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FLORENCE – Trent Alexander admits he doesn’t play golf as much as he used to now that he has joined the real world after college, but the 30-year-old Florence native makes the most of his limited time.
His practice sessions are shorter, but says he works smarter. His course management has improved with age, but that doesn’t mean he’s lost his distance game. He just knows when to dial it up and when not to.
And just maybe, Alexander’s overall game is getting better with age. Last year he qualified for the US Mid-Amateur for the first time, and he recently qualified for the US Amateur Championship – widely considered the Holy Grail of amateur golf.
“This is the biggest tournament I have ever qualified for,” he said recently while juggling dad duties with his two young children. “Last year was previously the biggest getting into the US Mid Am. But this year kind of tops it.”
Alexander is one of seven players from Alabama to qualify for the US Amateur. He will join 48-year-old Chris Devlin (Hoover), Thomas Ponder (Dothan), Will Patrick (Oneonta) and Chase Kyes (Birmingham) as players from the state who qualified for the US Amateur.
Trent Alexander joins a much younger US Am field
College stalwarts Gordon Sargent (Vanderbilts/Birmingham) and Nick Dunlap (Alabama/Huntsville) qualified for exemptions into the field. Two other players – Canon Claycomb (Alabama) and Brendan Valdes (Auburn) are also in the field of 312 players who will begin 36 holes of qualifying Monday and Tuesday trying to play their way into the Round of 64.
Cherry Hills Country Club and Colorado Golf Club near Denver are hosting the qualifying rounds. The field will be cut to 64 after Tuesday’s round.
The US Amateur continues to skew younger and younger and players Alexander’s age or older are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to qualifying. Only 47 of the 312 qualifiers (15 percent) are over the age of 26, including 61-year-old Gene Elliott of Iowa and 60-year-old Rusty Strawn of Georgia.
Devlin (UAB) and Alexander (North Alabama) each turned professional out of college but regained their amateur status and now play recreationally.
Alexander said there’s no big secret as to how he has been able maintain a top-tier game while juggling family and work.
“Working with the right coach is part of it,” he said. “Practicing – even though it is a limited amount – and having a patient wife who lets me play a few more competitive tournaments than a lot of guys my age.”
Alexander said he only visits his coach, Craig Bocking, a couple of times a year.
“But he is so good at getting to the root of the problem,” Alexander said of the Huntsville-based pro. “I started working with him about three years ago and I have felt good about my game ever since.”
Working on distance, stability
He still maintains a workout regime, utilizing the gym at his workplace several times a week. He said his workouts focus on maintaining distance and stability.
“That has helped me a little bit to reduce injury and stay relevant distance-wise with the younger guys,” he said. “I don’t think I’m any shorter than I was in college.”
Alexander said he has never been to Colorado and is unfamiliar with playing at that altitude. To prepare, he was scheduled to meet with local teaching professional Daniel Creel of Wohali Golf in Greenhill to get on a launch monitor that can adjust to Denver’s elevation. From that data, Alexander will be able to chart his distances and then adjust with his longtime friend and caddie Michael Noe during his practice rounds in Colorado.
“It’s very exciting to still be able to compete at a very high level, but still the most important things are your family and the time you spend with them,” he said.
That said, winning the US Amateur could be life-altering, Alexander said. “To go out there and some of the doors you could unlock if you go out there and have a really good week are as exciting as any part of the golf career I have had.”
Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News
Featured image of Trent Alexander courtesy of the Alabama Golf Association