2012 Open prodigy Hossler now nation's top collegian

By Ryan LavnerMarch 15, 2016, 12:00 pm

Do you remember Beau?

It’s been nearly four years since he lumbered down the 18th fairway at the Olympic Club, since his future college coach got chills looking at the U.S. Open leaderboard, since the crowd on the hillside rose to its feet and serenaded him with cheers of “HOSS-LER! HOSS-LER!”

But Beau Hossler is not just an answer to a trivia question, some one-week sensation who faded from relevance. Having filled out his 6-foot-2 frame to 205 pounds, he is now a 21-year-old junior at Texas, the country’s No. 1-ranked college player and a can’t-miss kid who has weathered enormous expectations to become the most polished amateur since, well, another Longhorns legend.  

“He has that Jordan Spieth mind,” said Hossler’s swing coach, Adam Porzak, “in addition to incredible physical ability.”

And so now, with his résumé overflowing with major appearances, international team competitions and elite amateur titles, Hossler has done the unthinkable in four short years: He has turned that historic Open performance into a mere footnote.

HOSSLER’S JOURNEY TO THE TOP of the college ranks didn’t begin in San Francisco. It actually started about seven hours south, in Carlsbad – that’s where legendary swing coach Jim Flick moved in 2006, to work for TaylorMade.

As a kid in Mission Viejo, Calif., Hossler was a standout baseball player. But at age 10 he began to focus on golf, quitting every other sport. His father, Beau Sr., researched the best instructors in Southern California. Flick’s name popped up, and the Hosslers set up a lesson and headed 45 minutes south on Interstate 5. It marked the beginning of a six-year relationship, until Flick passed away in 2012 at age 82.

Flick improved Hossler’s fundamentals, but that was only part of the equation. In an atmosphere where he was surrounded by Flick’s professional clients, Hossler learned how to score, how to play under pressure and how to act like a pro. Flick helped turn Hossler into an independent self-fixer. Hossler would travel to an AJGA event, return to Carlsbad a few days later and tell Flick what he thought they needed to work on. The only event where Flick ever watched his pupil in person was the U.S. Open at Olympic.  

“I was never a guy who was trying to have the picture-perfect swing,” Hossler said. “I was trying to understand what my swing does, the things I do well, and how I can try to make those better.”

Hossler was 13 when he took his first unofficial visit to Texas. A year later, he caught the eye of former Longhorns assistant Ryan Murphy at the 2009 U.S. Amateur. Murphy told head coach John Fields that they should take this 5-foot-nothin’ kid more seriously – Hossler had just shot a pair of 77s in qualifying while hitting driver-4-iron-wedge into par 4s at Southern Hills.

Three days after getting his driver’s license, Hossler advanced through a sectional qualifier for the 2011 U.S. Open. Then the third-youngest to play in an Open, he missed the cut that week at waterlogged Congressional, but a month later he won the prestigious Junior World Championship. By the time he committed to Texas, in March 2012, he was the second-ranked player in a stacked class, with other offers from UCLA, Arizona State and Southern Cal, his father’s alma mater.

It seems the only person fully prepared for what happened next was Hossler. That June, he earned one of the six spots in a 130-man sectional qualifier, becoming the first high schooler since Mason Rudolph in 1951 to earn a spot in consecutive Opens.

The Olympic Open was memorable for a few reasons – Tiger Woods shared the halfway lead and tanked, Jim Furyk snap-hooked a drive off the 70th tee and Jungle Bird crashed the trophy presentation. But for the better part of two days, Hossler was the main attraction, operating with a resolve and poise that belied his braces, zits and chubby physique.

After opening with an even-par 70, Hossler went out in 1 under on Friday before rolling in a 12-footer for birdie on the first hole, his 10th of the day.

“I can still remember the moment that I saw Beau Hossler’s name pop up on the leaderboard in first place,” Fields said. “I got chills. I got goosebumps on my arms and body. That was a surreal moment in golf, a 17-year-old leading the U.S. Open. It was an amazing moment in time.”

Hossler celebrated with caddie Bill Schellenberg in Round 4 of the 2012 U.S. Open. (Getty)

Amazing to those outside the ropes, perhaps, because Hossler’s godfather, Bill Schellenberg, who was on the bag that week, recalled that he and Hossler were “laughing and joking around,” oblivious to the moment or the pressure. “But as we walked to the next tee,” he said, “we were bombarded by cameras and microphones. All of a sudden, Dottie Pepper was in my back pocket.”

Hossler was only four shots back heading into the weekend. He maintained that position through 54 holes, and on the eve of the final round, he was asked by reporters whether he thought he could win. “Absolutely,” he said.  

Like nearly all of the contenders, Hossler retreated on the final day, but as he trudged up to the eighth green, the crowd swelled and chanted his name: “HOSS-LER! HOSS-LER!” Kevin Chappell, playing in the group behind, said it was one of the few times in his life that the hair on his arms stood up.  

“It sounded like a concert,” Schellenberg said, “getting louder and louder.”

Hossler signed for a closing 76 and dropped into a tie for 29th, allowing Spieth, then a rising sophomore at Texas, to steal low-amateur honors. But the publicity and the experience proved more valuable than the gold medal.

“You can’t emulate that kind of pressure and moment anywhere else,” Hossler said, “and the fact that I could handle it at 17, I knew I could do this for a living.”

Hossler got a hug from his mother, Amy Balsz, after Round 3 of the 2012 U.S. Open. (AP)

AGAINST THAT BACKDROP, Hossler enrolled early at Texas in January 2013, less than six months after his star-making performance at Olympic.

Those were high times in Austin. The Longhorns had captured their first NCAA title in 40 years the previous season behind the sterling play of Spieth, who then turned professional. Their lineup featured a new phenom, South African Brandon Stone, who would earn Freshman of the Year honors before bolting for the pros. Coveted recruits from California to New York were lining up to sign. Add in a rising star like Hossler, and Fields’ main job was de-stressing the environment.

“I always thought we were a victim of our own success,” Fields said. “When you win a national championship and have a player come through like Jordan Spieth, the amount of pressure these kids assumed when they first came in, it was ridiculously significant.”

Hossler sat out that spring season to get acclimated to college life, but he still had a rough first semester with the team the following fall. Carrying the load with leader Kramer Hickok out because of a wrist injury, Hossler carded only two rounds in the 60s and failed to record a top-10 in his first semester.

Recently, Spieth, Justin Thomas (Alabama) and Patrick Cantlay (UCLA) have shifted expectations for what was possible in Year 1, but for most college freshmen, there remains a noticeable adjustment to living alone, practicing alone and being surrounded by other elite players with similar ambitions. Given his high profile, Hossler was a target for some of the outside criticism.

“Most people don’t know who the top junior players are until they have a great week on Tour,” he said. “I have that one week and the expectations externally are off the charts.

“The people who know golf don’t have that mindset. But the people who are fans and are not in tune with how golf works at the high level think that just because you have a really good week it means you’re going to win every tournament going forward. You’re going to struggle at times. That’s just how it works.

“We see it all the time with top-ranked freshmen who come in and struggle, and you hear, ‘These guys are washed up!’ No, you have no idea what you’re talking about. College is a whole new deal. There are very few guys who come in and dominate right away.”

Hossler found his groove late in the spring and eventually earned the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year award, even if his freshman season failed to live up to his own lofty standards. “Beau’s adversity,” Schellenberg said with a laugh, “was not all that bad.”

And besides, Hossler had braced himself for the challenge. One of the main reasons he chose Texas was because he knew that to play on Tour someday, he needed to learn how to control his ball flight in the wind, putt well on Bermudagrass and regularly test himself against the best competition. Not only do the Longhorns annually play one of the nation’s most difficult schedules, but the current lineup features three players who were on the 2012 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team. It’s a battle just to crack the starting five for an event.

“I needed to test myself,” Hossler said. “I needed to see my game evolve to a level that I could play anywhere.”

Fitting, then, that Hossler’s first college title came last February, at the John Hayt Collegiate in Florida, when it was 40 degrees, raining sideways and blowing 25 mph. He shot 66 in the second round on Bermuda greens.

Hossler’s victory at the Hayt was part of a remarkable run in which he won the Western Amateur, represented the U.S. at the Pan-Am Games, World Amateur Team Championship and Walker Cup (where he posted a team-best 3-1 record), became the fourth player in history to qualify for three U.S. Opens as an amateur and, most recently, routed the field at the Jones Cup.

Hossler, Hunter Stewart and captain 'Spider' Miller at a Walker Cup news conference. (Getty)

“My expectations,” he said, “have gone from looking to contend to expecting myself to win. That’s a big change mentally.”

This season at Texas, he has won an NCAA-best four events to rise to No. 1 in Golfstat’s rankings, even though, he says, “to be completely honest, I haven’t really played my best. Which is a great thing.”

Hossler prides himself on his consistency, and his average finish over the past 4 ½ semesters is 9.5; only Alabama’s Robby Shelton (7.9) has been better over that span.

“Beau doesn’t have an opportunity to hang up his sticks and mosey into a top-10,” said Porzak, his swing coach. “He has to play good golf every week. That’s where Beau separates himself from everybody else – his poor golf still gets top-10s.”

IT ALSO HELPS to have a mentor – and a motivator – like Spieth.

In this era of rocket launchers, the world No. 1 doesn’t hit it the farthest or the straightest, but he has changed the game by placing an added importance on short game, wedge play and strategy. Hossler is cut from the same mold, favoring precision and process over power and pizzazz. They were grouped together last month at the Northern Trust Collegiate Showcase, and afterward Spieth gushed about his friend’s growth, preparation and attitude.

“Beau has very, very little fear and I think that’s going to propel him,” Spieth said. “I think that he’s got a great sense of confidence in his golf game and his ability to be out here without expressing it in a cocky kind of manner. He just goes about his business.”

When told later about Spieth’s comments, about how much he admired his fearlessness, Hossler chuckled.

“That’s a big compliment,” he said, “because when you look at really great players, guys who aren’t afraid to succeed, you think of Jordan Spieth. That’s what makes him so impressive. He plays without fear, when it matters most, with all of his lifelong goals in front of his face.”

Like Spieth, Hossler unlocks his potential mostly through positive self-talk, but he also has been emboldened by his occasional chats with Dr. Jay Brunza, a former Navy clinical psychologist who once worked with Woods and taught him how to emotionally detach himself from pressure situations while still being emotionally invested in the moment.

“That’s why tension just leaves Beau all the time,” Porzak said, “because he always believes that the best possible outcome is going to happen.”

That’s the only reasonable explanation for what happened in two of the biggest events of Hossler’s young career.

During the first round of his 2014 Western Amateur victory, Hossler built a 3-up lead with four holes to play against Cheng-Tsung Pan, then one of the top-ranked players in the world. On the 15th hole, Pan faced about a 20-footer after Hossler hit his approach to 5 feet. Pan raced his birdie try about 12 feet past and appeared to be on the verge of losing the match, but Hossler picked up Pan’s ball. “I’m speechless,” said Porzak, who was on the bag that week. “About to throw up.” With a chance to close out the match, Hossler’s 5-footer horseshoed out. Onward.

“I wanted to grab him and say, ‘Dude, what the heck are you thinking?!’” Porzak said. “’This guy is good and we need to put an end to this match.’”

But Porzak kept quiet, and on the next hole, Hossler smoked a drive and stuck his gap wedge to a foot. He won the match, 3 and 2.

Afterward, Porzak asked Hossler about the concession. “I’m not just going to let him lose on a three-putt,” Hossler replied. “If I’m going to win this match, I’m going to make the putt to win.”

Hossler hits a shot alongside Texas coach John Fields.

Said Gavin Hall, Hossler’s teammate at Texas: “After that title, I sensed a different Beau. He was really motivated and saying that all he wanted to do was win. I started hearing that word a lot more.”

A similar situation played out at last year’s Walker Cup. The Americans were trailing on Day 1 of the biennial matches, but Hossler had achance to earn a valuable point late in his singles match at Royal Lytham. He was 1 up with two to play against Jack Hume, with a 10-foot birdie putt upcoming and his opponent facing a 50-foot chip. Hume pitched to about 6 feet, but his par putt broke sharply from left to right. Hossler’s birdie try hung on the lip, then he inexplicably conceded Hume’s putt to push the match to 18. His team already down two points, U.S. captain Spider Miller went ballistic.

But just like at the Western, Hossler split the 18th fairway, hit his approach to 15 feet and won the match, 1 up, in front of the big crowd and his relieved skipper.

“He wanted to go out with a bang, in Beau style,” said Georgia senior Lee McCoy, one of Hossler’s Walker Cup teammates. “Losing never even crossed his mind. He’s one of those guys you don’t want to go head to head against down the stretch because he’s so good under pressure. Some guys are scared of that and don’t want to be the one who hits the winning putt. Beau loves being in that spotlight.”

ANYONE WHO KNOWS BEAU HOSSLER isn’t surprised by what has transpired over the last two years, the ascendance of a player who is mature, tenacious and brimming with confidence.

Schellenberg knew Hossler was destined for greatness at the 2009 U.S. Amateur, when the kid bunted his way around an Open venue and made par from everywhere; the mother of one of their fellow playing competitors even told him as much.

Fields knew at the 2012 U.S. Open. Burned out, a few weeks removed from the school’s long-awaited national title and having just witnessed the emergence of a once-in-a-generation talent like Spieth, Fields stood next to his wife, Pearl, and stared at the leaderboard.

“I’m scratching my head thinking, ‘Oh my God, it’s happening again,’” Fields said. “I was pinching myself more than being perplexed. I had waited my entire career for these types of players, these types of blessings, and now they’re coming in abundance.”

And Porzak knew at last year’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. It was his first major as an instructor, and the 29-year-old was a nervous wreck, overthinking everything from where to stand to how to secure his credentials.  

“Then I look at Beau,” Porzak said, “and he is more at ease and having more fun than I’ve ever seen him in my entire life. That’s when I said that we might not be witnessing just another great player. I think we have the potential to witness one of the best players who has ever played the game.

“And it’s not just the talent. Look at the perfect storm of attributes: The head on his shoulders. The calmness about him. The self-belief and confidence. He looks like he’s meant to be out there.”

And Hossler will be soon enough. Though he declined to discuss his future, he is likely to turn pro after the NCAAs in June. Perhaps it’ll be Hossler – not amateur sensation Bryson DeChambeau, not top-ranked Jon Rahm – who enjoys the most success as a professional this summer.

If nothing else, don’t expect Hossler to get rattled by the pressure to perform. After all, it’s nothing new – he hasn’t competed anonymously since the beginning of high school. He is the rare amateur golfer who already has some semblance of celebrity.

“I love it,” he said. “I don’t have anything to shy away from. I prefer to have all eyes on me.”

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee:

Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.