My Memories of the 2018 US Amateur

As far back as I can remember I always loved playing golf.  I loved everything about it, practicing, playing, analyzing the swings of the professionals and studying the courses.  My Dad and I would compile lists of courses that we would love to play on our dream vacation we assumed we would never be able to take.  We would talk about playing Whistling Straits, Bandon Dunes, Torrey Pines but number one on every list we made was Pebble Beach.  From what I saw in pictures and TV there was something magical about the place.  The cliffs, the ocean, the beauty, the history, it was the ultimate.  When I was fortunate enough to qualify for the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills I was obviously very excited.  Playing in the US Open was one of my goals and it was a great experience.  But what really made me smile was knowing that I was now in the 2018 US Amateur at Pebble Beach.  The dream vacation was no longer a dream.

As with lots of things in life, things don’t always go as planned.  When we finally arrived at Pebble Beach our luggage including my golf clubs were missing.  While the airline searched to locate and reunite me with my clubs there was no practicing.  The only thing I could do was walk the course.  I was initially worried and stressed but that all went away walking up the fourth fairway when I got my first view of the ocean and Arrowhead Point in the distance.  Most things in life are hyped to absurd levels and when you experience them for yourself there is a little disappointment.  They don’t live up to the hype.  That was not the case here.  It exceeded my expectations, I was blown away.  I feel God spent a little extra time creating this place.  The colors are brighter, the breeze is cooler and fresher, the feel of the grass beneath your feet is bouncier.  I knew at that point that my finish in the US Am was irrelevant, I was going to enjoy my time here.

After two shaky days of stroke play I wasn’t sure if my score would be enough to get to match play.  My score of +4 was the cut line for most of the afternoon but it switched to +3 later in the day.  As we sat in our hotel room overlooking Spanish Bay we clicked the refresh button over and over to get the latest updates while we listened to the nightly bag piper put the course to sleep.  Suddenly things changed, +4 was now the number to get into a massive 24-man playoff for one spot.  How this happened, I’m not sure.  Other people’s misfortune became my opportunity.  That night as I settled into bed my thoughts were positive.  There’s no reason why I can’t be the one.  The morning was crisp and cool with a calm breeze, very peaceful.  As I warmed up on the range I could see my Dad scouring the range with the range finder.  He then pointed to a spot of sand in front of a small hill.  He said, “its 212 to the sandy area and the small hill just past is your target.”  If you used a little imagination it was a perfect replica of the 17th hole, our first playoff hole.  I must have hit fifty 4 irons to that spot, I was ready.  On the 17th tee I visualize the shot.  I didn’t see the tiny hour glass green or beautiful Carmel Bay in the distance.  I saw a small hill just past a small sandy area.  The fifty first 4 iron of the morning was the best of them all.  As I walked off the 17th green I was greeted by reporters wanting to know how it felt to make birdie.  I was a little stunned, it wasn’t over yet.  My Dad gently put his arm around me and pulled me over to the side and said, “let’s go look at the next hole you will need to play, someone else will make birdie.”  We walked the short distance to the back of the 18th tee and looked out over Carmel Bay with the chaos of the 17th green behind us.  It was a peaceful 50 minutes as we talked about everything from the sea lions to the location of Jim Nantz’s house.  When we heard the applause of another birdie being made I was ready to go.  I consider myself fortunate to have prevailed in the playoff, but I was more fortunate to have my Dad with me by my side.  Having him caddie for me is very special but it’s more than a novelty.  It’s more than me letting him caddie as a “Thank You” for everything he has done for me.  He knows what he is doing, we are a good team.             

My goal going into every tournament I play is to compile a list of lessons learned.  Things I can work on for my next tournament.  Although I have a list of golf related items from the US Amateur the number one item on my list is the realization of just how small the world truly is, especially the golf world.  When walking the course, on a day I didn’t have my clubs, I stopped to talk to a greens keeper working on the second hole.  During our conversation I learned his name was Johnathon Fredricks a recent Mississippi State graduate that grew up in my hometown of Slidell.  I didn’t expect that.  On the first tee of my practice round at Pebble Beach the starter noticed I was from Louisiana and the discussion soon focused on stories about Carr McCalla.  He was an old friend of Mr. McCalla and he had many stories to tell.  Lastly, in the round of 64 I noticed my opponent, Daniel Hillier, was from New Zealand.  As we walked down the first fairway I asked if he knew a friend of mine, James Anstiss (2016 LGA Amateur Champion), who is also from New Zealand.  His answer was yes, they are friends.  We had something in common, it was like I was playing with an old buddy.  I thought it was cool until he beat me.  He is a great player and deserved to win that day.  The six levels of separation between people in the everyday world can be reduced to two when referencing the golf world.  If you take the time to talk and get to know other golfers, you can usually find a common link regardless of where you are in the world.

Although I fell short of my goal, to win the US Amateur, I am appreciative to have had the opportunity to experience such a special place, Pebble Beach.  A place that my Dad and I dreamed about playing since I was six years old.  Although my Dad didn’t swing a club during our trip to Pebble Beach he was there by my side every step of the way.  Judging by the smile on his face as we walked and savored every moment, he didn’t mind a bit.  Now on to the next dream, qualifying for the 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach.         

 -Jacob Bergeron