Notebook: Two wins into 2019, Hanzel is just getting started
Doug Hanzel (USGA photo)
Doug Hanzel (USGA photo)

For a competitive senior amateur, there is really no shortage of competition available. Sometimes, the question is more about what not to play than what to play.

“It’s tough because there are so many tournaments and you just can’t play in them all,” said Doug Hanzel, the nation’s top-ranked senior amateur.

Eleven weeks into 2019, Hanzel already has won two major senior titles: the Jones Cup Senior and the Florida Azalea senior. He has multiple victories in each, but that could be said about Hanzel's standing in many of the top senior events.

“There’s no question that after you’ve played the course several times, you get a better feeling of where you need to hit it and where you don’t want to hit it,” he said. “Most of the time your score is not related to your good shots, it’s how bad your bad ones are.”

Hanzel has won just about every senior title there is to win on U.S. soil. That’s why his big goal for 2019 requires a passport.

Back in 2017, Hanzel finished runner-up at both the Canadian Senior Amateur and the British Senior Amateur. They were close calls in tournaments that have so far eluded the Savannah, Ga., resident. He’ll tee it up in Ontario this fall for the Canadian Senior and try to knock off one more goal.

At 62, Hanzel has been around the senior circuit long enough to be a familiar face. He’s a largely self-taught Midwest native who played college golf at Kent State. In fact, as longtime Golden Flashes coach Herb Page retires this season, Hanzel likes to note that he and roommate Ned Weezer were Page’s first captains.

Playing for page inspired Hanzel to set up a golf scholarship in his name at Kent State.

“If people would have told me where he would elevate the program for a northern school? I would say, ‘I don’t think so,’” he said.

Hanzel’s body of work is no small feat, either. Hanzel’s titles range from the coveted, like the 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur, to the little-known, like Golf Digest’s top-ranked golfing doctor in 2008.

“They relied mostly on handicap,” Hanzel said in explanation of the latter. “...I know a couple other doctors who have played some USGA events. Handicap is one thing, but tournament golf is a different animal, and I’ve played a fair amount of tournament golf.”

The doctor is semi-retired now after having spent years as a pulmonologist, a time-consuming specialty that required considerable night and weekend work around the hospital. He works roughly 10-12 days per month now with a focus on sleep medicine and hyperbaric wound care.

An average year of competition includes roughly 15 starts between national senior events and state events. He’ll likely get closer to that number this year than last year, when he took much of the summer off to care for his wife Nancy as she underwent treatment for breast cancer. His only summer start was the U.S. Senior Amateur, where he advanced to the quarterfinals. He won the SOS Championship (in his hometown of Savannah) and finished third at the Dixie to end the year.

“She’s doing fine this year so we’ll probably shoot for 15, 16 events,” Hanzel reports.

You’ll next see Hanzel at the prestigious George Coleman Senior Invitational, played at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla. After winning in 2017 but missing last year’s event, this year will feel like a title defense.

“That’s a big one because virtually all of the top 15 or 20 seniors in the country are there,” Hanzel said of the event.

Described that way, it makes sense that Hanzel would be there.

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YOUTH ON COURSE HITS CANADA: Junior golf just got a big boost up north, as Youth on Course, a program that supports beginning golfers in a variety of ways, announced it would launch a two-year pilot program in Alberta, Canada.

Youth on Course, a nonprofit that operates in all regions of the United States, is most notable for providing juniors with affordable golf opportunities, to the tune of $5 rounds. Other components include a caddie program, high school internships and college scholarships for golfers. In the U.S., Youth on Course claims more than 50,000 members.

The organization will fall under the umbrella of Future Links, Canada’s national junior golf program. After the two-year pilot program, Golf Canada will evaluate the results before a potential nationwide expansion.

Golf Canada already has a strong junior golf foundation. The Future Links program has helped more than 1.7 million young players get into golf. Canada’s national team has been notoriously strong in recent years.

A familiar face helps, too. LPGA player Brooke Henderson is like the pied piper of Canadian golf, as evidenced by the crowd of young girls who trailed Henderson, 21, after her CP Women’s Open win in Canada last year. Henderson has won seven times on the LPGA and authored a stellar amateur career that included a runner-up finish at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur and a rise to the top of the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

• • •

FIRST IN THE NATION: File this one under “signs of spring.” Even though it’s not quite time for state amateurs to begin in earnest around the country, one state did host its 72-hole state stroke-play championship over the weekend.

If you guessed that that state is Hawaii, you’re correct. Honolulu’s Tyler Ota won the championship division for the second year in a row. This time, Ota logged rounds of 72-71-68-72 for a 5-under total at Pearl Country Club in Aiea, Hawaii, and a nine-shot victory.

Call it a sign that spring is on the way.

• • •


Evans Derby Experience, Saugahatchee Country Club, Opelika, Ala., March 23-25
The skinny: Auburn revived the long-running tournament a year ago, adding “Evans” to the name to honor former coach Kim Evans. (“Derby” recognizes another trailblazing Tiger, Virginia Derby Grimes.) The field features some of the top teams in the Southeast. Of note: After excessive rain over the past few months, the tournament had to be moved from Auburn University Club. Saugahatchee will also be the venue for the NCAA Women’s Regional that Auburn signed on to host.

Hootie at Bulls Bay, Bulls Bay GC, Awendaw, S.C. March 24-26
The skinny: A top men’s event in the Southeast co-hosted by College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina. Keep an eye on the Gamecocks after their third-place finish in this week’s loaded Valspar Collegiate field.

• • •

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Now that’s discipline

U.S. Amateur champion Viktor Hovland on why he doesn’t have a Twitter account: “I feel like I’d just be lost in it. Just end up sitting there. All day. Tweeting.”

• • •

TWEET OF THE WEEK: Headed for double

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