The Georgia Amateur Championship returns today to Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek golf course for the third time. The top amateur players will be there. That’s a group I used to include myself in (even if no one else did!), as a former version of my golfing self regularly competed in all GSGA events, including this championship exactly twenty years ago.
And then Settindown happened. Specifically, the Eighteenth at Settindown happened.
And it was there, some time in the mid-2000s, that my golfing life was divided in half. I came to the final hole of a three day tournament, having not played particularly well, and certainly with no chance of winning. I teed the ball up with high hopes, and fourteen strokes later, I picked the ball out of the hole. Well, not the same ball. It helps to lose one or two if you are going to make a fourteen.
I realize now that I was playing golf with only one real concern: the number on the scorecard. I had it all wrong for so many years. I wanted to play the hardest courses, from the longest tees, and then judge the experience only by a final number. But as Chris Lewis once told us: The Scorecard Always Lies. I was always interested enough in golf course architecture to recognize that a Donald Ross course was classic and fun and strategic, and a Rees Jones course was not, but it was still all about the score.
That fourteen liberated me. Instead of being angry and embarrassed, I had a beer and laughed it off, regaling friends with a shot-by-shot tale of the fourteen. I may have played a tournament or two after the fourteen, but that was the day I transitioned from competitive to recreational golfer. And then I soon began making golf photographs, and through the lens the true spirit of the game began to reveal itself to me. It’s a story that continues to unravel, a story I’m still trying to tell through pictures.
I like to think that my tournament photographs are informed by my history of playing competitive golf. I know what the players are going through. I recognize the tension and challenge and doubt that tournament golf promises. And I also recognize the exhilarations, big and small, along the way. I have documented many victories, some of them major, but it’s the in between moments that are most intriguing.
I look forward to walking the fairways on Saturday and Sunday at this years Georgia Am, with a camera instead of clubs. And that’s the great thing for me about photographing rather than competing: I’m guaranteed to make it to the weekend!