BANDON, Ore. (June 29, 2011) -- Scott Kammann must feel like he has entered some kind of “Back to the Future” time warp this week. While he might not have arrived at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in a Delorean with a flux capacitor capable of transferring him back in time, the 38-year-old Tennessean certainly has returned to an unfamiliar version of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
“There’s a 15-year-old in the field?” he asked rhetorically on Wednesday after posting a 19-hole, first-round victory at Bandon Trails over 22-year-old Alex Moore of Richland, Wash., a recent Oregon State graduate.
Actually, there were several high school golfers in the field. Two 15-year-olds even qualified for match play.
Seventeen years ago, when Kammann was a college hotshot at the University of Tennessee, he qualified for his first APL. That week in Montana at Eagle Bend Golf Course, Kammann advanced to the semifinals before being sent home by future U.S. Ryder Cup player and PGA Tour winner Chris Riley, 7 and 5. Back then, though, the APL had a different look. For one, Kammann said, there weren’t as many college players. Certainly, there weren’t any 15-year-olds.
“It’s not that there weren’t good players,” he said, “but the depth [is so much better now]. The kids are so much better. They hit it so much farther. It’s amazing what some of these kids can shoot.
“When I played in 1994, there were quite a few older guys. I don’t know what happened. At some point the college kids – I don’t know if more were eligible – realized that it’s a big tournament to play in. Now … it’s like a Who’s Who of college golf. I was telling everybody when I came out here there might not be 20 people over the age of 30.”
Of the 156 players who came to Bandon for the 86th APL, just 17 are 30 and older. Of that group, only Kammann survived the match-play cut. In fact, a total of four mid-amateurs (25 and older) made the final 64.
It’s remarkable that Kammann qualified at all, given that he had played just four rounds this year prior to the 36-hole sectional in Nashville, where he grabbed the third and final spot. When you’re the father of three young children – Emma (10), Carson (7) and Madison (4) – and work full-time as a medical sales representative, finding time to play and practice is virtually impossible.
It’s not that Kammann doesn’t have the talent. After all, he played professionally for eight years, mostly in Asia and Europe. He even won the 2002 Open de Volcam on the European Challenge Tour by finishing eagle-birdie-birdie to beat Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts by one shot. Colsaerts qualified for this year’s U.S. Open. Kammann finished No. 39 on the Challenge Tour’s Order of Merit in 2002. A year earlier, he was 39th on the Asian Tour money list.
Kammann traveled so much in those days that an amendment had to be made to his passport to accommodate all the foreign stamps.
But that lifestyle finally got old. He didn’t make enough money to make the travel and time away from home worth it. So he left pro golf and three years ago he got his amateur status back. He qualified for the 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur, his first USGA event in 13 years, and lost in the first round to Tim Mickelson. That would be Phil’s younger brother, who had been a quarterfinalist a year earlier here at Bandon Dunes.
So in three USGA events, Kammann had lost to the brother of a four-time major champion, a PGA Tour winner and some guy named Tiger Woods. The latter occurred at the 1995 U.S. Amateur at Newport (R.I.) Country Club in the quarterfinals, a week after he was married.
Kammann was actually on his honeymoon with Kristin, his high school sweetheart, and 72 hours after exchanging their vows, Scott was teeing it up for the first round of stroke-play qualifying. A week later, he was up against the defending champion, a player who would eventually win three consecutive Amateurs and 14 major titles, including three U.S. Opens.
His story had already made local headlines a day earlier in the third round. After beating Marc Spencer, 2 and 1, ESPN’s Roger Maltbie interviewed Kammann and brought up the honeymoon. The local paper also caught wind of the story and ran a big article.
The fairytale came to an end the following morning, a week after his wedding. All square through eight holes, Woods won the ninth when Kammann missed a short bogey putt. At No. 10, Woods miraculously holed out from off the green for a birdie that brought about one of his famous fist-pumps. A few holes later, Kammann was out of the Amateur, a 5-and-3 victim.
“We still have the interview on tape,” said Kammann, recalling the week. “It was pretty neat.”
The newlyweds finally made it up to Cape Cod for their scheduled honeymoon, albeit truncated by his golf performance. That fall, he turned professional.
“I enjoyed the traveling,” said Kammann, whose father, Tom, owns and operates the Baneberry (Tenn.) Golf Resort some 50 miles from Knoxville. “It was harder on my wife. She was working full-time [as a physical therapist] and taking care of our daughter (Emma) at the time. It got to be too much for her to do it all on her own. She was almost three when I left [pro golf].”
When Kammann decided to apply to regain his amateur status in 2008, it took only a week. He had not played any competitive golf for four years.
Yet since regaining the competitive juices, Kammann has also been reunited with the difficulty of just qualifying for USGA championships. When he was an APL semifinalist in 1994, he wasn’t fully exempt into the ’95 APL. At the time, only the finalists got a return trip. When he tried to qualify in the New York City area, he missed. One of the site’s qualifiers was Chris Wollmann, who won the title that year.
So getting back to this championship after a 17-year hiatus was a thrill. He carried his own bag for 36 holes without a hint of fatigue. The stamina comes from early morning workouts with the University of Tennessee Masters Swim Team. Twice a week, Kammann hits the pool at 5:30 a.m. and swims 3,000-plus meters.
That fitness sure came in handy on Wednesday at Bandon Trails. Kammann built a 4-up lead thanks to Moore hitting four balls that couldn’t be found over the first nine holes. But the lead vanished over the second nine. Kammann’s approach at No. 11 found the pond and led to a double-bogey 6. He also lipped out a 3-footer at 17 to go all square.
“That’s match play,” Kammann said. “It messes with your emotions.”
Playing over in Europe certainly gave Kammann plenty of practice with links courses and playing in tough conditions. His low ball flight also has helped him navigate the wind that’s so prominent at Bandon Dunes.
“Old age has at least some experience to it,” he said, laughing.
That paid off at the 19th hole. Moore chunked his approach short and left of the green. Instead of putting, he chose to chip the ball and came up 15 feet short. Knowing his opponent would have a tough recovery, Kammann landed his approach 20 feet past the flagstick on the putting surface. He lagged his birdie putt to 3 feet and when Moore failed to convert the par putt, Kammann holed out for the victory.
A hug and kiss from caddie/wife Kristin preceded the short walk back to the clubhouse. Next up for Kammann is an 8:10 a.m. match Thursday at Old Macdonald against 21-year-old University of Georgia All-American Harris English from Thomasville, Ga.
“I felt like if I could get through stroke play … then anything could happen,” said a relieved Kammann. “I’ve played enough match-play events to know you can play well and get beat and play poorly and win. It goes in ebbs and flows. Any given day, anybody can beat anybody.”