Monday, June 16, 2008

Susie Meyers Shares US Open Experience

I played in a number of U.S. Opens when I was on the LPGA Tour, but I never thought I would be caddying in the men's U.S. Open. To be at the Open with your student whom you’ve been with for nine years, watching him reach his goals, to be a part of his dreams, to realize that he is the real thing, this is true satisfaction. I had caddied for Michael Thomson in his first U.S. Amateur at Winged Foot in 2004, so it was a real privilege to caddy for him again in his first US Open. 
The first two days, Michael had a fabulous pairing, playing with Rocco Mediate. Rocco is as nice as can be and funny. And he never stopped talking. He was definitely on his game that week, losing to Tiger Woods eventually on the first sudden death hole aft er an 18-hole playoff round. 
The Open is all about placing your ball in the right spot so you have a chance at the next shot. Playing with Rocco, Michael was getting a first-hand lesson. To be sure, Michael was ready for the task and was really enjoying this opportunity to play with the best players in the world. 
The first round was pretty solid even though he had his highest score. Michael hit 14 greens and shot 75. We worked very closely through each round. As the tournament went on my player instincts really kicked in. Michael wanted to verbalize each shot, to visualize it and to make a commitment to the shot he intended. He would tell me what he saw, where his target would be, where he saw the putt breaking or where the ball should enter the hole. 
Michael and I have worked many years on realizing you cannot control your ball but you can control your preparation and your reaction to the shot. Michael let each shot “go” and did not control it. However, he was very much in control of his emotions and his composure. He is very mature and in this game that really pays off . 
Friday morning we were on the Torrey Pines driving range. I was watching Michael warm up when Tiger walked onto the range. It was like the King had arrived. The crowd went wild. I told Michael that Tiger was going to plant himself right behind him so take his time. Sure enough, Tiger stopped right next to Michael and the crowd was very loud. I appreciated a chance to say hello to Hank Haney, Tiger’s instructor and my former boss. I looked around and thought, “Wow, we are doing it, we are at the U.S. Open and I am caddying for the best amateur in the field” 
The second day was an amazing display of tenacity and patience. Michael was three over for the first three holes then played one under from there. He didn’t have a good feel for where the club was that day so the ball was all over the course. But he kept it together and endured, making putts and chipping it close. He birdied the 9th and 10th holes, and a birdie on 18 assured him of making the cut. We were ecstatic; his first cut in a major. 
The third round started off just as shaky but he managed to keep it together and shot another 73. Michael stays in the shot so well—no past, no future, just the moment. 
Each day I heard a lot of “Go Mom!” gallery chatter. Who knew that I was Michael’s instructor? Tell me, what kid would have his mom caddy for him in the Open? I wanted to wear a sign that said, “I’m not the Mom!” But Michael is very secure in himself and loved having me along for the ride, even though I was the only female instructor in the field. 
The fourth round seemed a lot calmer than the first three. Michael’s ball went where he was looking more often. As my player skills were being piqued we were making some great decisions together. Michael shot a cool 72 and finished as the low amateur, tied for 29th in the field. I was so proud of him as a golfer but more so as a person. He stood up under the heat and flourished. I only see great things happening for Michael. 
And me? Well, I got to go home to my husband and two kids and do what I love to do: help people with their golf games. As we know there is so much more to golf than the swing. Guiding golfers through the maze of details that this game entails and making it more enjoyable and “do-able” is what I’m all about. 
And Michael? Well, he turns professional the first of July and will try to get some sponsor exemptions into PGA events and then go to Qualifying School for the PGA Tour in the fall. He is a very happy and confident young man and will make his way in the world of professional golf just fine!
Susie Meyers, longtime teaching professional at Ventana, has been coaching Michael Thompson, one of the nation’s top amateur golfers, for the past nine years. She caddied for him in the recent U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in California.

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