Geoffrey Sisk Pre-Championship
JOE GOODE: Good morning once again. We’re pleased to be joined by Geoff Sisk, whose road to Merion is the very embodiment of the U.S. Open Championship. Merion will be his seventh U.S. Open appearance, and in the five of the last six previous championship appearances the Temple University graduate made it through both local and sectional qualifying, a feat he accomplished again this year.
Geoff, who’s played in the Web.com Tour and made the cut twice in ‘99. And in 2004 he is a resident of Marshfield, Massachusetts, and a six time winner of the Massachusetts Open.
Geoff, you expect a lot of cherry black and white following you out there this week?
GEOFFREY SISK: I certainly hope so. It was 25 years ago, maybe 26 years ago, that I graduated from Temple. It’s nice to be back in this area. I played the golf course here back in ’89 at the U.S. Amateur, played one practice round, one tournament round. And I remember quite a bit of the golf course, but not as much as walking around yesterday, where some of the holes were a lot longer than I remember way back 25 years ago.
Q. Is this a dream come true for you? The U.S. Open hasn’t been here in more than 30 years, is this a dream for you to be doing this, in a sense in your backyard where you went to college?
GEOFFREY SISK: I wouldn’t say as much as a dream. It is a great opportunity. This is a great, great golf course. Anytime you play the U.S. Open you always are playing, not always, but some really great tracks. We didn’t play much in college. We never played down here in college. We played some other golf courses that were close to our area, I was out in Ambler. But I’m looking forward to playing. It’s not an overly long golf course, but it’s going to be the longest 7,000 yard golf course that I think that I’ll ever play.
Q. Talked to any of your college friends that maybe played here to get some familiarity with this course?
GEOFFREY SISK: I have not. I probably should have to get some type of advice where to hit it. It’s obvious what I’m going to have to do on this golf course is hit it straight. The rough, and I’m not that strong in general, is pretty difficult. And I’m not going to be able to reach a lot of greens. If I do hit it in the rough on par 4, I’ll have to do more chipping out. I’m going to have to hit it straight out here, that’s all.
Q. When you were at Temple at the Ambler campus, what courses did you normally play and what was your home golf course when you played for Temple?
GEOFFREY SISK: Our home golf course was Eagle Lodge, I think it was owned by Cigna and the course has changed its name. We played White Marsh Valley, excuse me if that’s incorrect. But we used to play the Philadelphia IVB Classic back in the ’70s. Towards the end, when I was about a senior, we played Old York Road, which we were allowed to play in practice at their facility. Which is right around the corner from where I was right out in Ambler.
Q. This is your seventh U.S. Open. Obviously going through local and sectional qualifying is as tough as it gets. What do you attribute the fact that you’ve been able to do this five times, lots of people, very few spots?
GEOFFREY SISK: To be honest with you, this is my sixth time of having to go through local and sectional qualifying, sorry to correct you, but get it straight, at least. It will be the seventh time to play.
I go into these qualifiers with very little expectations. There is a spot available whether it’s two, three or four spots. Most of the time I’ve qualified when there’s been minimum of three, maximum of five. And it’s kind of the same thing at sectional qualifiers, when all I can do is just do the best I can and go out.
A lot of times when you go out and play you think you have to shoot 8, 10, 12 under to get through our sectional qualifiers. Not as much the local, but the sectional, two rounds of golf. Two great golf courses where I played every year, actually four great golf courses, the Old Oaks and Century and then Canoe Brook, the North and South golf courses. And you don’t have to go super low. And I think sometimes that mentality of going out to play golf, playing one shot at a time, taking the opportunities when they arise and trying to make a birdie. But you don’t have to think that if you don’t make a birdie on one hole you’re out of it. You don’t have to shoot 12, 13, 14 under. It’s usually a good quality field, not like Columbus areas where you have 20 guys, maybe 30 Tour guys, yeah, it may take 9, 10 or 11 under to get through. You still have good quality players, but not as many.
Q. Can you talk about kind of what your routine is, your day to day life and how much golf you play in between there, because I don’t think you’ve won on Tour since ‘99?
GEOFFREY SISK: That’s correct. I had my Nationwide Tour status in ‘98 and 2000. And then I had my PGA Tour card in 1999. Then I had a number of years where I played some developmental tours up in Massachusetts, and had success up there, and was very pleased with it.
Then I had four years of Nationwide Tour card. I’m 48 now, I lost my status back in 2011, I just didn’t perform as well as I would like. My own fault. I started panicking a little bit, I started pressing quite a bit, not making the putts. Because I know what it’s like to lose, whether it’s the Nationwide Tour card or for the Web.com Tour card. And my PGA Tour card, what you’re relegated to doing, if you want to keep playing, you either do Monday qualifiers, you write for exemptions or you play in some local state Opens, to try to keep sharp.
Basically this past year was more or less a sit down year of trying to figure out what I was going to try to do for my golfing career. I’ve made some comments along the line that I’ll continue playing golf as long as I felt that I was making progress and then I did the best I could and if I finished so far down the pack, hey, I can accept that fact that I didn’t perform as well as I’d like.
My performance was good, but compared to the younger players that are coming out, great golfing ability, equipment is helping quite a bit, I could say enough is enough and I choose a different direction.
With my story, I’m a lot more fortunate than most that my wife does pretty well for a living. My wife’s name is Denise. It’s afforded me the luxury of continuing, I wouldn’t say so much the dream, but my job. Golf we know is very, very expensive. She’s been willing to help raise the kids but allow me to continue playing. So far I’ve been doing okay.
This past year was difficult, where I took the winter off, trying to figure some things out. I’m a year and a half away from turning 50. There’s that opportunity for that Senior Tour, but it is just an opportunity. You still have to qualify for it. I wouldn’t be exempt right into the Senior Tour, due to my career money, which is a little over a hundred thousand, I think, on the PGA Tour, but there’s that opportunity and I’m not ready to stop yet.
Q. After that sit-down year, what does this do for you qualifying mentally in terms of getting your career back on track?
GEOFFREY SISK: You know, it could be a huge confidence booster for me. Some of the story which is I signed up this year with not as much as of the thought of playing Merion, but playing in a U.S. Open, just something to add to my schedule. And this could be big. I know it’s going to be difficult. And I know what I signed up for to play in U.S. Open conditions, you’re taking a golf course, and making it a par 70. You’re taking some typical par 5s, and making them long par 4s.
Hopefully I play well. I have nothing to lose in this whole situation. I have everything to gain. If I finish last, I finish last. If I finish middle of the pack, then fine. If I make some extra money then I can go try some qualifiers. That’s great, too.
I’ve done it all at the U.S. Opens, I’ve shot in the 80s, mid 70s, not in the 60s yet. Three putts, four putts, I’ve had it all. All I can do is go out and do the best I can.
Part of the issue I had back in 2011 was the enjoyment was out of the game again, because of the stress I caused for myself of losing that status. What was going to happen? What am I going to do? How am I going to attempt to make a living? I’m going to try to enjoy. It’s difficult if you keep hitting it in the rough and you don’t get it on the green, where’s the fun part of that. It’s an opportunity and I’ll see what I can do about it.
JOE GOODE: Do you think about the history coming back to Merion, Hogan and Jones and Trevino, how much does that weigh on you as you think about your U.S. Open experience?
GEOFFREY SISK: Quite a bit, you know. Everyone has seen the picture of Mr. Hogan hitting the 1 iron, I believe, on 18. All I can say is that this is a great venue, great golf course, it’s going to be exciting.
JOE GOODE: Thanks for being with us. Good luck to you.