Dave Fardon spent much of his golf career as a 2 or 3 handicap, someone who could drive the ball long and straight but failed to take full advantage of his distance because of shortcomings with his short game.
For the first few years I was at Saucon [Valley Country Club], I was shooting anywhere between 76 and 80 but I was driving the ball like someone who would shoot 72. I was just terrible from inside of 150 yards, said Fardon, who serves as the caddie master at the Bethlehem, Pa., club that most recently hosted the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open.
Fardon, a native of Reading, Mass., recalled a series of events that pushed him to focus on taking the right steps to improve his game. An early April car accident just outside of Saucon Valley several years ago forced Fardon off the golf course for roughly five months. It was that fall during a round at Saucon Valley when he realized that he wanted to commit to becoming a better golfer.
I was playing with some guys on staff at Saucon and on one particular hole I hit a great drive, 280 yards down the center that left me an 8-iron to the hole, said Fardon. There were some maintenance guys behind the left side of the green and my shot one-hopped the green and almost struck one of them. I said to myself that I couldn’t play like this anymore.
Fardon turned to his best friend and golf buddy Doug Holub, the golf pro at Connecticut Golf Club in Easton, Conn., to help him fix his game.
He’s my best buddy. If I’m going to give anyone credit, besides myself, and my wife, it’s Doug. He told me a while ago that I was a lot better than I had been showing, said Fardon.
Turns out, Holub was right. Each Monday throughout the winterstarting in November 2009, Fardon would make the one-hour 20-minute drive to Woodland Park, N.J. The two would then spend two hours focusing on a particular aspect of Fardon’s game. He would take what he learned over to the practice area at Saucon, hitting ball after ball into a net in the dead of winter.
People would say, ‘You’re going to hit golf balls? What are you crazy? It’s 20 degrees outside.’ But that’s what I wanted to do and it worked out, said Fardon, who will be competing in this week’s U.S. Mid-Amateur at Shadow Hawk Golf Club in Richmond, Texas.
Last year, Fardon began to finally see the fruits of his labor, dropping from a 3 handicap down to the plus-1 handicap that he plays to today.
Fardon also credits sports psychologist Mo Pickens with helping him prepare for the rigors of tournament play. A well-known name on the professional circuit, Pickens works with PGA Tour players Zach Johnson, Nick Watney, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and Jonathan Byrd, just to name a few. The two get together when Fardon spends time working on his game over the winter in Sea Island, Ga. Pickens works with Fardon on things that often get overlooked, such as how to prepare for a practice round.
Fardon also credits increased confidence to go along with his continually improving golf game. Like many competitors, the 39-year-old did not get much time to prepare in the days leading up to his Mid-Amateur qualifier at Philadelphia Country Club, thanks to the effects of Hurricane Irene. He certainly did not allow this to become a deterrent to his quest.
I hadn’t hit a ball since Thursday. So I just went down there, hit about 20 7-irons, got to the first tee and went from there, said Fardon. I felt confident that day and felt for at least that one day (at the qualifier), I could do it and I kind of just kept that feeling for the whole time.
Fardon went out and fired a 2-over-par 73, good enough to earn him one of the eight available spots in the 264-player field. By making a par on his final hole, Fardon avoided going into a playoff.
While Fardon imagined he would have his fair share of supporters after qualifying, he was amazed at the kind words and encouragement he received, particularly from the Saucon Valley community.
I remember right when I qualified people here [at Saucon] telling me, it’s not cool because you’re the caddie master at Saucon Valley, it’s cool because you did this individually, said Fardon. That kind of switched me from the caddie master at Saucon qualified, to more like, Dave Fardon the golfer qualified.
With the U.S. Mid-Amateur about to become part of his resume and his golf game on the rise, he hopes that this is the start of a strong career at the mid-amateur (25 years and older) level. Fardon has his sights set on some of the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s best tournaments like the Philadelphia Amateur, the Philadelphia Mid-Amateur and the Patterson Cup, the GAP’s stroke-play event.
To be able to put ‘2011 US Mid-Amateur participant’ on my resume is a big thing for me. I’m exempt, said Fardon when discussing his prospects for future local tournaments. I’ve never been exempt from anything; that’s pretty cool.
Rich Conforti is the USGA’s summer online intern. E-mail him at email@example.com.