The Kelly Cup annually brings out the top California talent for 54 holes at Lakeside Golf Club in Burbank, Calif. To win this year’s event, Dan Buchner put up rounds of 70-72-69 for a 1-over 211 total that left him two ahead of Los Angeles legend, and former USGA champ, Tim Hogarth.
It’s been a long golf journey for Buchner, who dabbled in the professional ranks before finding his stride in the game again – and even with a little help from Hogarth.
Buchner recapped the Kelly Cup for AmateurGolf.com, and described what the event meant to him:
My amateur career leading up to this weekend can easily be summarized as lackluster and barely existent. I played some junior golf as a kid but it was no fun getting embarrassed by Tiger Woods and others like Jason Gore and Chris Riley. I saw amateur golf strictly as a way to get a college scholarship. Golf was fun. I was playing for the love of the game. Once I realized I was better at golf than I was at school, I decided I wanted to be a professional. Looking back, this is when golf became less enjoyable.
When I turned pro in 1999, I sent my first entry form in to play a series of three events in Palm Springs with “guaranteed purses” of roughly $50,000. I sent in my entry along with a check for several thousand dollars. That tournament never happened, but the tournament director cashed the check and hid somewhere in Canada. I was one of several victims of fraud. What a welcome to the glamorous life of professional golf!
After that I spent four years on the Web.com Tour, five years on the PGA Tour Canada, and five years playing the Hooters Tour and other various local tours. For me, golf quickly became a job, and not one that paid well. I won several times on the local California mini tours but my best finish on the Web.com Tour and PGA Tour Canada was a 5th and 6th place, respectively.
One year at the final stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, I missed a PGA Tour card by three shots at the end of six rounds. I often blamed my failures on the pressure I was feeling from the financial stress. Golf was no longer enjoyable and I couldn’t see a future for me in it. I quit in 2015 after a couple of events in Canada.
Fast forward to today. I won the Kelly Cup, but more importantly, I had an epiphany and it happened while walking and talking to my final-round playing competitor, Tim Hogarth
. From the opening tee shot of the final round this morning I found myself as nervous as I’d ever been playing golf. Why? There was no money at stake. Sure I was tied for the lead, but losing would have no real impact on my life like it did when I was a pro. Still, I was nervous and I was choking!
Clearly, the scar tissue I had suffered from my playing days was still there. On about the sixth hole, I learned that Tim had won the 1996 U.S. Amateur Public Links and played in the 1997 Masters. Wow.
Hearing his stories gave me goosebumps. We talked about major championship conditions. Actually, let me rephrase that: He talked about those conditions. How ironic! I played professionally for 15 years and never experienced a course setup like that except for when I once got to play Oakmont Country Club for fun.
Lakeside Golf Club was set up like a major championship would be set up. There was lush rough, small greens that were as fast – if not faster than – any greens I have ever played on and pin placements that made my brain overheat like I was taking an algebra test. I’m 100 yards away in the fairway and the proper play is 20 feet right and 10 feet short of the pin! How cool is that?
As we were discussing this, I realized that Tim loves golf. We speak the same language and feel the same range of emotions when we play. The only difference is that somewhere along the way, I lost the love for the game. When I played well, I had fun, but when I played poorly, I was miserable. It was all about the destination not the journey for me.
On the walk to the 10th tee, I found myself 2 down to a guy who had won this tournament nine times and competed at Augusta National while I was watching from the couch. That’s when I had an epiphany. I am playing in a twosome on one of the best courses in the world with a great guy on a beautiful Sunday morning and I’m only two shot back, so why do I feel like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars when he’s stuck in a trash compactor that is closing in on him, doomed for a smelly and certain death?
For the first time since the days when I was a kid trying to break 100 and then 90 and then 80, I was playing the best game in the world the way it was meant to be played. Of course I played well and shot 2 under on the back nine for a two-stroke victory, but I believe that even if I hadn’t played well, I would have enjoyed the competition – win, lose or draw. It took a great course like Lakeside and a great champion like Tim Hogarth to show me what I’ve been missing. I’m so grateful for this experience at the Kelly Cup – my new favorite tournament.
ABOUT THE Kelly Cup
Invitational tournament contested in honor of
Lakeside Golf Club's finest amateur golfer, Roger
Kelly, who was at the top of California amateur
golf in the 1930's.
The tournament is flighted by handicap,
every player is eligible to win the overall
competition. There is also a senior flight for ages 55
Prizes are awarded in each flight, with
all first-place ties broken by sudden-death
playoff.Tim Hogarth has captured the title an
amazing 9 times.
Host course Lakeside Golf Club is one of
California's finest with a long history of competitive
golf. Celebrity contestants have included Bing
Crosby (who was a club champ) and more recently
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