Andrew Bachelder, United States Marine, war hero, was severely injured in a mid‑air helicopter collision in Afghanistan years ago. He won the George W. Bush Presidential Centers Warrior Open in May and thus is in the field, invited to the field for the 29th American Century Championship coming up July 13 through 15 at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. He recently participated in a conference call with the media. Following are excerpts.
Q: Andrew, first, thank you again so much for serving our country. The question is, I think you were tied for 13th the last time you played. Will you be better prepared to perform in the competition this year after playing in 2016?
ANDREW BACHELDER: Yeah, I believe so. Playing in American Century Championship in 2016, it was one of the biggest events I had ever played in.
So, I started off bogey, bogey, bogey, and finished with 15 pars. So I got comfortable. I’ve been working on my golf game and ball‑striking. So I think with the experience of those type of nerves is going to help.
I was also on the show “Shotmakers”. Some may have seen it on the Golf Channel. But that also helped as well.
Q: Were you a little overwhelmed by the celebrities and athletes that were participating with you?
ANDREW BACHELDER: No, I don’t think so. I’ve been able to meet celebrities and athletes throughout my years and stuff. So I feel comfortable. But it’s a bigger stage. There’s more people around. There’s more on the line. And it’s definitely a different type of golf.
Q: Does the golf course management schooling that you’ve done help with your ability to score in competition?
ANDREW BACHELDER: The Golf Academy of America, it has helped ‑‑ not so much with my swing, but more my approach to the game, how I approach each shot and each ‑‑ and how I approach the round in general.
Q: Andrew, can you talk about the partnership that’s been created between the Warrior Open and the American Century Championship, and how that works out, and kind of what your expectations are for July?
ANDREW BACHELDER: I think they started the partnership four years ago, Steve, four or five, with the first Warrior Open winner got the invite. And then, so, that’s where my drive came from to win the Warrior Open was to be at the American Century, because some of us strive to play professional, to play professional golf. But to be on the field and on the stage with professionals is something else. So that’s what I always worked for.
The partnership has been amazing. You build the camaraderie. The camaraderie between the warriors is humongous. And expectations for Tahoe, I don’t go in expecting to get second. I’m going to win it. I’m going to go try to win it and give it hell. But I’ll do what I can. With everything that’s in my power.
Q: Gotta take down Mark Mulder?
ANDREW BACHELDER: Yeah, somebody needs to beat the guy. This guy’s really good, I keep seeing.
Q: Chad Pfeifer played in the tournament for several years. And I remember he told a very (indiscernible) story about how he came to pick up the golf clubs for the first time. And I’m wondering what it was like after your horrific experience to pick up the clubs and golf for the first time?
ANDREW BACHELDER: I learned how to play golf when I was eight, nine years old. I was never really good and didn’t play when I was in the military very often because obviously we had other things to do.
But I was asking my physical therapist what I could do, because I knew I loved the game of golf. I asked him: Can I play golf? Because I had a hip replacement, hip, back, pelvis, and all this stuff.
He said it’s okay, it’s good for therapy. And once picking it up, I haven’t put it down in eight years. So, this is the game that has saved my life after my life was saved once.
I don’t think I’ll ever put this golf club down. And I hope to just grow the game. People hear my story and want to pick up the golf club and come out of the depths, just to find something that they love or learn a new sport that they can love. And anybody can play on any level of disability that you have.
Q: When did you feel that you were going to be able to play at a competitive level like you are now?
ANDREW BACHELDER: Let’s see, I think it was after the first Warrior Open, I had a good outing. And I didn’t play really, really well. But I did good over the two days and was able to be invited back.
I’ve always had a good swing and good ball‑striking, but a lot of hard work really helped. I would say the first Warrior Open was when I really knew that I could go further with this.
In high school I was an all‑around athlete, played basketball, football, golf and track. Very competitive. My family’s very competitive. Golf is ‑‑ it’s one of those things, it’s a competitive battle between yourself and the four inches in your head, between your ears.
So that’s the big thing about golf. I think one thing that would be cool to sit down and try is sitting at the main table at a World Series poker event. How these guys don’t get their hands shaking, you know what I mean?
Like if we’re putting for $40,000 or fifth place at Tahoe or something like that, my hands are shaking in the putting green, but the cameras are sitting on you and you’re at a table of nine and you can’t shake.