- Golfer Benefits
A portion of this interview with Driscoll is featured in the Fall 2023 edition of MassGolfer Magazine. The following is the full interview.
Mass Golfer: As runner-up in an historic 39-hole, two-day championship match with Jeff Quinney in the 2000 United States Amateur at Baltusrol, you were an invitee to the 2001 Masters, where you missed the 36-hole cut by one stroke. But in shooting a four-under-par 68 in the opening round while paired with Tom Watson, how did you react when you first saw your name on the leaderboard.
James Driscoll: It was a bit surreal in an entire day that seemed surreal. But it wasn’t like I felt it (being on the leaderboard for much of the day) was beyond me. Maybe it wasn’t like I was supposed to be there, so I did feel chills, especially after I holed that bunker shot on 16 and the gallery went crazy for a while. That got me to four under. When the fans quieted I will never forget my brother Bill shouting as loud as he could, “DRISCOLL,” and I laughed so hard to myself. For me, to be in that environment and get that kind of reaction from the fans, then from Bill, well, I’ll never forget it.
MG: Later in 2001 you turned professional and in 2005 you earned your PGA Tour card. You subsequently made the cut in 119 of 243 PGA Tour events, winning more than $5 million and losing twice in playoffs in 2005 and 2009. What is your biggest takeaway on your successful career on golf’s biggest stage?
JD: I look at my years on the PGA Tour as both a huge disappointment and a great accomplishment. A disappointment that I didn’t win or extend my career beyond the years I had out there; an accomplishment in finishing tied for the title after 72 holes on two occasions, just not being able to win the playoffs. How many of the hundreds (thousands??) of players on the Tour get into two playoffs? I’ve had my close calls, that’s for sure.
MG: You just turned 46. A belated happy birthday. Do you have plans to continue yourt competitive golf career, including the Champions Tour when you turn 50?
JD: I’m happy being very much in the moment, throwing my hat in the ring in a handful of PGA Tour Monday qualifiers, ramping up my game in little spurts. I’m enjoying not being in the 11-month grind like I was for 20-plus years. I like to think my day-to-day regimen is setting me up to have a fair chance, if compelled to try it, of getting on the Champions Tour. But that’s a long way off. I’m staying in shape, swinging the clubs regularly, trying to keep my game where it would be in place sand be ready if I shoot for the Champions the end of 2027.
MG: In 2020 you served as a volunteer assistant with the golf team at Brookline High, your alma mater. Are you doing any more with them and does becoming a mentor or coach interest you?
JD: I had little time to work with the Brookline High team the last couple years, but I’ve spent time with the kids at more practices this season. I really enjoy helping out. Being a coach continues to interest me. I love working with beginners and good players alike. In a perfect situation I could do some teaching, coaching and competing; the ideal balance. But IU don’t see myself as a 12-month coach at the college level or at a resort.
MG: You won a Massachusetts Junior (1993, Kernwood) and two Massachusetts Amateurs (1996, Myopia; 1998, Belmont). What is your fondest memory from each?
JD: Collectively, they were all huge confidence boosters in my development as a tournament player and getting me to the national stage. Kernwood reinforced my early belief that I could win a really important junior tournament (which led to his reaching the final of the USGA Junior before losing, 1 down). At Myopia, I remember struggling a little at the start of the afternoon round against John Curley, a real talent, losing some of my lead I had after 18, before a Charles River member, Joe Elliott, walked up to me and in the calmest voice said “Let your natural ability carry you” and I led the rest of the way. That loosened me up when I’d probably been swinging too hard. At Belmont I had a great match with Joe Keller. Coming down the last hole I had a 1 up lead when I air-mailed my approach shot into a flower bed behind the green. Facing a tight pin after my free drop, I hit a crazy flop shot to six feet, made the putt, and won the match.
MG: What impact did playing your earliest years as a junior member at Charles River Country Club have on your development into a top-ranked player at all levels?
JD: I can’t say enough about the support I received from the Charles River membership, especially when I first started showing some potential when I became a teenager, and the top players welcomed me into their games on weekends and holidays. They took me under their wing, showed me what good golf looked like and encouraged me every step of the way. The golf course itself also played a big part; a wonderful Donald Ross layout with the toughest greens anywhere, fast and with 12-foot breaks.