Roger Hoit at the U.S. Senior Open
Roger Hoit, an amateur player who is a member at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., is playing this week at the U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento, CA, after qualifying through sectionals at Arcola Country Club on May 21. This week, Hoit is sharing with the MGA his experience each day at the U.S. Senior Open.
Firday, June 26: Second Round
Friday did not go exactly as we had planned. The warm up in the blistering heat was a bit of a challenge (temps were over 100 for the entire round) and I did not feel as comfortable on the course today. In retrospect, a 15 minute warm up was probably the right idea but it was so hard to wait for the very late 220pm tee time. Bogeys on the first 3 holes were followed by a par on 4 and a strong birdie on the 220 yard par 3 5th. I gave that back and more with a bogey on 6 and my only double of the week on 7 (after getting a horrible beak off the tee). I steadied myself, rallied to give myself a chance to make the cut and hit some of the best iron shots I've have ever hit on the next nine holes. Notable were a 198 yard 7 iron over a bunker to 3 feet on the 8th hole for birdie (I was told there were fewer than 5 birdies there all day), a 6 iron on 11 over a towering tree on the left side of the fairway and a 200 yard 7 iron on 13 to 6 feet on a difficult front pin (missed the putt). After a sand save par on 14 I hit a 355 yard drive on the 600 yard or 5 15th (the longest of the day for the entire field!) and a 4 hybrid to the front edge of the green. My eagle putt missed just left for a tap in birdie. At this point I needed 2 birdies on the final 3 holes to make the cut. After a 3 wood into the left rough on 16 I hit an amazing 195 yard 7iron out of the rough over water to 15 feet. It was a do or die shot and I pulled it off. Unfortunately a very solid putt did not roll in and we made par. 17 is a 228 yard par 3 over water that I have played extremely well all week. Sadly, I picked this time to pull a hybrid left of the green and could not hole the chip.
On 18, I tried to walk a bit slower and keep a big smile on my face. While my 7iron from a fairway bunker over the hazard found the green, a 3 putt bogey did not reduce the pride I felt for my accomplishments this week.
Playing in a major championship was an experience I will never forget, and I am leaving even more determined to make it again next year. I cannot thank my family and all of Team Hoit for their generosity of time, advice, support and love through the last several weeks. I owe you all so much.
I also want to thank my firm Moelis & Company who were so generous to not only give me the time off to compete, but to send 10 our colleagues on flights from across the country to root us on during the week. It is the sign of a strong firm with an amazing culture.
Thursday, June 25: First Round
I played a really solid round of golf today. It was disappointing and that I had five really good looks a birdie that I did not convert. I was able to make great looks on 12, 14, 15 and 18, which could have jump-started a great round. 18 in particular was heartbreaking as it is a very difficult finishing hole and I followed a drive over 300 yards with an 8 iron to 6 feet. I really wanted to make that putt. I saved my tournament with four one-putt pars from three to six. On the seventh hole, I hit another 8 iron to six feet and lipped out the birdie putt. An atrocious lie just off the fairway on 9 (my 18th hole) led to a closing bogey.
Wednesday, June 24: The final preparation.
I played another round with Bryan Norton and joining us was Grant Waite, a fantastic ball striker from New Zealand. My plan today was not about the atmosphere and it was not about charting greens or trying multiple shots from different angles. This was the day to play a proper round of golf and we did. I hit the ball extremely well today and I have felt very comfortable on the greens all week. I rolled in a nice birdie on the sixth hole as Brad Faxon stopped by on his way to his telecast to say hello. Brad and I share an Eastward Ho! Cape Cod connection and it was great to see him on the 18th hole yesterday and again today.
My amazing short game instructor Scott Chisholm from Baltusrol is caddying for me this week (thank you so much to Doug Steffan and Jason Carbone for letting me steal him from the club during such a busy week back home). Scott and I finalized our game plan for each hole and I feel confident that we have a very solid approach to the golf course. Scott is a master of the aimpoint green reading system and one of the best green readers I have ever seen. I know having him on my bag will be an advantage for me this week.
We are ready and rested and eager to get started! Bring it on!
Tuesday, June 23: Oh my! We are really here!
Tuesday’s round was an experience I will never forget. My great friend and Kansas City resident Bryan Norton had arranged a round for us with 8 time major winner Tom Watson. We were joined by another great friend John McClure from Los Angeles. Tom was gracious and extremely personable. He was all business; playing quickly and making a game plan on a course he did not know well. This was his only 18 hole practice round for the week and I was watching closely how he approached his preparation which was quite serious. He did all this while doing an amazing job satisfying the hundreds of people who wanted an autograph, or a smile or just to tell him that they once had dinner with him during the 1973 US Open (no joke).
Tom’s game was really solid. He never really missed a shot, hitting the same tight draw on every drive and iron. It is amazing to watch him chip the ball … his tempo is just wonderful. But most importantly, he strutted. Head up, he marched confidently down every hole.
Midway through our round, Tom fulfilled a young golfer’s wish through the Make a Wish Foundation. Colt was diagnosed with Leukaemia two years ago and is now in remission. He just graduated from high school and is getting his handicap back down towards his pre-cancer plus one. He completed his full course of chemotherapy, battling all of its side effects. Before being diagnosed, he had chosen his favourite golfer, Tom Watson, to write for his school assignment on one of the greats of the game. Tom spent five minutes with him and his mother on the side of the seventh hole. He did not just shake his hand and sign a flag, but took the time to have a real conversation with him. Tom asked about the challenges associated with the chemotherapy, asked about Colt's golf game and asked Colt whether he would beat this thing, to which Colt replied, "Definitely!"
My golf during the round was fine today, but it was not the sole focus. I am here to compete, so it was very satisfying that I left the course after a great practice session with my instructor, Dana Dahlquist, who drove up from Long Beach unprompted by me to spend the afternoon Tuesday and the morning Wednesday with me. He just came back from Chambers Bay working his guys on the PGA Tour, I cant believe he made the drive up to spend time with me this week. THANK YOU Dana!
We had another in a string of great dinners. Who would have known that Sacramento was so well stocked with really good restaurants? I am sure the people of Sacramento knew about the abundance of good restaurants, but for those new comers, it has been a true bonus.
Monday, June 22: It is starting to turn into the real deal
My goal Monday was to get a bit more acclimatized and avoid running down my batteries. I originally planned to work out in the morning and walk the course with a friend and fellow player later in the day, but decided to play nine holes in the morning to see the finishing stretch one more time. I wanted to play with someone else to see a few other shots and get a bit more insight. I signed up to play the back nine at 8 a.m. and had the fortune to play with PGA and Champions Tour winner Bart Bryant and Jon Levitt, a local California pro. Bryant was a pleasure to play with, and it was interesting to see how a veteran strategized around the course and made predictions as to where the USGA will place pins.
After the round, I hit balls with fellow Baltusrol member Lee Janzen. He called me over to take a photo to send back to the Club. We talked about everything from his Open win in 1993 to how happy he was to be playing a traditional Open Course after his experience at Chambers Bay last week.
After lunch I had a good workout. Fitness has been a crucial ingredient in my solid play so far this year. I was very discouraged last September after tearing my hip labrum and looking at surgical options. But after meeting with my longtime friends Don and Joe Saladino and their team at Drive 495 in NYC, we devised a therapy, exercise and nutrition plan that has really changed my life. I have not needed surgery and I am stronger and far more flexible. I am counting on fitness to be an advantage this week with temperatures expected to climb over 100 degrees for the next several days. I know I would not be playing in the Open without the help of the team at Drive.
I hit the ball well and loved the course. I am looking forward to this week! My merry band of followers now consists of my wife and my cousin, Rob, who travelled all the way from Ireland!
Sunday, June 21: Our own course
We arrived at 7:00 a.m. for our 8:30 practice round to find a very quiet Del Paso Country Club. The set up was amazing! We felt like we were let into the park at Disney World before any rides were turned on. They did not even have rakes in the bunkers. We had the range and putting green to ourselves.
We were playing as a single trying to build into the week and learn the course before it became more hectic. Looking at the website did little to prepare us for what we found on the ground.
Del Paso Country Club, largely unknown to most golfers on the East Coast, is an excellent golf course and a very fair test. It is a classic "U.S. Open" course with firm fairways and extremely penal rough. The greenside rough is particularly brutal with areas that have 6-8 inch lush ryegrass lying sideways.
A well thought out and executed renovation was implemented eight years ago by Kyle Phillips, who has Kingsbarns, Castle Stewart and the California Club in his stable of designs and renovations. Apparently, the redesign included water saving practices that have made the grass thrive despite the area drought. You could never tell there is a drought in the Central Valley of California by looking at Del Paso!
The Open experience is made even more remarkable this week by the people of Sacramento who are very friendly and welcoming. They are so proud of their course and their city and have been planning for this tournament for years.