Anchorage golfer Jordan Miller made the big-time this week — he was the subject of a story in Golf Digest.
It was an all-too-familiar story for Alaskans, one that reminded us of how short our summers are, how cold this spring has been and what we do in the winter in order to play summer games like golf.
The story talked about how Miller, 31, hit golf balls inside a dome all winter and then battled cold and wind on Wednesday to win the U.S. Open qualifier at the Palmer Golf Course.
What it didn’t talk about was how Miller, a former Division I college golfer at Missouri-Kansas City, actually improved his game since moving to Alaska four years ago.
“My game is probably better than it was four or five years ago,” said Miller, a ConocoPhillips financial analyst from Oklahoma who kept playing after being transferred to Anchorage.
“I found a way to manage my game living up here,” he said. “It’s just kind of different than it is down south.”
Miller’s challenge was clear when he made the move north: “How do I not lose ground on something I’ve worked on since I was a kid?” he said.
He met the challenge by turning winter into a time to work on technical skills and fundamentals. During the six to seven months when outdoor golf isn’t possible in Alaska, Miller watches video to work on his set-up, does golf-specific workouts at the gym and hits tee-shots into a wall 90 feet away at the Fox Hollow dome.
The efforts have allowed Miller, the winner of the 2016 and 2017 Alaska state amateur stroke-play championships, to maintain a plus-1 handicap.
On Wednesday, Miller fired a two-under-par 70 to top a field of 11 golfers vying for a spot in the June 4 sectional qualifier in Daly City, California. He beat Adam Baxter of Anchorage by five strokes.
“Frankly, it was pretty miserable,” Miller said. “It was cold and windy — highs in the 40s and blowing 20 to 25 mph.”
The victory marked the second time in three years Miller has won the U.S. Open qualifier, which comes early in the Alaska golf season. He said he has modest expectations for next month’s sectional tournament in California, where he’ll face a much bigger field of golfers — probably none of whom spent the winter teeing up shots inside a dome like he did.
But Miller is happy with how his first competitive round of the season went.
“The ball was striking pretty solid, so a lot of what I was working on this winter is paying off,” he said. “My short game needs a lot of work. There’s not as much you can do for that in the winter — it’s different when you’re chipping and putting in the perfect vacuum of the dome.”
Jordan Miller 70, Adam Baxter 75, Michael Oldenkamp 77, Marcus Dolejsi 78, James Cable 80, Brad Ross 81, Bill Engberg 82, Zach Cowan 82, Toru Inatsu 83, Rick Lesslie 85, Tyler Young 85.