BETHLEHEM, Pa. –With a torn labrum and bicep flaring up in his left shoulder after five rounds of championship golf over the past four days, Denver Haddix could easily have called it a day and withdrawn. But with a Masters invitation in sight, he wasn’t hearing it, especially since he has been 85 percent deaf in his left ear since November.
Haddix, 34, of Lexington, Ky., dropped his U.S. Mid-Amateur quarterfinal match to co-medalist Scott Harvey, 7 and 6, Wednesday morning at Saucon Valley Country Club’s Old Course. But considering what he has dealt with the past few years, he’s thankful to be walking the fairways again.
Haddix woke up one November morning and his left ear felt clogged. Figuring it was a routine infection, he went to the doctor and was prescribed antibiotics. When that didn’t help, he talked to a friend who is an ear, nose and throat specialist, and the friend told him he needed to see someone immediately. An ENT diagnosed him with Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss, an inner-ear condition that, in Haddix’s case, is permanent.
It’s like a lightning strike. It can happen at any time, Haddix said. Mine, in particular, attacked the nerve that sends signals to the brain. If you don’t get treatment within 10 days, there’s really nothing you can do. I got the treatment within the window, but it didn’t help me in my case. I had a hard time walking and getting around for about a month afterward. Slowly, the balance started to come back and I’m very fortunate to be out here playing golf.
Based on his play this summer, there is no doubt Haddix has learned to cope with the issue. He won the Kentucky Match-Play Championship and finished second in the Kentucky State Amateur and Lexington City Championship.
Golf is not something that Haddix was born into. In fact, he didn’t swing a club until he was 16. Credit his father, also named Denver, for taking extra time out of his schedule to encourage his son’s blossoming interest.
We didn’t even have golf in the county I grew up in in Eastern Kentucky, he said. We traveled two counties away, about 45 minutes, to a small nine-hole course – really small, only had a one-man maintenance crew. I saw golf on TV one day and said, ‘Hey let’s go try this.’ So my dad took me out one day and that was it, I was hooked.
Within a short amount of time, Haddix improved enough to play at Morehead State University, where he teamed up with current PGA Tour pro Josh Teater. Haddix worked as a teaching professional for five years at various clubs before having his amateur status reinstated due to the fact that his balky shoulder would not allow him to play for extended periods anymore.
The shoulder pain was bad enough on Wednesday that Haddix immediately sought medical attention at the conclusion of his match.
With his shoulder curtailing his tee times, Haddix has reignited another passion of his: bass fishing. His father was an avid fisherman and competed in small tournaments in Kentucky. The father and son spent a lot of time on the water until golf demanded most of his free time. Artistic by nature, Haddix even fashions his own crankbaits and top-water lures from balsa wood during the winter.
It was a way for me to connect with my dad, he said. My mother passed away in 2009, so it was a really good way to make sure I got to spend time with my dad. We fished every other weekend and it was great quality time. I honestly think it’s harder to be good at than golf.
Nurski Riding Wave Of Momentum
While Brad Nurski admitted that he had a tough day putting – or at least converting birdie chances – the co-medalist persevered in a 1-up victory over 2013 USA Walker Cup competitor Todd White.
Nurski, 35, of St. Joseph, Mo., said he reflected back to his 2010 Missouri Amateur victory. The format is similar to the USGA amateur championships, with 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play. Nurski defeated Skip Berkmeyer in the semis and Matt Miller in the final.
He also has good friend Glenn Davenport on his bag for mental support.
I think he may have gotten more nervous this morning than I did, said Nurski. I wasn’t too bad until we got to about 16. Then people started showing up. Obviously, I know it’s tight, but everyone else is enjoying tight matches and watching some decent golf.
The turning point for Nurski came at the 12th hole. Faced with a 30-yard bunker shot, he blasted out and watched the ball hit the top of a ridge and roll back into the hole. It put him 2 up and White could only manage to win No. 13. The remaining five holes were halved. White could have forced extra holes, but he pushed a 4-foot birdie putt on 18. That came after Nurski missed from 10 feet.
You’re going to have these kinds of matches, especially with a guy like Todd, said Nurski. His résumé speaks for itself. You just kind of battle it. I didn’t make putts when I needed to. I hung in there … and eventually the bunker shot on 12 was the difference.
Short-Term Memory Crucial For History Teacher White
If anyone knows about difficult defeats, it is Todd White. The 46-year-old from Spartanburg, S.C., is a high school history teacher at Spartanburg High. He is also a past Mid-Amateur semifinalist (2012).
So while the 1-down defeat to Brad Nurski stung, White said he will be over the loss by the time he reaches his classroom on Thursday afternoon.
I’ve always said there are certain sports where players have to have a short memory, said White, who helped the USA regain the Walker Cup last September. Pitchers in baseball and quarterbacks in football [have to forget] giving up home runs or interceptions. Golfers miss putts. You just have to come back for the next event.
I had opportunities and didn’t convert. That [4-footer on 18] was a microcosm of my day.
White, who is back at Spartanburg High after three years at Hilton Head High, has always managed to have sympathetic administrators to allow him time off to compete in the USGA’s fall championships: Mid-Amateur, Men’s State Team and last year’s Walker Cup. But he wants to be home on Thursday for the commemoration of 9/11. Last year at the Walker Cup, the USA Team visited Ground Zero and the construction of the new Freedom Tower. He also met former President George W. Bush during a practice round and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at last year’s Mid-Amateur Players’ Dinner.
I want to share my experiences in New York with [my students], said White, who teaches grades 10 through 12.
White will have two weeks at home before leaving for French Lick (Ind.) Resort to represent South Carolina at the USGA Men’s State Team Championship. By then, the quarterfinal loss will be ancient history.
For the second consecutive day, 2005 Mid-Amateur champion Kevin Marsh found a friendly flagstick in extra holes. On Tuesday, he holed a 30-foot putt from the fringe on the 20th hole – No. 2 on the Old Course – that hit the flagstick square and dropped in for a winning birdie-3 to eliminate four-time champion Nathan Smith.
On Wednesday morning, Marsh, 41, of Henderson, Nev., watched a chip on the 19th hole – the Old Course’s par-5 first – hit the flagstick and stop 5 feet away. When his opponent, Patrick Christovich converted a 7-foot par putt, Marsh calmly made his to earn a spot in the semifinals for the second consecutive year. A year ago, he fell to eventual champion Michael McCoy, 4 and 3.
Marsh had a chance to win the match on 18 but saw his 9-foot right-to-left putt curl too far left.
On the 19th hole, Marsh smashed his second shot from the intermediate cut of rough over the green, setting up his pitch, which likely would have raced off the green had the flagstick not intervened.