By Doug Gorman
When McDonough amateur golfer David Maddox hits his first shot off the tee in the U.S. Senior Open next week at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, he will be living out his golfing dreams.
That's because Maddox will be matched against the world's best 50-and-over golfers in one of the Champion Tour's Majors.
Maddox isn't in it for the money as an amateur, he can't win any, anyway.
He just wants to see how he can do on such a large golfing stage.
"It's going to be an experience of a lifetime," Maddox said.
Maddox was one of three golfers at the St. Ivy's Country Club qualifier to earn a spot to next week's tournament.
One of the first persons he shared his good news with was his 80-year-old uncle Jimmy Kite.
Kite, who played minor league baseball for the Yankees, didn't take up the game of golf until he was in his 30s, but also played in the U.S. Senior Open as an amateur back in the 1980s.
"He has been my inspiration," Maddox said.
Kite is still hard to beat on the links, often shooting below his age.
Uncle and nephew recently teamed together to win tournaments at their respective clubs.
"It's been great getting to play with him," said Maddox. "He means so
much to me."
Playing winning golf is nothing new for Maddox, who has been claiming club championships for more than a decade.
Maddox swung his first club 39 years ago as an 11-year-old when he started playing at a course where his parents were members in Texas.
By 13, he participated in his first tournament.
High school football is huge in Texas, and for a time he played that sport too in Plano.
Then he came to a realization.
"I knew I really wasn't fast enough or big enough to start," he said. "So,
I decided to stick with golf my junior and senior years."
It was a good choice.
Maddox's high school team won its district and went on to play for a Texas state title. It also opened the door for him to play in college.
Although Division I Baylor University gave him a chance to walk on and maybe eventually earn a scholarship, he signed with Cameron University in Oklahoma.
The NAIA golf power gave him a scholarship as a freshman, and he joined one of the nation's best small college golf programs.
The Aggies finished second his junior year, but won the NAIA national title his senior season.
"We just had a really good team," he said. "It was a great being part of that program,"
Maddox played for Jerry Hrnciar, who is still the head coach at the school in Oklahoma more than 30 years later.
"I still talk to him," Maddox said. "It was great bringing him up to date, and letting him know I am going to play in the U.S. Senior Open."
The business world has taken the talented amateur golfer all across the United States with stops in Texas and Iowa, in addition to Georgia.
It doesn't matter where he has played, he has usually been the best golfer on that particular course, and he has the club titles to prove winning club titles in every state where he has lived.
Earlier this year, Maddox won the Eagles Brook/Crystal Lake titles, shooting a 71/68. He also won the Heron Bay title in (2007) the Georgia National title (2008).
He added to his list of awards by capturing the Sun City championship (2009). En route to that title, he also set the course record of 63. A mark that still stands.
Most recently, Maddox won the Southern Crescent Golf Championship at Callaway Gardens. It is based on a point system where only a handful of golfers get into the event based on how they played in other tournaments.
Maddox is quick to point out that living and playing golf in McDonough can be challenging. The Henry County seat is also home to David Womack and Michael Standard, who are among the state's best amateur golfers.
"When you are playing against David Womack and Michael Standard, it is hard to win," he said. "I am the old guy, and they are young guys."
But getting into the U.S. Senior Open is Maddox's highest golf achievement to date.
In a U.S. Senior Open qualifier that included 41 pros and 52 amateurs, Maddox played some of the best golf of his life right up to the 18th hole.
That's when he three-putted.
"I played much better than the 70, but when I three-putted, I thought it was over.
The hard part was waiting. Maddox teed off with one of the early groups, and once his round was over, there was nothing more to do but hope for the best.
Maddox killed time by hitting balls at the course driving range, convinced he might have to land the third and final spot available in a sudden death playoff.
It didn't happen that way.
A couple of late golfers also in contention for one of those spots faltered, and that's when Maddox knew he was in the field.
Now, he can't wait to live out the experience.
"I am excited about going into the clubhouse, and listening to guys like John Cook, Mark O'Meara and Freddie Couples," he said. "These guys are from my generation, and here I am getting to play them."
Eagles Brook Country Club pro Alan Thompson, a former standout at Georgia State, will carry Maddox's bag at the tournament.
"Alan is a very smart player, and he is going to be my caddy," Maddox said.
Maddox and Thompson fly out on Sunday, play in a couple of practice rounds, then tee it up on Thursday in the first round.
The goal for Maddox is simple, make the cut. The top 60 and ties will be around to play on Saturday and Sunday, and Maddox is determined to turn his experience at the U.S. Senior Open into a long four-day weekend.
Should he be the low 72-hole amateur, he would also get an automatic spot in the Mid-Amateur later this summer. That's the country's most prestigious amateur tournament.
Womack won that tournament a few years back and received an invitation to the Masters.
Maddox, who serves as executive vice president at Phoenix Medical has never played the Toledo course, but in a twist of fate, his boss has.
"He has played it three times, and we have sort of walked through it, where to hit it, where not to hit it," Maddox said. "The practice rounds will obviously, be very important to me."
With his track record of winning golf tournaments at the amateur level, Maddox said he never really considered trying his hand on the professional tour.
"I have been a family man since I was 26, and never really wanted to do the kind of traveling that was required to play professional golf," he said. "I am one of those guys, who doesn't have to play every day. If I play once a week, and on weekends, and then in a few tournaments, that's fine"