Anthony’s Practice Motto: Just Play – and Win October 10, 2017 | Atlanta, Ga. By David Shefter, USGA

Jason Anthony was in a celebratory mood after defeating four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith on Tuesday. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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Ben Hogan used to hit balls until his hands bled, seeking what he famously called “the secret in the dirt.” Vijay Singh was known for practice sessions that often lasted until darkness.

Most elite golfers live by the credo, practice makes perfect.

Jason Anthony is the antithesis of that philosophy.

Practice? Anthony’s idea of a warmup session is to hit four 8-irons and four 4-irons and head to the first tee.

That might not sound like a winning formula, but the 34-year-old from Fairfield, Calif., makes it work.

“I hit anywhere from eight to 15 balls on the range and just go out and play,” said Anthony. “I’m not going to change [the routine].”

Not even for this week’s U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. After eliminating four-time champion Nathan Smith, 6 and 4, in Tuesday’s Round-of-64 match at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course, there was no reason to alter the process.

Anthony registered six birdies over the 14 holes to set up a Round-of-32 match Wednesday morning against medalist Bradford Tilley.

Anthony had nothing but high praise for Smith, one of the championship’s most decorated players.

“And probably one of the nicest guys, too,” he said of the three-time USA Walker Cup competitor. “I mean, what a gentleman. I was lucky enough to play the stroke-play rounds with him, so I got to know him a little bit. I think it made playing against him a little easier.

“We just had a good time and I played well.”

Most Mid-Amateur competitors find it difficult to juggle practice time with job and family responsibilities. Many play only on the weekends, but when they get on-site at a competition, their routine changes.

Not Anthony’s. After beating Smith, he headed to the clubhouse for lunch, a beverage and some relaxation.

“It’s just golf,” he said. “I’m not going to change what makes me successful. I’ll go out and have some fun.

“I’m working six days a week [and] I’ll play in about 15 to 20 tournaments a year. That’s about it. I just play golf.”

It’s an attitude Anthony has developed since quitting professional golf five years ago and regaining his amateur status, following a four-year stint on PGA Tour Canada. What made him give up?

“I lost all my hair,” Anthony joked. “It became a job. I started … finding different ways to miss cuts by one [stroke].”

Anthony returned to Northern California and began managing a successful car-wash business that his grandfather had started. The business has 12 locations throughout Solano County. Anthony took a respite from golf, but over the past three years, his competitive itch has returned.

This is his third consecutive U.S. Mid-Amateur start and he hopes to build off the previous two. He lost in the Round of 64 at John’s Island Club in 2015, then was eliminated last year by eventual champion Stewart Hagestad in the Round of 16.

He kept to his golf philosophy of less is more, but added a workout regimen to get himself more physically fit.

“I really got tired and it really got to me, especially 36-hole days with the humidity,” said Anthony, who has won a pair of Northern California Golf Association events in 2017 and is in position to be named the association’s player of the year. “It wore me down. My body kind of gave out on me. You’ve got to be good for six matches. I’ve got five more to go and I’m looking forward to it.”

Now that’s a routine he could get accustomed to.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

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