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
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
to chronicle the
"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
"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
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
, 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
"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
You can follow James' journey as he works
towards his goal at Florida