Tim Hogarth is one of the very best amateurs playing the game in America today. Yet outside of California, he is largely unknown.
But if you live in the Golden State, you know who Hogarth is. Because in a state rich in amateur golf depth, Hogarth is, and has been for a very long time, one of the best amateurs ever produced by California. He isn’t as well known outside the state, however, because he only rarely takes his game on the road. USGA events, yes, but otherwise, he is content to stay close to home to compete.
And compete he does. Just recently, he won the Southern California Mid-Amateur for a record fifth time. His record in Southern California is remarkable. He is the only player to win the SCGA’s “triple crown” – the SCGA Amateur (2004), SCGA Mid-Amateur (1999, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2012) and the California State Amateur (1999). He has also won the Southern Cal Public Links title three times, the Los Angeles City Amateur Championship six times, the Kelly Cup Invitational six times, the Pasadena City Amateur Championship three consecutive times, and one Stocker Cup title. In all, you have a portrait of one of the California’s all-time bests. He needs only to win the SCGA Match Play and Four-Ball to become the only person to have won every scratch event offered by this venerable golf association.
On the national level, when he has played, Hogarth has also played well. In addition to his Publinx title, he was runner-up to Nathan Smith in the 2010 U.S. Mid-Amateur, where he was the stroke play tri-medalist. He has 35 USGA appearances, but he has yet to qualify for the U.S. Open, which he dearly wants to do. He came close once, losing in a playoff to qualify for Shinnecock Hills in 2004.
Hogarth is a true public links player. He took up the game at age 11 and learned to play on the Van Nuys golf course, a par-54 muni course that is clearly on the wrong side of the tracks in Los Angeles. From Northridge, Calif., Hogarth graduated from Cal State-Northridge in 1990, where he was a two-time All-American. He turned pro after graduating, but after beating it around the California mini-tour circuit for a brief period, he was reinstated in 1996 and promptly won the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. He defeated the late Jeff Thomas 8 and 7 at Wailua Golf Course in Hawaii.
Today, his home course is a daily-fee course – Brookside, the 36-hole golf facility that wraps itself around the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. And, as befits someone who has built a career in the health-food industry, Hogarth recently got serious – very serious – about his own health and stamina. He took up a regimen of kickboxing called Muay Thai, and almost three years later, he believes he is in the best shape in his life.
He is likely the only elite mid-amateur in America, if not the world, who actively practices the martial arts. Stamina is not an issue for Hogarth, as evidenced by the fact that he carried his own bag for 47 holes on the next-to-last day of the 2010 Mid- Am. However, the regimen does involve some risk: he broke his hand last year while training, which sidelined him for a good bit of the 2011 competitive season. Before you consider emulating Hogarth, consult your physician.
So why doesn’t he hit the national amateur circuit? For one thing, he believes there is plenty of good competitive golf in California. When your competition has been the No.1 amateur in the world, UCLA sophomore Patrick Cantlay, you know you are in a big game. He also feels a sense of loyalty to the Southern California Golf Association, which runs first-class events. And finally, he has two young sons who he does not want to be away from very often. This is a serious golfer with his priorities in place.
When asked to describe Hogarth’s game, his great rival to the north, Randy Haag, observed, “It’s like a pro game. Maybe better.” The only inconsistency in Hogarth’s game, historically, has been his putting.
“I obviously had won some big tournaments, but I can be honest in saying I wasn’t a good putter,” Hogarth told Southland Golf in 2010. “It never felt like I had the ability to come to the golf course every single time and putt well.” To this day, he says he “continues to search, just like everyone, for the magic method”.
Age 50 is five years away, but it’s already on Hogarth’s mind. Turning pro is a viable option in his mind. And other than qualifying for the Open, he would like another shot at winning the Mid-Amateur and a return trip to the Masters, which he played in 1997 by virtue of his Publinx title. He called his Mid- Amateur loss to defending champion Nathan Smith in 2010 “a bitter pill,” but also characterized Smith’s final match as ‘the best I have ever seen.” Smith won 7 and 5 in the 36-hole final. In the morning session, despite big Long Island winds, Smith did not make a bogey, and Hogarth never led in the match.
Expect to see Hogarth at Conway Farms near Chicago next September, trying to win the Mid-Amateur and seeking that return visit to Augusta. He’ll be the one carrying his own bag, without a sweat.