The news feed on Facebook bears a lot of crazy things - people taking selfies of their busted
faces and broken bones, women in their 50's posting pictures in their bikinis back in their 20's,
and the never-ending ugly feet by the sea pictures. So, when I saw a picture of Ryan Howison
and his family drinking beers after missing a flight to Europe, I didn't think much about it.
However, when I saw a picture of Howison standing in front of a golf leaderboard two days later
that showed he qualified for the Senior British Open, I yelled out, "You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding, Me!"
Howison, who was a baseball teammate of mine at UNC, qualified for a major golf tournament
and was getting the chance to play on the Old Course at St. Andrews, which is universally
known as the home of golf. He was going to play on the sacred grounds of Scotland in the
Senior British Open.
How the hell did this all happen?
"Last year when I watching it on TV, I thought I should try to qualify, " Howison, 51,
said from his home in Jupiter, Florida. "If for nothing else, to at least be comfortable that I
gave it a shot vs.wishing I had. Especially since it was going to be played at St. Andrews."
That would be great and all, but Howison was working full-time as a financial advisor and
not pounding ball after ball as he did when he played professionally a decade ago. There
wasn't a lot of time for practice and trying to get ready for the type of game he'd have to play
in Scotland was a challenge.
"There aren't many links style course in Florida, especially since it rains here during the
summer and courses don't allow for any roll," Howison said. "In Scotland, balls can roll 100
yards. I started practicing three weeks prior to the trip."
Howison teed it up on one of the four local course used for qualifying. His game was
sharp, as was his mental toughness. With a spot in the Senior British Open within his grasp,
Howison came up clutch, carding a 1-under 70.
"Not that one qualifying round means a lot, but to birdie the final hole to get into a playoff,
then birdie the first playoff hole to earn one of the of the seven spots in the Open, was a great
feeling," Howison said.
Howison was playing in a field that included the great Tom Watson and Bernhard Langer.
Mark O'Meara, Vijay Singh, Tom Lehman, and lovable John Daly was part of it, too. And
there was Ryan Howison - a guy who played baseball, not golf at UNC, getting after it in a
"I had the goal of going over to qualify and now I had," said Howison. "I was looking
forward to running into players I hadn't seen in years. I actually didn't know how many would
even remember me but surprisingly, guys I didn't know all that well were coming over to
congratulate me. That makes you feel good," Howison said.
Howison walked-on and became the starting third basemen on the 1989 UNC team that
won the Atlantic Coast Conference and earned a trip to the College World Series. The next
year he turned pro - in golf. He won three tournaments on the Nike Tour and earned a
shot on the PGA Tour where success doesn't come easy, especially for a kid who didn't
even play in college.
But now he was in the Senior British Open, playing as a re-instated amateur on the hallow
grounds of St. Andrews, some 10 years after playing with the big boys on the PGA Tour.
"It was a very cool experience," Howison said. "There are many blind shots and you can't see
most of the bunkers which you need to avoid," he said. "I had to putt one time from the fairway
from 60 yards from the green."
Howison couldn't shake off the rust in the first round, posting a 5-over 77. He found his game
in round two and was 3-under through 13. However, he couldn't get the putter to fire up some
late round magic and Howison finished with a level par-72. That wasn't good to play on the
"Unfortunately, I missed the cut," he said. "Overall, I left the event feeling like I could still
compete - if I didn't have a day job," Howison joked.
Asked if he ever thought about what would've happened if he concentrated on golf instead
of baseball at UNC, Howison didn't take long to react.
"I do and I'm so glad I didn't," he said. "My experiences being part of UNC baseball are
some of the best of my life. I loved the team aspect and the relationships created that have
lasted 30-plus year. Never once did I wish I played college golf. And it makes a better story
that a baseball player played on the PGA Tour than an All-America golfer did," Howison said.
And Ryan Howison can also say he's the only person to play in the College Baseball World
Series, golf on the PGA Tour, and compete in a senior major championship. That's a damn