Florida golfer James Phillips sets lofty goal
06 Feb 2012
by Benjamin Larsen of amateurgolf.com

see also: , James Phillips Profile


James Phillips will be the first to tell you. He doesn't have an athletic bone in his body.

In grammar school, he was always picked last. If he got a hit to right field, he says, "I'd be thrown out at first."

"I have not an athletic bone in my body," said Phillips, a retired surgeon who holds degrees in various areas. "But I am able to learn things. Golf is a sport where if you take enough lessons and practice, you can get reasonably good."

Phillips, of course, is hoping to to be significantly better than "reasonably good."

In fact, the soon-to-be 62-year-old set out to drop his handicap enough to play in the 2012 qualifier for the USGA Senior Amateur. He launched the website, Florida SeniorGolfer.com to chronicle the journey.

"I took it to the logical extreme," Phillips said. "Maybe I can carry it to the next step. This is a huge goal for me.

Phillips has plenty of work to do, but believes he's on pace to reach his goal. How much work does he have left? He needs to drop nearly 14 shots off his current index in order to be considered for the Senior Amateur qualification process, which requires entrants to play at no more than a 7.4.

To that, Phillips says bring it on.

"In golf, if you're willing to put in the time to practice and want to get better, you can," said Phillips, who resides in St. Augustine, Fla. "I'm trying to get good enough to compete."

Phillips first began playing golf in 1992. He hacked around, typically shooting in the triple digits but gave it up in 1998. After about six years away from the game --- while in law school --- Phillips realized the main perk of golfing: networking. He began to get serious about the game in 2008 and developed the goal chronicled on Florida SeniorGolfer.com last year.

"When I first got back into playing, I was in the 100s and 90s," he said. "Then, I shot an 83 and figured, there's no reason I can't work hard enough to shave a few more strokes off and compete."

Playing mostly at The Champions Club at Julington Creek and Eagle Landing in the Jacksonville area, Phillips plays and practices as much as he can. He works with Mary Hafeman, the PGA North Florida 2011 Teacher of the Year. He is committed physically, shedding 50 pounds with exercise and diet changes and is equally invested in the hard work involved in improving on the golf course.

A recent change in tees pointed out a glaring deficiency in his long game. Proper adjustment and focus has been made to improve his hybrids and mid-irons. Still, Phillips' short game --- from 100 yards in, particularly --- is the strength of his repertoire.

For a guy who holds several degrees, including a JD, MBA and MD, golf should be a breeze. Believe it or not, Phillips thinks his experience in the medical field has helped a certain part of his game.

"For some reason, surgeons, who work on soft tissue have great feel in the short game," said Phillips, who practiced plastic surgery. "My brother, who's an orthopedic surgeon can hit the ball far but doesn't have the same feel in the short game."

Soon enough, Phillips is hoping he has the total package.

You can follow James' journey as he works towards his goal at Florida SeniorGolfer.com
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