Puga is a ranked Southern California amateur golfer and former Bel Air C.C.,
(Los Angeles), caddy, who gained national prominence by winning the U.S. Mid
Amateur Championship at The Homestead in Virginia in the year 2000.
He beat some of the best amateur golfers there two years ago and will try to
repeat that performance upcoming this month, at the 2002 U.S. Mid Amateur
Championship being played September 21 -26th at the Stanwich Golf Club in
Greenwich Ct. Greg's year 2000 Mid Amateur victory earned him exemptions
into the 2001 Masters tournament, the U.S. amateur and Public Links
Championships in 2001, as well as a five year exemption into the finals of the
U.S. Open qualifying, and a ten year exemption into the U.S. Mid Amateur,
following that great victory. Greg is a featured story on Caddy Bytes, as
this Roosevelt (California) high school athlete 'earned' his way up the
competitive golfing ranks from the 'caddy yard'. Here is our
interview with Greg following this years U.S. Open qualifier at Woodmont C.C. in
Maryland in June where he shot 143 for 36 holes. (Which failed to qualify
for this years U.S. Open played at Bethpage Black on Long Island.)
CaddyBytes.com -Winning a national amateur
tournament of such prominence -the 2000 U.S. Mid-Am-that's quite a great leap
for a guy who was for some time a caddy at the country club level!? You're
more of a throwback to the 'old era of the 60's and 50's with a lot of those
golf professionals coming up through the caddy ranks!? When did you first
Greg -"I First caddied at
Annandale CC., then San Gabriel, went there mostly for tournaments weekends,
then more time working at Bel Air. I was at Bel Air about 7 years.
Worked mostly weekends and tournaments during the week."
that how you first learned/played the game?
Greg -"I was a football, basketball, and baseball player. I
did not even know about golf. where I came from was from East L.A., (Los
Angeles). I grew up in the same neighborhood as Oscar De La Hoya, and Mike
Garrett. Roosevelt High, in East L.A."
whole slice of Spanish Americana.
Greg -"Sure. And so being from that neighborhood, nobody
played golf. So the way I get interested, my ex brother-in-law, a weekend
golfer, I was spending the night at my sisters house, around 14 years old,
and he had to play golf the next day with his buddies and one of them couldn't
make the match the next day, so he asked me. (He was supposed to be
baby-sitting me at the time!) I could throw a football, baseball,
shoot hoops, but had never played golf. I played football in high school,
I was a quarterback and safety, I played both ways. So I couldn't
understand why I wasn't good at it. I couldn't understand why I couldn't
hit the ball as easily as I could throw a pass or hit a baseball. It
really frustrated me, and so I wanted (was determined) to be good at it."
long did it take you to get down to a low handicap?
Greg -"Three or four years later. I started at San Diego
State, then went to a junior college, where I could play more. Then
went to Rio Hunter Junior College, two years, then a scholarship to Cal State
Domingus Hills, played golf at both."
was your amateur playing career leading up to your winning the U.S. Mid Am?
Greg -"Before the year 2000, I didn't really win anything. I'd
come in second or third, but didn't really win anything. Southern
California, amateur stuff. I wasn't until I'd won the Champion of
Champions, the Southern California Pub-Links, the first tournament I'd won.
It was a four round medal play tournament. And winning that one gives you
an invite to play in the Pacific Coast Amateur, and that one was played at the
Olympic Club, (San Francisco), paired up with Tim Hogart, and I just started
getting better for some reason. That year then, I won the Inland Empire
Championship, a three round medal play tournament. And three weeks or so
later, I'm on a plane to the U.S. Mid-Amateur, to the Homestead in Virginia.
I ended up winning that. 36 holes stroke play, then match play -you have
to win 6 matches to win it all.
were some of the 'Thoroughbred' amateur players competing there in 2000 and
who'd you beat in your matches on the way to your Mid Am title? And what
was your pairing at the 2001 Masters?
Greg -Walker Cup players like Danny Green and John Harris competed
there that year. I beat Danny Green and Jeff Wilson, -Jeff was the
low amateur at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open (that Tiger won) there the same
year (in 2000). I beat him in the quarters. I was paired with -Seve
Ballesteros and Steve Stricker at Augusta.
(This interview was done at a U.S. Open Qualifier
played at Woodmont CC. in Maryland in June 2002.)
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