December 2, 2015
This time around, it all went pretty much perfectly.
A year after a day he’d still like to forget, record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag and partner Jason Anthony more than moved on, carding a 9-under 62 to earn medalist honors in Wednesday’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship qualifier at Poppy Hills Golf Course.
The duo moves on to next year’s 2nd U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, to be held May 21-25 at Winged Foot GC in New York. Earning the second automatic spot was the tandem of Tim Mickelson and Jake Yount, who defeated Matt Cohn and Nick Moore on the first hole of a playoff after both teams came in with matching scores of 65.
At last year’s qualifier at Poppy Hills, Haag and Anthony, the 2014 NCGA Player of the Year runner-up, initially looked to be in great shape after the duo came in with an early 65. Following their round, however, Haag experienced a bout of atrial fibrillation (rapid heartbeat), so Anthony took him to the hospital for a shot. Haag and Anthony later returned to the course to find out they were in a playoff, which they’d lose.
“It was one of the worst days of my life,” said Haag, who felt the sting months later when the inaugural championship teed off at the Olympic Club, where he’s a member.
For the now 56-year-old Haag, a sign that things would be different came on just the first hole. Starting on the par-5 10th, Haag used a new 3-wood to reach the green from 250 yards out. He’d go on to sink his 18-foot putt, giving him and Anthony an eagle to start their day.
From there, the two just kept chugging along. After making a pair of short birdie putts on the 11th and 12th holes, Anthony, the 2014 NCGA Player of the Year runner-up, got going by draining a 10-foot birdie putt on No.14.
Having opened with a 31 through their first nine, the two later continued their solid play. On the tougher Poppy Hills front side, they’d post another 31, capped by a 20-foot birdie putt from Haag on the par-5 9th.
“Life can be humbling at times,” said Haag, who will make his 38th appearance in a USGA championship. “There was definitely a focus on redemption. This is really special. Jason (Anthony) is one of the great guys in golf. We love playing together.”
While Haag and Anthony will make their U.S. Amateur Four-Ball debut, Mickelson and Yount, winner of the 2012 NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship, are headed for their second championship in a row. The two were medalists at last year’s qualifier at Poppy Hills after a 63.
In the playoff versus Cohn and Moore, things didn’t look good after Yount hit his drive into the fairway of the 7th hole while Mickelson pushed his drive right into the hazard. Following a drop, Mickelson, the head coach at Arizona State and the younger brother of Phil Mickelson, however hit a running shot from nearly 230 yards out that rolled to within 6 feet of the flagstick.
Yount also somehow recovered, hitting a 9-iron over the trees just short of the green. While Mickelson missed his putt for par, Yount was able to get up and down for par after chipping to within 6 feet of the cup.
“I was going to hit an 8-iron but coach (Mickelson) talked me into going with a 9-iron,” Yount said. “Coach made a good call on that. If I’d hit the 8-iron, it would’ve went in the trees.”
Moore, the 2015 NCGA Player of the Year, had a chance to halve the hole but ended up three-putting. Cohn also made bogey after his second shot ended up in the hazard.
Moore and Cohn, who lost to Maverick McNealy in the finals of this year’s NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship, will be the first alternate. The second alternate spot went to the team of Drew Olson and David Reneker at 66.
Olson, a former QB at UCLA, helped out by making an eagle on the 369-yard par-4 14th after driving the green.