Former MLB All-Star Hasegawa Qualifies For U.S. Amateur
August 11, 2017
The SCGA hosted eight U.S. Amateur Championship qualifiers, as some of the finest golfers began their journey to the 2017 U.S. Amateur, held at Riviera CC and Bel-Air CC here in Southern California Aug. 14-20. Three men advanced out of each qualifier, but only one has previous experience at the pinnacle of another sport. Shigetoshi Hasegawa pitched nine seasons in the MLB with the Angels and Mariners, earning an All-Star bid in 2003. The right-hander retired in 2005, but as it turns out, his sporting career was not over just yet. We caught up with the ex-big leaguer on the eve of his debut in another spotlight.
You were out there with predominately younger players who are used to the format of two rounds in one day. Were those 36 holes of qualifying taxing?
“I was certainly the old guy. My goal was just to finish the 36 holes standing up. Obviously I was thinking about the score, but I had to just complete the round. Luckily it wasn’t super hot like the last time I tried to qualify, so my legs held up and I was able to get into the clubhouse in one piece.”
What kind of experience do you bring from your background as a professional athlete?
“Well, I’m not going to have the same nerves as some of these young kids. I used to get really nervous back in high school in Japan while I was playing baseball because everything was under a microscope. Since those days I’ve never been nervous, even in my time in the big leagues. I used to pitch in front of 50,000 people so I think my nerves will be fine and I’ll have an advantage in that sense.”
You’ve approached the pinnacle of two different sports; Major League Baseball and now amateur golf. Similar paths to get there?
“Yeah, kind of. If I can make the U.S. Open that would top being in the All-Star Game for the MLB. I don’t think I’m at my peak for golf just yet, but hopefully soon. My goal is to make to the match play portion of the upcoming event. I’m not saying that I was lucky to qualify, but I do know that I’ve got to go out there and prove I belong. The next step after this is to make the Senior Tour.”
Did you want to be a MLB player or a golfer growing up?
“To be honest with you right now – if I knew about golf in my younger days, it would have been a 50/50. The game isn’t as popular as it is in the states. There aren’t many kids playing golf in Japan. With Hideki playing well, hopefully that will attract more kids to the game like Ichiro did for baseball.”
How often did you play golf while in the big leagues?
“When I was with Seattle, they encouraged us to play golf. If we had an early tee time, we wouldn’t stay out drinking too long! It’s also a good way to avoid burnout, especially as a bullpen pitcher because you have to be ready every day. It’s tough to think about baseball all the time.”