|- A Long Weekend in Nantucket|
|- By Contributing Writer Sean Melia|
Brandon Johnson and Jake North both arrived on Nantucket for the US MidAm hoping to play good golf and enjoy the experience. “Making matchplay would be a dream come true,” Jake said after qualifying. Once he arrived, he said he felt “spoiled. Like a PGA player” The USGA pulls out all the stops, from premium golf balls on the range to free food to endless snacks on the course.
Brandon knew he wanted to “have fun and stick to the routine” no matter what. Brandon marks his golf balls with a small, simple smiley face. Two dots and a curved mouth in one of the balls’ dimples. A reminder to have fun, no matter how much fog rolls in and how long you have to wait to play some golf.
Both men had their first round scheduled at Sankaty Head Golf Course. However, Jake didn’t hit a single shot that opening day. “I hung out in bed watching the Ryder Cup,” he said. Fog had rolled into the eastern side of the island, delaying play and leaving Jake reading text updates from the USGA that continued to push his afternoon tee time back further and further. When he finally made his way to the course, he hit a few balls and heard the horn blow three times at around 5:00pm, effectively ending the day of golf for everyone. “It felt like a Halloween movie when I was on the range in the fog.”
On the other side of things, Brandon spent his entire day at Sankaty Head Golf Course. His 7:23am tee time was pushed back 40 minutes, however, two on course fog delays and two more delays where the field was pulled off the course, turned his round to a nine hour marathon through dense fog. “A lot of people want to control the weather. But you can’t.” Fog is a maddening element, as there is no way to really predict when it will clear. At certain points, parts of the course looked playable, but just across the street, the rest of the course was socked in. Brandon finished his first round with a respectable 73 considering the stop-start nature of the round. He never played more than ten holes uninterrupted.
While Jake spent all Saturday in bed enjoying the American destruction of Europe in the Ryder Cup, his Sunday was spent playing 34 holes of golf. “I’ve never been more tired.” Due to the delay the previous day, Jake had to play his round at Sankaty Head and then hop in a shuttle for the 20 minute drive across Nantucket to Miacomet, the public course co-host for the MidAm. An excellent course, and one that Jake found very challenging in the gusting winds of Sunday afternoon. His 74 at Sankaty Head gave him a bit of hope, but it was about all he could muster; he said he couldn’t imagine shooting anything lower. Meanwhile, the talent in the field was apparent to him when his playing partner fired a 68 and made it look smooth and easy.The ride from Sankaty Head to Miacomet sucked the energy out of Jake. “I put every ounce of energy at Sankaty. I hopped in the shuttle and tried to eat some lunch. I was exhausted. I’ve played 36 holes before, but never had to grind over every single shot and focus so hard.” His disappointment in his Miacomet round was soothed when news made it to him that his beloved Bengals were beating the Steelers and it looked like they would likely win. “That made me feel a lot better.”
Unfortunately, for Jake, the first 16 holes at Miacomet did not go as well as he had hoped. After being called off the course due to lack of light, he knew he wasn’t going to live the dream of making match play. An early ferry ride in the morning meant he had to make the tough decision to withdraw with two holes remaining to play. Jake was not the only one in that situation. That’s the downside of having a major event on an island - people need to get off the island, and it isn’t the easiest of trips.
While Jake was out grinding on Sunday, Brandon had the day wide open. A 5:45pm tee time at Miacomet meant he could enjoy some island time. Breakfast and a short range session in the morning was waylaid by a flat tire after hitting a pothole. True to his cool, focused attitude, Brandon didn’t seem too bothered by the small incident. With such a late tee time, Brandon knew he’d be playing golf on the third day of the MidAm, he joked that in 2017 a weather delay also pushed the MidAm second round into the third day, meaning he could say he made it to Monday in both MidAms he played. A steady three holes on Sunday night set Brandon up for a chance to make matchplay. He sat at +3 after 21 holes. A solid 15 holes on Monday would give him a fighting chance.
Brandon fired a 73 at Miacomet, a valiant effort, he even had an outside chance of making match play if he holed his 75-yard wedge approach into his 18th hole. While that might seem like a long shot, a few hours later, Hayes Brown snagged the final match play spot with an eagle on the 15th hole at Sankaty when he holed a 98 yard shot. Brown went on to reach the semi-final as a 64 seed.
Jake’s dad caddied for him, giving him some perspective on the rounds. “I soaked it up with my dad caddying. We were standing on the range and it looked like these guys were on a business trip. I turned to my dad and said, ‘What are we doing here?’” Jake’s mom and sister also made the trip out to watch him play and enjoy a trip to the east coast. Brandon and his wife Susan celebrated their first wedding anniversary on Nantucket. While golf is the central focus of weeks like this, the experiences with family always seem to shine through. There were plenty of wives and girlfriends caddying for players and plenty of other parents and friends following various golfers around Sankaty Head and Miacomet.
One thing is certain, both Brandon and Jake are already eyeing Erin Hills for the 2022 MidAm. At the very least, they won’t need to book a ferry trip.