CASHIERS, N.C. – Everywhere Buzz Fly goes, he hears the same thing: Is that your real name?
“My dad’s nickname was Buster, so they used to call him Bus,” said Fly. “So they got Buzz from that. I’ve had that name ever since I was a baby. People never forget my name.”
Fly, 58, of Memphis, Tenn., certainly is generating some buzz at this week’s USGA Senior Amateur at Wade Hampton Golf Club. On Wednesday, he advanced to the semifinals with a 5-and-3 win over Patrick Tallent.
It’s his best showing in the Senior Amateur. Two years ago at Kinloch Golf Club outside Richmond, Va., he lost in the first round.
Fly played golf at the University of Mississippi in the mid-1970s and played two years on the PGA Tour in 1982-83 before he realized his game didn’t stack up.
“I came home and started working,” said Fly, who operates a warehouse distribution business.
Recently, though, Fly has enjoyed some success in local and Tennessee events. He is a five-time Memphis Senior Amateur champion and he claimed this year’s Tennessee Senior Match Play Championship and Tennessee Golf Association/Tennessee PGA Senior Players Tournament.
Perhaps serving as a volunteer assistant golf coach at the University of Memphis the past three years has paid off. Fly’s youngest son, Jonathan, was a standout for the Tigers, winning the Conference USA title in 2011, the same year he won the Tennessee State Open and Tennessee State Amateur. Because the Tigers had a limited coaching budget, Buzz offered to help out head coach Grant Robbins. After all, he figured, he was coming to watch Jonathan play anyway.
“I enjoyed that,” said Fly. “The kids responded.”
Jonathan, who played in two U.S. Amateurs, is now on the Hooters Tour, where he has made seven cuts, with three top 10s. He also advanced out of the first stage of European Tour Qualifying School last week. He is also entered in Web.com Tour Q-School, which begins its first stage of qualifying next month.
Fly’s oldest son, Stephen, earned All-America honors as a 4x100-meter sprinter at Auburn University.
Now dad will be seeking a national championship.
Feeling Right At Home
Autumn in Oregon tends to be damp and rainy, which happen to be the conditions Pat O’Donnell played in on Wednesday. The 59-year-old from the Portland suburb of Happy Valley plodded through wet weather in defeating David Szewczul, 5 and 4, to reach the semifinals.
“Duck weather,” said O’Donnell. “Yeah, it does feel like Oregon.”
Heavy rain delayed the start of the quarterfinals by 4 hours, 15 minutes and there were still spots on the course that were soggy.
O’Donnell competed in similar weather at last year’s Senior Amateur at Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, N.J., where he advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to Doug Hanzel, 3 and 1.
O’Donnell felt better prepared for the weather this week.
“I don’t play a lot in it,” said O’Donnell of the rainy conditions in Oregon. “But I can play in it.”
On Tuesday, O’Donnell had to complete three matches, including his first-round matchup against Mike Raymond that had been suspended due to darkness.
“That’s the hard part,” he said. “We had to play our last four holes [on Tuesday]. You sleep overnight on that and it’s really hard.”
Thompson’s Run Ends
Ray Thompson never felt like a 56th seed, even though that was his position in the draw after he struggled through a first-round 81 in qualifying. The 61-year-old from Drexel Hill, Pa., rebounded nicely with a 74 to make match play, then knocked off three opponents, including sixth-seeded Randal Lewis, the 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, and eighth-seeded Brady Exber.
“I would like to think I am a little better than that,” said Thompson of his 81, which came during Saturday’s downpour. “As long as you make match play, I don’t care what seed you are. You have a chance to win this tournament.”
Thompson reached the quarterfinals, where he ran into stroke-play medalist Chip Lutz, who made six birdies in a 4-and-3 victory.
Still, Thompson was pleased with his play and by virtue of making the final eight, earns an exemption into next year’s Senior Amateur.
After graduating from Florida State in 1973, Thompson played professionally on various mini-tours and qualified for the 1976 and 1977 U.S. Opens. He landed a sponsor who was in the oil business, but when that industry suffered hard times in the mid-70s, Thompson was forced to give up his dream of playing professionally.
He went into the restaurant business and eventually into finance. He regained his amateur status in 1978. Work and family obligations kept him from competing in national competitions until he turned 50 and began playing senior events.
“I said I was going to try and get good again,” said Thompson, who lives 5 miles from Merion Golf Club, site of this year’s U.S. Open. “This was my third Senior Amateur and I’ll get a fourth next year. I’ll keep trying to improve and maybe I can get to the semis or win it next time. I’m not giving up.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.