club – the Old and Weyhill courses – were both long and challenging, with thick rough penalizing offline shots.
I think it’s always good to be under pressure, said Dubois, who also has played in three British Amateurs. That’s how I look at it. Anytime you are playing under pressure is good for your game, because you are going to have to deal with it.
The only difference is Dubois will be one of the field’s youngest players. He’s used to being one of the oldest competitors. Dubois was eliminated from the Mid-Amateur by the youngest player in the field, 25-year-old Andrew Wyatt. When he won the California Amateur, his opponent, Bramlett, was nearly 30 years younger. In fact, Bramlett hadn’t been born when Dubois claimed the 1980 Arizona Amateur. Dubois was the second-oldest champion of the California Amateur, a year younger than two-time U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Verne Callison, who was 47 when he claimed the 1965 title.
That [victory] was pretty special, said Dubois of the California Amateur. My grandfather was up there. I learned how to play on the Monterey Peninsula as a kid.
The [U.S.] Opens were special, and Big Canyon will be special because a lot of my friends will be there.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.