After almost 15 years of trying, Bowling Green State University’s head golf coach John Powers is one step away from competing in the U.S. Open.
He got to Monday’s final qualifier by shooting a 71 in local qualifying at Beechmont Country Club in Arcanum.He finished tied for sixth. The final qualifier will be 36 holes at Brookside Golf and Country Club in Worthington and Lakes Golf and Country Club in Westerfield. The U.S. Open will be held June 17-20 at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.
Powers is 33 years old and is a 2010 graduate of BGSU, where he had 10 top-15 finishes during his college career. Getting to this point is unprecedented territory for him, different than a lot of the usual tournaments that he competes in.
“There are a lot of tour guys there, so it is a different kind of feeling going into it than a lot of the tournaments I play in around Northwest Ohio here. But I also know that if I go down there a play well, I have a shot at this thing so it will be a great learning experience playing with the pairing I have,” Powers said.
Powers will be playing with Keegan Bradley, a PGA Tour golfer who has won four tournaments on tour, most notably the 2011 PGA Championship.
The other golfer in his pairing will be Eric Steger, a 2011 Ball State graduate who is still trying to make it on tour.
“Between him (Steger) and Keegan and his standing in the world rankings, it is going to be a really fun day to be a part of that,” Powers said.
Other PGA stars that will be playing for a U.S. open spot at the Ohio locations include Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman and Padraig Harrington.
Playing with players of this caliber isn’t completely new to Powers, who has seen his share of talent at the college level, as a coach and as a player in his original quest to get on the tour. But being able to see these types of players in the current golf scene and see them up close will be an advantage for Powers in multiple ways.
“Well the really cool thing is a couple of them are probably going to come down to watch. So it is a fantastic opportunity for an unfiltered, unobstructed view of some top professionals,” Powers said of his BGSU players coming to watch the tournament. “To be able to reflect on it after I play and talk about the things that we observed and saw throughout the course of the day on Monday it is going to be a great learning experience for everybody.”
Powers said that his number one priority is being a coach for the BGSU players. He got his start in college coaching at St. Bonaventure from 2011-14, did a stint at Cleveland State and was hired in 2018 at his alma mater.
His game isn’t the main focus of his career anymore, Powers said. That is what makes his qualifying for this tournament for the first time at age 33 so remarkable. Powers believes that is a testament to the different way that a player can win at the game of golf.
“I think the biggest thing is the work done on the mental side of the game that when I am with our team and they are practicing and training, competing, all of that stuff. Even though I am not swinging a golf club it is very helpful from the mental side. It really can show how important the mental side of the game of golf is. It can make up for some of the physical things that maybe aren’t in tip-top shape,” Powers said.
After getting through the qualifying round, Powers shared this sentiment about his game with his BGSU players.
“Just having gone through the MAC Championship with our guys and then playing and talking strategy and being in pressure-filled situations, even though I wasn’t playing,I thought it was great preparation that paid off from a mental standpoint. It is something that I like to share with them when we come back into the team environment,” Powers said.
After this tournament is over, Powers will compete in others during the summer with other players like him who are coaches from across the country. He’ll also compete in the Ohio Open, a tournament that he has grown very fond of.
“The Ohio Open comes up at the end of June and that is always a fun tournament to compete in because it is not only us teaching pros but you add in some of the mini-tour players and some of the college players. So you kind of get a little bit of everybody out for the Ohio Open which is a lot of fun to see where everyone’s game stacks up at that point in time,” Powers said.
Powers has also put effort on top of his playing and coaching to try and grow the game in Bowling Green and Northwest Ohio by leasing the Dixie Driving Range in Bowling Green.
The motivation for Powers to help out with the range stemmed from the fact that he wanted more control of where his players could practice in the transition seasons when the golf courses weren’t quite open. But that initial motivation turned into something bigger.
“We’re doing a bit of junior golf clinics and camps and family group instruction. It is just a great place to come out and get some sunshine and some exercise and it doesn’t matter how good or bad anybody is at the game you can have some fun out here,” Powers said. “I really think it is something that I can do my part to keep growing the game of golf and I think this is going to be a big part of that.”
Throughout almost everything that Powers does, golf is at the center of it. Most of his time is spent helping others with the game. On Monday, Powers will be able to completely be able to focus on his game and playing in a big-time tournament.
“It is kind of nervous excitement, I guess. It is a really cool opportunity,” Powers said. “Playing in this tournament is kind of like a dream.”