The U.S. Senior Open Takes Place This Week at Saucon Valley C. C. in Bethlehem, PA
By Ryan Gager
“I put too much pressure on myself.” GOLFTEC Sarasota Coach David Hronek knew exactly what needed to change when he stepped to the tee at this year’s U.S. Senior Open Qualifier, his second attempt to qualify for this Major Championship. He’s faced the pressure of Major Championship golf, having competed in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, but the now 51-year old feels like the Senior circuit is where he can really make an impact. “This year I was more prepared for what I needed to do, so it was just a matter of staying patient and taking it one shot at a time.”
The Qualifying Round
Hronek shot a 2-under, 70 in his qualifying round, a number that got him into a playoff with three other competitors. It’s the number Hronek knew he needed to have a chance, but the round wasn’t without it’s ups and downs.
An opening blocked tee shot to the right followed by a mud ball second shot that ended up in the greenside bunker was less than ideal. Especially since Hronek considers the strength of his game to be his driver. However, he hit a great bunker shot to get up-and-down to save his par. “That save really calmed me down and let me settle into the round.” Hronek made the turn at 1-under and kept pushing on the back, making a pair of birdies to get to -3.
Then the golf course fought back as Hronek made a double-bogey at the par 3, 7th, his 15th hole of the round, knocking him back to 1-under. “At that point I knew I needed one more birdie to get back to -2 to have a chance.” He would bounce back and get that birdie on the next hole, and followed with a couple of pars to get in at 2-under.
Hronek was one of four to lead the qualifier at 2-under. With only two spots up for grabs a four-for-two sudden death playoff would ensue. A couple of pars kept Hronek in the mix with one competitor making bogey and bowing out. With three players left, Hronek had a chance on the third playoff hole with a short birdie putt, although it just slid by. “At that point I thought I’ve just blown my chance.” However, he was mistaken as the next hole he bounced back again to make a 35-foot birdie putt and his ticket was punched!
Confidence In His Game
At this level having confidence in your game is a must, and after that qualifying round, Hronek isn’t lacking. “I’m very confident. My game is in a good spot right now.” He admits that you go into a tournament thinking you can win, but that you also have to be realistic.
“I understand that I’m going up against the best Senior players in the world and they do this day-in, day-out, every week of their lives. But if I can go in there and play the way I know how to play, control my nerves and feel like I belong there, which I do, I can compete.”
Hronek also made an equipment change to Callaway, and admitted that it’s taken a little bit of time to get used to it, but now that he has, he feels like his equipment and game are both in a very good spot right now.
Playing With The Best In The World
He thinks about playing with the best often. He recalls watching many of these guys as he was growing up with the game. “I remember Freddie (Couples) hitting that shot on 12 at Augusta and it not going in the water. I remember Ernie Els willing his first U.S. Open, and Retief (Goosen) missing the putt at Southern Hills. I rooted against Bernhard Langer and Darren Clarke in the Ryder Cup because they were European players.”
Hronek recounts many stories involving some of the greatest to ever play. But then he takes a step back. “I also have to keep in mind that I belong there, and try not to be in awe.”
He recalls playing in his first Major, the 2014 PGA Championship and one of the more memorable moments he had there. “As I walked up to the putting green at Valhalla there were fans eight rows deep just screaming and asking for autographs and I looked at my caddie and said, ‘What do I do, I’m just a club pro?’ He said here’s a Sharpie, go to work. So I did, I started signing autographs and it made me feel like I was one of the guys.”
Hronek said that having been in positions like that before definitely helps him. And who knows, maybe after this week all those David Hronek autographs will be worth a lot more.