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Thoughts from a First Timer on R&A British Senior Amateur

John Geiberger on his recent amazing experience, playing in the 2023 British Senior Amateur Open, in Woodall Spa, England. Read the story.

John Geiberger on recent experience playing in R&A British Senior Amateur

BY JOHN GEIBERGER

As I was packing my suitcase after six days of golf at Woodhall Spa, 200 miles north of London, many thoughts were racing through my head.

“I couldn’t believe what I just played in.” 

“The great drives in cross winds to tight fairways with heath on both sides, (my VERO X1 ball kept me away from all the trouble😀).”

“The mid iron to pin high, away from the 8-10 foot bunkers on both sides of the green; the birdie putt that stopped two inches short straight down hill on the final green.“

I had just finished something I never dreamed of doing.

I played in the British Senior Amateur.

It wasn’t the British Open I used to wake up at 5 am to watch and listen to the masterful voice of Englishman Peter Allis, but it certainly stirred up memories of watching Watson, Ballesteros and Nicklaus win multiple times on golf’s most famed links courses. 

I played collegiate golf at Pepperdine and caddied on the PGA Champions Tour, where I was part of seven wins before returning to coach The Waves (1996-2013), an experience highlighted by the 1997 National Championship!

It probably goes without saying but golf is my life.

After battling Covid in December 2022, which led to bouts with viral pneumonia , PCP pneumonia, and other fungal illnesses, the next five months were more about staying alive than celebrating my 55th birthday and playing senior amateur golf. 

While attending the second round of the US Open at LACC on June 16, I received an email confirming my entry into R&A’s British Senior Amateur. 

I couldn’t believe it.

With less than three weeks to prepare for an event that began July 11, I was filled with doubt. I was still regaining my strength, having carried my bag and played nine holes just five or six times. Was I strong enough? Would the level of my game allow me to compete? Could I drive on the other side of the road?!

There were a thousand crazy thoughts running through my head, but a consensus quickly emerged among my friends: I would be crazy not to go.  The more I thought about it – the decision never left my mind for 10 days – I realized life is about creating memories and overcoming our fears.

I made up my mind. I was going to compete in the British Senior Amateur!

When I made my way to Woodhall Spa, the host property, 6,500 miles from home, and the R&A official greeted me for my first practice round, he confirmed my name, country and handicap (you have to be at least a +1 to play). All those doubts again flooded my mind, not the least of which was, “Do I belong?”

After my first practice round with three Americans (one being the recent senior Florida match play champion) and my second round with three joyous Irishman, I started to believe in my game. 

I knew I had made the right decision to compete when they announced on the first tee, “From the United States of America, John Geiberger.” It was a special moment and I was glad I put myself out there.

My mind went blank, but I knew I had to hit the ball. My opening tee shot was a weak push in the right rough, but GAME ON!  I was there competing and the flag was up! 

It took so much mental and physical energy since I was not tournament sharp. I reached back into my coaching library and recalled what I taught my team.

I was in group 13 of 58 and after making birdie following that weak drive on No. 1, “staying present” sounded a lot easier when I was the one telling my charges at Pepperdine what to do.

A -1 under par 72 (the Woodhall Spa-Hotchkin course is a par 73) in the first round eased my fears about whether I belonged. Unfortunately, the wheels came off during a 6-hole stretch in the second round, leaving me perilously close to the cutline – the field of 178 is trimmed to 50 after 36 holes.

Mercifully, I made the cut and after a third round 76 finished at 8-over par, good for T-41.

Pretty good for my first major!

Looking back on the experience, I was nervous, bordering on scared, but fortunately I had past experiences to draw from. Now, the memories I created run through my mind day and night.

Sometimes, even in the face of fear, we have to jump in and face the unknown. That’s what life is all about!

Even as I confronted my own doubts, the one advantage I knew I had that week was playing the VERO X1, the best performing ball in the field. I sure didn’t feel any wind! Cheers to that!!

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About John Geiberger

John Geiberger is the son of golf legend, Mr. 59., Al Geiberger (11X PGA Tour Winner). John wears many hats, as head of OnCore’s player development, a high school golf coach, instructor and coach for collegiate level players and a professional caddy.

About OnCore Golf

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