FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (Sept 13, 2006) -– Scott Hardy would like nothing better than to miss his team’s first tournament of the fall season. It would mean that Hardy, the head men’s golf coach at St. Mary’s College of California, would be playing in the 36-hole final of the U.S. Mid-Amateur, with a chance to earn a likely invitation into next year’s Masters Tournament.
Hardy, 30, of Pleasant Hill, Calif., took a step closer to that end Wednesday morning when he turned back Alan Bratton of Stillwater, Okla., in his quarterfinal match, 4 and 2. It was a showdown between two college golf coaches. Bratton, who was a professional golfer for six years, is now the assistant coach at reigning NCAA Division I national champion Oklahoma State, his alma mater.
Hardy, however, never opted for turning professional. Instead, he jumped at the chance to be the Gaels’ assistant coach shortly after graduation in 1998. He was named head coach a year later. He’s enjoyed success in his seven seasons at the helm, having been named West Coast Conference Coach of the Year three times.
Hardy faces Dave Womack, 27, of McDonough, Ga., in his semifinal match Wednesday afternoon. Ryan Hybl, 25, of Winterville, Ga., will face last year’s runner-up Carlton Forrester, 30, of Birmingham, Ala., in a match-up of alums from rival colleges. Hybl, a former Georgia standout, is the assistant coach for the Bulldogs' men's golf team, while Forrester is a Georgia Tech grad who played on the men's golf team with 1997 U.S. Amateur champion Matt Kuchar.
Womack charged past Rick DeWitt of Arvada, Colo., in his morning match, 3 and 2. Womack needed only 21 putts through 16 holes and was the equivalent of 7 under par, with the normal concessions granted for match play. His win was punctuated with a hole-in-one on the par-3 14th hole, in the middle of a stretch where he was 6 under over six holes.
Hybl beat two-time Mid-Amateur champion Tim Jackson, 47, of Germantown, Tenn., 1 up. Forrester edged Gene Elliott, 44, of West Des Moines, Iowa, 1 up. Forrester is looking to join George Zahringer as the only players in Mid-Amateur history to win the title after losing in the final the previous year.
As for missing his team’s tournament, Hardy already has a good story to tell.
“The team got to the airport in Long Beach last night and no one could rent the van,” Hardy explains. “My assistant’s [driver's] license is expired and no one on the team is old enough to rent a car. The hotel was nice enough to send a van for them.”
Hardy has an even better story of his own to tell.
He slipped into the quarterfinal round with a dramatic win in his third-round match Tuesday. He looked to be headed back to his golf team, but rolled in a 57-foot birdie on the second extra hole and then stood by while his opponent missed his birdie chance from close range.
“I figured anything after that is just icing on the cake,” said Hardy, who has his wife, Lori, as his caddie even though he still carries the clubs.
“She’s five months pregnant, but I wanted her out there with me,” added Hardy.
Hardy didn’t take up playing golf until age 16, and didn’t play in his first tournament until he was 18. He walked on to the team at St. Mary’s.
“It’s come a long way the last 10 years,” says Hardy of his golf game. “I’ve been getting better with each year.”
And he’s hoping the best is yet to come.
Story written by Craig Smith, director of media relations for the USGA. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.
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