Cervantes would have loved St. John’s Dr. Jim Phillips, perhaps as much as his classic character Don Quixote. Conversely, there’s a good chance movie director Jeff Kanew could have made him a star by casting him in a leading role in Revenge of the Nerds.
How, you ask, can one person draw from such polar opposites? The answer is simple. Golf.
Jim Phillips is a lot of things. He’s a retired plastic surgeon. He has a BA. He has an MBA. He has a DDC, a LLN in international financial services. He’s a tax expert. He has enough letters after his name to play a great game of scrabble. He probably could repair your car if push came to shove.
There’s one thing he doesn’t have. He doesn’t have one ounce of athletic ability.
“I’m a nerd,” he said candidly, and in fact, one could almost detect a sense of pride. “I was always picked last for a team as a kid. I remember my cousin, who was a good athlete, telling me the only reason he picked me was because I’m kin. If there was a blind kid who wanted to play, he would have been picked before me.”
So, what does a nerdy kid do with his spare time when he grows up? He plays golf. What does he do when he retires? He tries to get good. Not just good, but real good. At the not-so-tender age of 61, he has set a goal. This summer, he fully intends to submit an entry application to the FSGA for a qualifier for the Florida Senior Amateur Championship. All right, you say. Consider this, today his handicap hovers around the 20 mark. Hey Doc, golf is a tough game, you know.
“I’m 90 percent confident that I can get my handicap into single digits by the deadline and 80 percent certain I can reach 7.4,” he says.
What spurs Phillips on is an article he read a while ago in one of the monthly magazines. It had to do with breaking 100. He read it, followed the instructions, practiced and he was soon breaking 100 regularly. The same has happened with the section on breaking 90. In fact, he’s even ventured into the lower end of the 80 spectrum on occasion.
“I’ve found that you can intellectualize the game to certain extent from 150 yards in,” he explained, “and being intellectual, I’ve been able to do it.”
Now comes the tricky part. The good doctor has to find a more athletic bent. He’s stepping back a tee box to a point where those 200-220-yard drives don’t play as well. He’s going to have to stretch it out a bit.
“Years ago, I weighed 299 pounds and I weigh 225 today,” he said. “I know that when I get to 200, I’ll have more flexibility.”
Hopefully, that will translate into more distance as well. It will give his support team that includes Mary Haffeman, North section PGA Teacher of the Year, more to work with. Thus far, she’s performed miracles with Phillips’ short game.
If by the slightest chance, Phillips doesn’t reach his goal – and after talking with him for five minutes there’s little doubt he will – he’s going to keep going.
“Oh, no,” he said resolutely, “I’m not giving up golf.”
Quixote would have picked Phillips as his sidekick ahead of Sancho Panza in a heartbeat. And Phillips would have kicked the Alpha Betas collective butt as well. Check out the good doctor’s progress at his website www.floridaseniorgolfer.com.
The FSGA Winter Series has drawn to a close with the finale held at Brooksville Country Club, north of Tampa.
Jerry Rose, of Sarasota, capped a successful winter campaign by leading wire to wire with rounds of 72-70 for a 2-under-par total of 142. He finished five shots ahead of Port St. Lucie’s Peter Navaretta, who was second at 147. In a tie for the third spot at 149 were Sebring’s Pete DeLongchamp and Howard Logan, of Naples.
Navaretta’s second-place finish gave him 545 points for the series, and as the series winner he has gained entry into the 95th Florida Amateur Championship to be held at The Bear’s Club in Jupiter.
Bill Moore notched his second Senior Division win of the Winter Series season. The Tampa resident fired rounds of 67-74 – 141 to hold on for the victory ahead of hard-charging Kim Schwenke, of Temple Terrace, who recorded rounds of 73-69–142. Bradenton’s Jim Stone finished in solo third position going 70-74 for an even-par 144 total.
Gordon Blakeley, of Lutz, amassed 485 points during the Winter Series and as a reward, he will be in the field at the 31st FSGA Mid-Amateur Championship, to be held at the West Course at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach.
In the Super Senior Division (ages 65 and up), John Begley, of Sarasota, came back from two strokes down after the first round to follow his opening 78 with a 75 for a 153 total and a one-shot win ahead of Max Matthews, of Andalusia, Ala., at 154, and two strokes ahead of third place finisher Tom Austin, of Lake Wales.
Austin’s third-place finish secured the top spot in the season-long point race, as he amassed a total of 365 points.