U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Oklahoma's Hughett Looking to Make National Splash
September 19, 2016 | ST. LOUIS, MO.
By Tom Mackin
Michael Hughett has won 19 Oklahoma State Golf Association championships, more than anyone else in that organization’s 106-year history. But what he really wants to do is add a national title to his impressive golf résumé.
The 58-year-old resident of Owasso, Okla., took another step in that direction on Monday in the 2016 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at Old Warson Country Club, defeating Stan Namola of Beaver, Pa., in 19 holes.
Hughett was 1 down on No. 18 when he made a 10-footer to save par and force extra holes. On the 386-yard first hole, he made a difficult 25-foot putt for a birdie to win the match. “It was anything but straight,” he said. “When it got about halfway there I said, well, that better hit the hole or it’s going to go about 6 feet past. Luckily it went right in the middle.”
Hughett has advanced to match play in two of the three previous U.S. Senior Amateurs, losing in the Round of 32 in both 2013 and 2015. In 2014 at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, Calif., Hughett triple-bogeyed his 35th hole to end up in a playoff with 14 players for 12 spots, then hit his tee shot out of bounds in the playoff and failed to advance. He also played here at Old Warson in the 1999 U.S. Mid-Amateur, his ninth time competing in that championship, losing in the first round of match play.
“I always struggle with match play,” said Hughett. “To me, match play is harder than stroke play because you never really know what the guy you’re playing is going to do. You think you’re in the driver’s seat, and then you walk off a green losing the hole. You just never know. I guess that’s what makes it exciting.”
This summer marks the 20th anniversary of a memorable summer for Hughett and his family. Michael played in the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Hartford (Conn.) Golf Club, his brother Brian qualified for the U.S. Open at Oakland Hills and their father Bob qualified for his only U.S. Senior Amateur, at Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown, Mass.
“That was a surprise for him to qualify because he didn’t start playing golf until he was 25,” said Hughett. “He just kept working at it and got to be a 4 handicap. I caddied for my brother at Oakland Hills. He probably would have made the cut if he had a decent caddie.”
Hughett’s father still plays up to four times a week near his home in Green Valley, Ariz., and Brian, a pro at Norfolk Country Club in Norfolk, Neb., qualified for the 2016 Senior PGA Professional Championship in Port St. Lucie, Fla., this November. They will both have words of encouragement for Hughett as he moves toward his goal of winning a national championship – in which he could face Bryan Norton, his former college roommate at Oral Roberts University, in the Round of 16 on Tuesday afternoon.
“I’ve never really thought much about winning a national event until I see guys I know I can compete with winning themselves,” said Hughett. “An editor of a golf publication in Oklahoma said I needed to add one big title to all of my Oklahoma titles. I read that and thought, that’s right, I do. If I really want to put my resume out there, I have to win more than state golf association titles.”
“You only have so many opportunities to win something like this,” said Hughett. “It used to be if I won a couple of matches, I was pretty happy, but I’m not going to be satisfied with that. If I play well, I can compete with anyone. You just have to keep it together and hope the putter stays reasonably hot.”
Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.