Southampton’s Jim Patterson lives out golf dream at U.S. Senior Open

Staff Writer
Published: 7/15/2021 7:47:31 PM

Jim Patterson felt like he was in a dream walking to the first tee of the U.S. Senior Open last Thursday in Nebraska.

It was early in the morning, the fog was covering the course at the Omaha Country Club just as the sun was rising and the Southampton native was getting ready to tee off in a major with some of the best golfers in the world.

It didn’t take long for the reality to set in for Patterson and understand he really was there living out his dream, surrounded by cameras and microphones as he teed off in the first major of his career.

“The shock of being there and the whole environment was foreign,” Patterson said. “There’s nothing like it. You feel like you’re in an auditorium and you’re at the center of the stage and everyone is there just to watch you hit a golf ball. It was a surreal experience. I never expected to be there. You always dream of being at a tour event and the stars aligned where I had the opportunity.”

Just as Patterson saw early the pressure of having tons of eyeballs on every shot you hit, he learned just how difficult playing on a major course can be.

With the course designed to create as much challenges for the competitors as possible, Patterson shot a 78 on the first day of the tournament on Thursday but followed it up with a 93 on Friday. He didn’t make the weekend cut.

“It’s the hardest test of golf I can ever imagine,” Patterson said. “I thought I played great on Thursday, I felt I could have been three or four shots better but I missed some opportunities and took some risks I shouldn’t have taken. After the second hole on Friday I just thought ‘I can’t believe I have 16 more holes of this.’ I didn’t know how I was going to do it. The mental anguish when you don’t play well in those types of tournaments will eat you alive. It’s a whole different type of golf. You can’t miss a fairway or miss a green if you want to score well. It makes it really hard on you.”

His struggles never deterred him, however, keeping things in perspective and appreciating the fact that he was able to play in the tournament.

“My caddy — who is my niece’s boyfriend — told me he learned more from watching you and how you managed yourself despite the torture I was feeling inside,” Patterson said. “He told me I didn’t give up, I kept a smile on my face and kept waving to the crowd. I was able to keep it together no matter how hard it got.”

It took time for Patterson to adjust to the course. He learned that the U.S. Senior Open rough required one shot to clear the grass around the ball and a second to get it on the fairway, how the bunkers “were like cement” and how different the greens play compared to other courses.

He tried watching some of the pros to see how they did things, picking up some of the moves the veteran players were using.

“I don’t know how they do it,” Patterson said. “I was watching Robert Karlsson hit balls in the bunker and seeing how he did it but I couldn’t figure it out. They talk about how you have to play different quadrants on the green on the tour and it couldn’t be more true. If you’re off at all, which I was on Friday, you miss the right spot of the green and it’s a double bogey just like that.”

Hoping to one day play in a major again, Patterson is using last week’s experience as a learning experience. With the course bringing out every golfer’s weakness and exposing it, he’s hoping to work on the things he feels he needs to do better to make a better run next time.

Learning to deal with the pressure of a major tournament is something he learned to deal with and would be more prepared for if he gets an opportunity like this again.

“Any flaw in your game is exacerbated tenfold,” Patterson said. “You can’t fake your way around those courses. You’re either on or you’re dead and I was dead on Friday. I have to work on my consistency and learning to play with all the cameras around. Your body knots up pretty quick and it took me five holes on Thursday to not pay attention to that stuff.”

Getting to meet all the golfers participating was half the fun for Patterson. He got tips from Fred Funk, played a practice round behind Darren Clarke and got to ask Vijay Signh for tips, to name a few.

He stayed in a hotel where most players stayed at, giving him extra time to chat with them and get tips to improve his game.

“You live for this stuff,” Patterson said. “I’m in the middle of all these guys and all I’m thinking is I don’t want to hurt anyone with an errant shot. Watching them hit golf balls, you see how they got there. Walking into the lobby in the morning and seeing 15 tour players within 40 feet of me was super cool. They didn’t act like I shouldn’t be there because I was an amateur, they answered questions and signed autographs. It’s going to be one of those things I never forget.”

Now that he’s had a taste of the bright lights, Patterson is anxious to keep working and get back to another major in the near future.

He’ll be competing in tournaments throughout the summer to continue working on his game in hopes of qualifying again next year.

“I’m so motivated to get back,” Patterson said. “Once you get a taste of what it’s like, it’s a little more fuel to the fire to get the kinks worked out and sure up my game. Hopefully, I can forget about last Friday, learn from it and move on.”

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