There was Adam Scott to officially get things going for the media Monday morning at the 2013 U.S. Open at soggy Merion. Two hours later, Ernie Els stopped into the media center to keep the hype going.
And between those two behemoths . . . Geoff Sisk.
Hey, that was Sisk’s reaction, too.
“When they asked me to come into the media center, I thought they were kidding,” Sisk said.
As far as you can get on the other end of the spectrum from Scott and Els, you will find Sisk. While many of those teeing it up in this week’s U.S. Open tuned up for the season’s second major at the Memorial or the FedEx St. Jude Classic, Sisk was in his native Massachusetts, at Hyannis Golf Club, winning the rain-shortened Cape Cod Open. While many of those teeing it up at Merion Golf Club have comfortable pro-tour status somewhere or designs on securing it, Sisk has perspective.
“Let’s face it: (with today’s game) these courses are way too hard, way too long for my game,” he said.
That’s not to say he still doesn’t have an abundance of passion for the game and a competitive fire that still burns. At 48, Sisk cares deeply and appreciates the many opportunities golf has afforded him, even if much of it has been far from the spotlight of the PGA Tour. It’s just that he’s not playing week-to-week these days, having lost his Web.com Tour status after the 2011 season. When he signed up late to enter the U.S. Open qualifying, he did so almost on a whim.
“I thought I was done doing these things,” he said.
Guess what? He was selling himself short, because Sisk not only proved he still had the competitive juices, he showed enough game to earn another ticket to the national open. In a field of 156, Sisk is one of 18 competitors who can lay claim to having made it through local and sectional qualifying, a feat that is admirable on the one hand, but second-nature on the other. It will be his seventh chance at the U.S. Open; six of those times, he has gone through local and sectional.
His U.S. Open debut was in 1995, at Shinnecock Hills, followed by Pinehurst (1999), Olympia Fields (2003), Shinnecock (2004), Oakmont (2007) and Congressional (2011), where he was exempt through local. Though he has made the cut only twice (1999, T-30; 2004, T-40), Sisk clearly has got a knack for this grueling type of golf. The only problem is, the bombs-away, birdie festivals that populate the Web.com Tour have never fit his style of game, so Sisk hasn’t steamrolled consistently at that level. Though he has held Web.com Tour status in six seasons (the man can lay claim to having played on the Ben Hogan Tour, the Nike Tour, the Buy.com Tour and the Nationwide Tour) and for one PGA Tour season (1999), Sisk since turning pro always has played somewhere.
He was a dominant player on the now-defunct New England Pro Tour, even at a time when a young Sean O’Hair was teeing it up there every week. Had Sisk not made it into the field at Merion, he was prepared to make another run at history on the local level. He has six Massachusetts Open victories, tied for the most with Alex Ross – Donald’s brother – but that tournament is ongoing (Tuesday-Thursday), so Sisk had to call in his regrets.
Not that he isn’t where he wants to be; it is the ultimate test. To his core, Sisk embraces the challenge.
“But in some way, I’m not as nervous this time,” he said. “I don’t have (playing) status, and that’s my fault. I should have played better. I’m going to enjoy the things I can’t control. There’s no fear, no pressure.”
Sisk considers the daunting numbers – some 10,000 competitors signed up, and only 80 earned spots through qualifying – and deservedly feels proud. He doesn’t deny, however, that what led him to enter the process was a more practical explanation. He was eager to play anything, anywhere. With no tour on which to play, Sisk figured his entry fee of $150 at the minimum was going to get him a few rounds (practice and competitive) at The Pinehills, a superb 36-hole facility in Plymouth, Mass. Then he got some practice rounds and competitive rounds at Old Oaks and the Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y.
Next up, at least a few rounds at Merion.
“Not bad for $150,” Sisk said, laughing. “But, really. I figured at the worst, I needed to get a competitive round under my belt. That’s what led me to sign up.”
Sisk figures that some in the media will see that he graduated from Temple in 1987 and assume that means he’s familiar with Merion. Not true. The Owls played elsewhere in the Philadelphia area, so Sisk’s only experience at Merion came at the 1989 U.S. Amateur, when he fell short in a playoff to qualify for match play.
“I don’t remember a lot about it, but I’m looking forward to seeing it,” Sisk said.
Fact is, Merion will be added to his already-impressive list of U.S. Open venues, but that leads him to suggest that he might create another entry on his bucket list. “Some day I’d like to get the chance to go back to all of these U.S. Open places I’ve played (Shinnecock, Pinehurst, Olympia Fields, Oakmont, Congressional, Merion) and get a chance to see them without all the hoopla, the grandstands, the bridges, the crowds,” he said.
Too bad there isn’t a qualifying process to get that chance, because Sisk probably would be considered a favorite.