Sam Randolph with ABS/ US Amateur Champion/ PGA Tour Winner

A special thank you to Sam Randolph Jr for taking the time to speak with me last week, and share his thoughts on both the game, the swing, putting, playing by feel, his experiences being low amateur twice in the Masters, receiving the prestigious award alongside Bernhard Langer and Jack Nicklaus in the Butler Cabin, and his amazing journey through the game.

Here is the first of a four installment conversation I had with Sam November 6th 2010.
Fantastic insights from one of the great persimmon players I have even had the chance to compete against…(very unsuccessfully!)


Sam won the US Amateur Championship in 1985, after finishing runner up in the US Amateur in 1984. Following one of the greatest collegiate careers in golf history winning 13 major collegiate events including the prestigious Sun Bowl, Sam breezed through the difficult PGA Tour qualifying getting his card in 1986, and won on the PGA Tour his first year… The Bank of Boston Classic.


Like Tiger Woods, Sam won the Junior World Championships at Torrey Pines, and was the NCAA collegiate player of the year
in 1985, a year that included Steve Elkington, Scott Verplank, Davis Love and other great players.

To give you all an idea of how good was Sam Randolph in the 1980’s… Sam played our host event The Fresno State Classic
one of the most prestigious collegiate events out west, at Fort Washington CC, host of several PGA Tour qualify schools over the years. I finished third place playing very good golf shooting a two under par total of 214, three shots behind Duffy Waldorf who would later win 4 times on the PGA Tour and finish 5th in the Masters in 1996. Duffy’s total of 211 would typically win this event easily in a field of 144 of the nations top collegiate players. HOWEVER…

Sam Randolph shot 200, beating Duffy by 11 shots :smiling_imp:

This of course was playing a set of Hogan PC’s and a Hogan Speed Slot persimmon with steel shafts. I would challenge anyone today with all the modern gear to go out and come anywhere near that score at Ft Washington.

I’ll try to get Sam on here to answer your questions after listening to the discussions, and I’ll present this four part series over the coming weeks.


I remember following Sam and Stadler at the Houston Open in 87. That was some great ball striking to watch.
Great interview. Thanks for sharing!!

That live interview was terrific.
I am looking forward to more of these.
Thanks a million.

Great interview Lag… this site is getting hotter as it gets older :wink:

Has anyone ever played a round with the pins pulled out, like on a day the course was closed? I thought that, and how Sam could gauge yardages visually within a 15 foot tolerance or better from inside 200 yards I found really interesting, because it shows how possible it is to completely play this game by feel as John Henrick discussed in his interview. Sam talked about a similar discussion with Jackie Burke also. I also found it interesting how important Sam thought it was to learn how to eliminate the left side of the course, and how important it was growing up on a course that had two holes with OB literally down the left rough line. We sure don’t see that on tour. Sam played a low power fade of the tee and was extremely long off the tee.

There’s a lot of gold in this discussion, and it gets more and more insightful into the nuances of the game as we get further into it. Each time I listen to it I pick up new things to ponder.

Just great stuff…thanks

Yep, just wanted to add my name to the list of those who thoroughly enjoyed the interview. :smiley:

Cheers, Arnie

Fantastic “part 1” of the interview Lag! I’m anxious to listen to the next installment!

Sam must certainly be one of the “greatest players many have never heard of”! His pre-tour accomplishments are mind-boggling. I hope he makes a run at the Champions Tour.

I recall reading in Jackie Burke’s book about how he would always estimate the distance to the BACK of the green (and the club that would hit it that far) and then simply use one less club, adjusting the swing as needed for the truer pin location. It’s such a great, simple tip. Seems Burke has a real disdain for players coming up short of the green.

Love the concept of pin-less greens. I’m convinced I’d score consistently better if I ignored the flag on all approach shots but my pea-brain has yet to allow myself to do it for 18 holes. One round on pin-less greens might be all the encouragement I need. :smiley:

I strongly encourage everyone to take a few minutes to listen to Lag and Sam.


I was fortunate to play with Sam a few times out on Tour…
A real gentleman who will still have a fine career ahead of him when he turns 50
I look forward to hearing the next installments of the interview…
There is always much to learn from fine players

Great interview. I liked all of it, and look forward to the next one.

What rich influences he had…Geiberger, Pate, Stadlers, etc. I wonder if his swing is similar in pattern or tempo to any of those? And it was interesting what he said , something like " with so many bets, I learned to just play each hole, and figure it up at the end."

Thanks Lag

correction …that should be Stocktons, not Stadlers…

What a great interview. Sam seems like a very nice guy and also very real person…open, honest, and humble. I hope you can get him on the Forum. It would be great to be able to ask him questions.

Thanks Lag for taking the time to conduct and post your interview with Sam.

Sam is logged in here, but he told me he doesn’t spend much time on the computer. If we have a bunch of questions for him,
I could open another thread for that purpose once we get a few questions going, and I am sure he would be more than open to answering them. Another option would be to get him on the new ABS Radio show, and we can get him to answer questions there… either by calling in… or, I could just read them off the site which might be easier for him. I think Sam spent more of his golf career perfecting shotmaking than typing on a keyboard… but I could be wrong!

Sam’s website is

He told me he’s just starting to get acclimated to the whole online thing… and that’s another reason we don’t hear from Al more than we do.

You guys are going to love where we go in the coming installments, as we really got into some interesting stuff. Sam’s thoughts on putting are really good… I even rolled a couple in today! :sunglasses:

Just to add my thanks to Lag for this and all the other interviews being done recently. This site is getting better and better. :sunglasses:

I listened to the interview again today, and I keep picking up things that are easy to pass over with so much information there.

Sam’s idea of hitting to a bulls-eye target into the fat part of the golf course. It seems obvious but I think this is something to ponder deeper. Rather than aiming down a line, and picking a club, the visual on a bulls-eye laid on the ground does give a different perspective. I can’t say I have ever had that exact image playing, and I wonder if I would shape my shots differently doing so both off the tee and into the green. Playing a practice round… where is the center of the eye in the fairway, and on the green?

The bulls-eye image tells us to hit all our shots not just straight but an exacting distance… even off the tee.

I remember playing with Jackie Nicklaus (son) and he told me the story of when he was caddying for his dad at Augusta, and on the 10th hole, Jackie handed his dad a driver, and Jack handed it back to him and said… “let’s stay aggressive” give me a 3 wood".

The idea here was that Jack would make a more aggressive swing with the 3 wood, than maybe trying to back off it a bit with a drive to turn it around the corner, which could risk hitting a quitting kind of hook shot, or even a bailout right.

Might be some value in getting some more insight into how Sam visually plotted his way around a golf course.

Am I losing it? I seem to have lost the link to the second part of the interview… I wanted to listen to it again. So far it’s my favourite part.

I wonder while I listen to this what Sam really did to try and regain form. Did he alter his swing too much? Or was it a case of physical form lost? He mentions trying a few things to save his back. I know he comes from an era where the reverse C was prominent. I’ve listened to Tom Watson talk a lot about this recently, and he does think that way of finishing would have hurt him if he hadn’t of started swinging ‘in a barrel’.

Sam seemed to almost pique too soon? I know putting will come and go, but to have that type of ball striking so early. It almost makes you wonder if having too much too soon can be harder for an individual to build on, or recapture down the road?

I appreciate Sam’s candor. It’s interesting to listen to him because he seems to be modest, and honest but obviously accomplished. That’s refreshing.

From the first two segments I think I like his idea of just aiming for the middle of the green (Unless, as he says you’re playing on crazy greens). I like his challenge of trying that to see if you lower your scores. Secondly, I got the impression he doesn’t think swing changes towards ‘conventional’ are a very good thing. :wink:

Thanks for the interviews Lag.

Both interviews are on the public forum board. Once I release the 3rd installment I put the second into the interviews section.

Sam had a 8 year run of amazing golf. Not many people even have 3 years. I told Sam before we did the interview that this would be more about why he was as good as he was, and not another “what happened to Sam” interview. They ran an article in Golf Digest around 1998 or so… titled… “The Can’t Miss Kid that Did”. So that story has been beat to death in my opinion. You could wonder what happened to Hogan after 1953 also winning only one more time at Colonial.

Basically there were two things… Sam had back trouble, and he then received poor instruction from a series of “famous” golf instructors. Bradley had a similar experience.

Most famous instructors become so because they work with a tour pro that then has success… but most of these guys were already good before they arrived … but something clicks, and then you have a famous instructor. If Tiger wins 2 majors this year, then it’s Foley who is the new craze. If Bradley wins 2 majors then I’m the new flavor. It’s really silly actually… but it’s easy for people, amateurs and pros alike to get caught up in this stuff… In his case, it was simply a recommendation from his management company IMG if I remember correctly. Trying to get just a little better seemed easy enough with a world famous instructor, but at 23, Sam was a bit naive… as most anyone would be. Sam was used to dominating, and I think he might have been a bit disappointed he only won once on the PGA Tour his first year out… when he was used to winning 30% of the events he entered. I know he was very confident, and I am sure he felt very confident going to work with Haney or whomever. O’Meara had just won the Masters, and so forth. (of course O’Meara had won the US AM without Haney)

I’ll be seeing Sam in a few weeks down in the desert, and I have not seen his swing in years… so I don’t know what direction he took… but from our conversations… it sounds like he changed the way he rotated his forearms which might have to do with a loss of compression if he didn’t get them loaded as he did before with the Knudson style takeaway he was so successful with… but this is only speculation on my part.

I know there were other factors also.

Ah, ok. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize he was a ‘sure thing gone wrong’ kind of story. I had no idea there was a history there of people asking him why he slipped.

What I mean specifically was…what mechanical thing went wrong with his swing. The reason I ask is because I actually believe that would be one of the most important things I/we could learn from someone who has been there, and can look back with all honesty.

I say this because: The most valuable things I know about the swing came from doing them right for a time, then doing them wrong, and figuring out the difference.

Someone like Tiger… I personally don’t think there would be a lot of honesty in that answer (Just my opinion). Sam seems very reflective, and honest.

I am going to bet you will be looking at his swing, and doing a pretty heavy comparison to what you remember from that era and you will probably form your own idea of what is mechanically good or bad in a matter of minutes.

I did really enjoy his thoughts on the swing, and just playing at that level. I got a kick out of your story as well… talking of some school players missing tons of greens but shooting sub 70. I can almost hear the ‘gall’ in your voice. :wink:

Oh yeah… my Scott Verplank story… him hitting 8 greens and shooting 66. I’m sure that kind of thing drove Hogan crazy also. It’s part of the game… I have now had three straight good putting rounds… so it’s fun of course to make putts… but I don’t stress about it too much anymore… I used to though! :imp: