Q & A with Jason Buha
By Terry Moore
In November, Michigan native Jason Buha qualified for the regular PGA TOUR in 2000. Now living in Atlanta, GA, Buha earned his coveted card by putting together rounds of 69-66-69-66-70-71--411 at the Doral Resort and Spa in Miami. A second team All-America at Duke in 1997, the 25-year-old Buha competed in 1999 on the Hooters satellite tour. He won the last event of the year on that circuit, placing 12th on the Hooters 99 money list. Before joining the Tour in January, Buha talked at length with Michigan Golfer editor Terry Moore. Here are excerpts of their conversation.
MG: Jason, tell us about the final round at the Q school. How bad were the nerves and how much pressure did you feel?
Buha: The nerves really werent that bad. I knew I just needed to go out there and do what I had been doing in the last five days. I'd been playing well and there was no reason I shouldn't continue to play well. It was really just a matter of whether or not I was making putts; it really wasn't a matter of hitting the ball well. I just took a pretty good attitude going in that last day; thinking to myself to go out there and do what I had been doing the last five days and let that take care of business.
MG: Your first four rounds you were all under 70; you went 69, 66, 69, 66. At that point I guess it would be obvious to be a little cautious and to maybe play more conservative. Did that creep into your mind or was it just the matter of the last two rounds not having the putts fall?
Buha: No, I don't think I played cautiously. Actually I probably played a little too aggressively to start out my fifth round. I tried to hit in two the par five 10th hole, which was the first hole of my round in the fifth round. But my second shot went into the water left and behind the green. I just felt my attitude was go out and do what I have been doing the whole week, when I had been taking chances where I felt chances were not ridiculous or by any means not fool-hearty. That's why after the second shot I tried the same play. I then hit another shot that I thought was good but that ended up going too long, bounding over the back of the green and again into the water. As it turned out, I had to actually make quite an up-and-down save to start my round with a double bogey. That might've been the key hole for the week if I hadn't maintained my composure.
MG: Explain your mindset on making the top 35.
Buha: Well, you have to go out there thinking not just to be in the top 35 but actually to win the tournament. Sometimes saying to yourself to make the top 35 is setting your goal too low. Bad outcomes can occur and then you have little margin for error. Whereas if you set your goals higher and then you miss it by a little bit, you have a more breathing room there.
MG: Speaking of missing it, explain how you missed out on qualifying for the Tour last year?
Buha: I'm a victim of the "application got lost in the mail." Last year, on the same day I received my Q school application form, I immediately mailed it back to the Tour, using regular first class postage, along with my $1000 check. I assumed for weeks that I was all set and would be hearing any day of my final instructions. One day, I decided to call the PGA TOUR and inquire into my status. That's when I found out they never received my application. Moreover, there was nothing I could do about it since I made that call one day after the deadline. So I had to wait another year to qualify. You can be sure I used a guaranteed receipt mail this year!
MG: How would you describe your game? What are your strong points and where have you progressed as a player?
Buha: You know, people have asked me that quite a bit in the last couple months. I can't really pinpoint one thing. I think I have been driving the ball well lately. When I play my best golf, I drive the ball pretty well because it sets me up from there on. I've been putting well for the past year. I used to be a bit streaky with my putting but I've become a consistently good putter rather than just a good putter. When I have one of those great putting rounds is when I have my low rounds; and when I have my bad putting rounds they're still not as bad as my bad putting rounds use to be. That is probably one of the biggest differences in my game.
MG: When you hit it well off the tee what would your average distance be?
Buha: Distance wise, I probably average somewhere in the 270 yard range.
MG: What is your 5-iron distance?
Buha: I hit a 5-iron about 195 yards.
MG: What is in your bag?
Buha: I carry Ping ISI (black dot) irons, pitching wedge through 3 iron. I play Callaway 4- and 3-woods, a Titleist 975 D driver, with Grafalloy stiff shaft, and a Titleist putter a Scotty Cameron Newport mid-slant.
MG: And your wedges?
Buha: My 56 wedge is a Titleist Vokey design while my 60 is a Cleveland model.
MG: Your wife, Ashley, caddied for you this past year in several events.
Buha: Yes, she caddied for me in the last two rounds of my Hooters and she caddied for me in all three stages of qualifying school.
MG: Describe a little bit about having your spouse as your caddie?
Buha: There is no question that she's my best friend and she is just great. She just knows what to say. We have a wonderful relationship obviously off the golf course and she just really knows me very well. Ashley has been around me playing golf enough to know how I feel out there in certain situations. I can't say much more than that other than it just doesn't seem like the wrong word ever comes out of her mouth. Maybe it's because she's my wife but she is really a great influence on me out there. She keeps me focused when I need to be more focused and she keeps me loose when I probably need to be loose.
MG: Did you meet at Duke?
Buha: We sure did. We met mid-way through our sophomore year at Duke. We are the same age.
MG: And what is she doing with her career?
Buha: She is an investment banker, a senior analyst for an investment bank in Atlanta. She graduated with a double major in French and history with a minor in business management. She then was hired to be an investment banker.
MG: Looking back a few years, can you identify a breakthrough point when you knew you had the game to compete at a higher level.
Buha: I would say that at the Western Amateur in August 1995 my game really came together. I made the Sweet Sixteen at Point O' Woods with rounds of 70-73-67-70-280. I had a great match against Christian Raynor where I shot something like 64 to his 65 and the match was all-square after 18 holes. I won the match on the 22nd hole. Robert Floyd then beat me 2 up in my next match. Looking back, I can say that tournament was a breakthrough point for me and my confidence.
MG: Describe your golf upbringing in Michigan. When did you start and who were instrumental in you becoming so passionate about the game?
Buha: I actually started when I was 7 years old--as far as I can remember. My dad cut down a 3-wood and a 5-iron for me, and that was pretty much the start of it. My Dad, my brother, and I all played golf together. Growing up in Taylor, we would also just go to the local driving range and spend lots of time hitting balls. As far as my swing, Ive been essentially a self-made golfer. I guess it's the result of watching some of the best players in the world and studying what they do and just a lot of my own research. For sure, I was always helped by the watchful eyes of my Dad and brother out on the range.
MG: Where did you go to high school?
Buha: I went to high school at Farmington High. I played on the golf team as a freshman when it won the state title. Later I won the state individual trophy in the state finals. I have a lot of good memories about golf in Michigan.
MG: Jason, your first PGA Tour event was the Sony Hawaiian Open, in which you finished tied for 53rd. Was that a momentous occasion in your golfing life? Did you learn a particular lesson or two that weekend?
Jason Buha: Going into my first PGA Tour event I didn't really know what to expect. I have to say it was a little strange hitting balls on the range on Monday next to major tournament champions that I had previously seen only on television. Fortunately, I had met Billy Andrade about a month ago and had the opportunity to talk to him and get a little advice on some of the intangibles of life on the PGA Tour. It also helped that my mentor on tour is Jeff Sluman, who also gave me some advice and played a practice round with Billy and me on Tuesday. Playing with those guys and then going on to make the cut, even though I didn't feel I played very well, made me realize that I definitely belong out there. The "Awe-Factor," as I would call it, wore off rather quickly as I realized that golf is the same game anywhere I play it, just with different names on the leader board.
I have to say that I don't believe that there is any greater way to make a living. When I was asked about the pressure at Q-School I told everyone that I really didn't feel that much pressure. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. At the time I could honestly say that I had felt far more pressure many other times in my golfing career than that week. Having said that, I can now see why so many people who have been out on Tour dread going back to Q-School. From the moment you get to a PGA event everything is taken care of for you. You are treated like a king. From Balata practice balls to all you can eat buffets, it is very different from the Top-Flite range balls and the garden variety fast food establishments I experienced while on the Hooters Tour.
I have worked my whole life to get where I am now, and I believe this is only the beginning. It's great to be on Tour.
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