Me: Don’t Teen Vogue or Tiger Beat have images of you they can share?
JM: I was once featured in Horse and Hound, but that was about 50 pounds ago.
And just like that, we were off to the races. Jameson “Jamie” Miller is a western New Yorker, born and raised. He tasted the good life of Columbus (OH) and Augusta (GA) in college and decided to return home to the Niagara region, to set up shop. Miller is a member of the Buffalo District and New York State golf association boards of directors, a relentless competitor, and an overall fun guy to be around. His list of courses played is enviable, both in competition and recreation, but he is always willing to have a conversation with any golfer, any time, any place.
It is fitting and appropriate that we begin our long form series for 2022 with Mr. Jamie Miller. For accuracy’s sake, prompts were submitted via email. Our goal was to focus on time frame, rather than questions. Mr. Miller responded with an audio file, and this writer transcribed his words. Any mistakes are mine alone. Any humor may be properly ascribed to Mr. Miller.
This transcription should read as if you’re walking the fairways together, riding in a cart, or hanging out in a locker room or a local 19th hole. Enjoy.
As a kid, I don’t think I really knew that my parents were a big deal in golf at all. From a young age. I mean, I just remember going to Springbrook and hitting golf balls outside with my dad. It never occurred to me that you know, I think I knew that they talked golf, but I didn’t realize that. I will say there was a moment at the Brierwood (now Cloverbank Country Club) when the Hogan Tour or Nike tour at the time, I’m not sure which it was. Arnold Palmer came into town and Arnold called my parents house. We ended up meeting up and I took a picture with Arnold at that event, and the same thing happened at the Canadian Open with Jack Nicklaus.
I remember being there and not wanting to take a picture of them. So much so that I threw a hissy fit that they didn’t want to take a picture at all. They did, and the picture still sits in my parent’s living room and my face just looks angry for even having to take a picture with a guy who ends up being Jack Nicklaus. I didn’t know it at the time, though.
Probably from my early days and most fond golf memory, what I kind of remember got me was the Masters with Ben Crenshaw in ’95 where he won, and the connection with Harvey Penick, who my dad had known well, and with Tom Kite. I remember watching that and that was probably the first time I thought, I really want to play golf.
That was what started it and then Tiger came along, but that was later. So, I don’t think growing up I really knew what I know now, about my parents. I do recall one time at Tri County we weren’t allowed to play in the parent child and I don’t think I really understood why, but obviously I think other other people didn’t want that to happen, given their skill level.
So that was that.
You know, I think you you start to realize that your parents are good players, when you go to golf lessons with them. I used to go to Springbrook with them all the time and then they went over to the Wehrle Golf Dome. And I would go every single weekend I would go and hit golf balls. The owner just let me pick up golf balls and that was kind of how I made my keep so I could get golf balls for free. It still amazes me that more kids don’t just get a job at the Dome once or twice a week and pick up golf balls. They would get to hit them for free. I spent a ton of time at the Wehrle golf dome growing up.
And honestly, if you think about it. You know, that’s probably where I met a lot of the golf people in Buffalo that I know. I grew up in that atmosphere. That’s where you start to realize that your parents are pretty good.
I was born in ’85 my dad turned 50 in 1998 and I remember in 1996 or 1997 they changed the exemption rule for the Champions Tour. Before if you’d won once on the tour you received a certain amount of exemptions on the Champions Tour, and then they changed it to where you had to have two wins. My dad had only won once, so he lost those exemptions. Around that time, 1995, same time as the Masters and Crenshaw, my dad started thinking about the Champions Tour and I thought about how good he was, even more.
I caddied for him at a few of the events; he only played like three or four events, but I caddied for him every time. One event was Tom Watson’s debut. My dad and Watson hadqualified for the tour in 1971 together. At that time, believe it or not, Tom was not considered one of the best amateurs in the game. He was very good but he was not one of the top ones coming out of college. The Champions Tour event was in Indianapolis, on the Pete Dye course that winds through the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the Indy 500 is run.
I’ll never forget. My dad took me to the end of the range so that I could practice. I really wanted to hit balls. We went to the back of the range and my dad had gotten some Orlimar 3-Woods, which were the hot three woods at the timeand and Tom came back and joined us. So it was just me, my dad and Tom Watson. They were talking, reminiscing about a bunch of stuff, while I was hitting golf balls, and Tom Watson was watching my swing. That’s something I definitely won’t ever forget.
At the time I was a pretty good junior, but (I was actually talking my mom recently about this) I don’t recall, really, playing in a lot of events when I was young, At the time (and this is part of the reason I loved the old Buffalo District Golf Association Interclub league) I was a member at Tri County, a semi- private place, but because of our geography, we would go to Wanakah, Orchard Park, Country Club, East Aurora, Brierwood (now Cloverbank) and Springville. I mean all these places. It was so cool to be able to get to go play them. Nowadays, it’s kind of disappointing that it’s not the way it was back in our day. And at Tri-County, we had a pretty good team.
I made the Silver Creek varsity team in 7th grade, and I had to pass a physical fitness test, as I wasn’t in high school yet. I don’t remember exactly if I actually passed or not, or if they just passed me, but in 7th grade I made the 18-hole cut at the Section 6 qualifier for states; the top 24 move on to nine more holes in the afternoon, to determine the nine Section 6 representeatives. I missed that cut by one or two. No one has ever qualified for states as a 7th grader, and the following year (8th grade) I qualified; I think I finished second or third at the qualifiers in 8th grade, and that got me to the state high school (event at Cornell University golf course) event and I thought when I was there, that I was playing pretty well.
At the beginning of the state high school tournament at Cornell in Ithaca, they would recognize you at the competition dinner. They would say your name and ask you to stand up. I’ll never forget that there was a guy named JB Bump and he was from Owego. At the time he had made five state championships and that was a record. With me making it that year as an eighth grade, they acknowledged me.
(Editor’s Note: JB Bump is currently the general manager at the Links at Hiawatha Landing, in Apalachin, NY, not far from Owego. His son studies and plays varsity golf at SUNY-Binghamton.)
I think I was the only qualifier that year in 8th grade that made it and I don’t think that too many had achieved it at the time. Since then, some more have done it, so it’s not as big of a deal. At the time it sort of was, and I remember thinking about that and possibly tying his record. As a result, I struggled every year after that in the sectional qualifer because that record was something I wantedreally bad . I just remember thinking how cool it was that this kid, from Owego, New York qualified five times and knowing I was one of the few that had a shot to repeat the feat.
And unfortunately enough I actually missed qualifying in my junior year. I’ll never forget that our school cross-country coach (I ran cross country in middle school) had said to me (he was our chemistry teacher too) before I went to the to the qualifier: are you ready to play? And I just said yeah you know no problem like I’m really just looking forward to getting to the States and he said “well make sure you don’t miss.” He kind of said it in a very negative way, but then, sure enough, I missed it.
I was so angry and frustrated. The year before that I grew eight inches. My body changed a lot and my golf swing changed too. I was still a pretty strong player. When I was 14, I finished second in the state sub-junior. When I was 15, I finished runner up in the state junior and then I had that growth spurt and it kind of screwed up my golf game for a time.
High school golf was kind of really a big deal for us. Back then, the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association), only had about 30 events for the year, and they were really hard to get into. For some reason, none of the tournament directors thought that I was very good, so I didn’t get into many of those.
We did play a lot of the IJGT events. You would go to southern resorts and you would qualify to play in them. Now I think you can earn points for AJGA events in other tournaments, but back then, they did not give you access that way.
I think my first statewide event was the state boys when I was 14 and I lost in the finals to a kid named Teddy Collins who ended up going to Stanford and then the following year I lost in the finals of the of the State Junior and I shot 68 in the qualifier. It was the first time in a tournament I had broken 70 in competition, and I think actually in my old room, at my parents’ house, that scorecard is still taped to the to the mirror.
Summers was interclub in BDGA and I medaled in a few of the matches. The BDGA also had its annual match and medal events for juniors, and I think I won the stroke play at least two times and the same thing with the match play. I was never really focused on what I had accomplished. It was always about what I was going to do next and I always were trying to keep going.
I try to look at that now, and unfortunately now I’m getting older and I start to think about that a little bit more. Once I got into that growth spurt, you know game kind of went down and came back.
My mom and dad have been my only golf swing instructors. I played in the Donald Ross Invitational at Pinehurst when I was 16 or 17. We played with the kid and this kid made every single putt and my mom is a golf teacher. Looked at him goes “well, what what who is this kid and how does he put this well?”
My mom and his dad were talking and he said, you know I took him to this guy named Mike Shannon, and Mike, at the time was, as was the head pro at Montgomery Country Club in Montgomery, Alabama, and Mike had worked with Tiger and as well as you know, all these kids.
And so, my mom being the way she is, she said, we absolutely need you to go. You know my mom wanted to go with me, but unfortunately she couldn’t go at the time and my mom was like “if you could learn how to putt, you know you hit it so well blah blah blah.”
My dad and I drove to see Mike Shannon. I was playing a tournament somewhere and we drove over to Montgomery, AL. We were there for a day. The evaluation was a 4-hour thing and what he determines is about being linear or nonlinear, and whether you see lines or curves. I’ll never forget my dad and I both missed the linear thing, and it turns out we’re both nonlinear.
Mike tests you with a black line on the ball and and then tests you with no line up, and Dad and I were both dead in the center. Pro golfer Darren Clarke had just been there and Darren Clarke was like 20 inches to the right, just like us. It was interesting because it taught my dad something.
After that we went from Montgomery to Jacksonville and we played with a good buddy of my dad named Bill Calfee, and we played the tees all the way back. I joked with the, I said you old guys, if you want to go, you know you want to go to the front of the tee, go ahead and they said, you know, PGA Tour players, we never never, we don’t do that.
I think it’d be different now if you asked and they’d probably move up as far as they can but that day my dad hit woods and a lot of the par fours and shot 65 and he made a ton of putts because he now knew how he should read them, as a non-linear putter.
He would look at the hole and adjust his body to where he thought he should putt. I think 70% of people are actually nonlinear, so they would benefit from not hitting the putt with the line drawn on it . That was a big thing for for us teaching-wise.
When I was at college at Augusta State, there was a guy there named Oliver Wilson and Oliver later played on the Ryder Cup, and had kind of learned under Faldo and he had learned some things from Seve. I’ll never forget sitting there watching Oliver hit pitch shots. I learned a ton from him, just on pitching. Now a lot of it is on TV or the internet, but you have to understand what’s going on with the mechanics. If you can understand what they’re doing and and replicate it, you can do a good job.
You know, going to college, I went to Ohio State as a preferred walk-on. I didn’t really know what that meant. We thought we knew. Turns out you had to qualify to even make the team. Ohio State had a nine round qualifier and coach said that the first five would make the team for the week. I finished fourth in that qualifier and thought that I was going to the first event. Right away I was told that I was going to redshirt my freshmen year. That didn’t really go over well with me at the time. I’m very competitive and I don’t like to lose. I said, I just did everything you told me I was supposed to do. And now I’m not going to the tournament and I’m not going to play this year. On top of that, two of the other guys that were there and were in the same situation as me did not play well in the nine-round qualifier but they made the team and we ended up having 18 guys on the team that year.
It’s actually a good point, getting forced to red shirt. At the time you don’t think about it, but when will you think you be a better player: your freshman year or your senior fifth year? I didn’t have a choice because if coach wasn’t going to let me play, I was redshirting either way. Looking back on it, having a fifth year really wasn’t a bad thing. I got to do a a major in finance and a minor in accounting. So that was kind of helpful.
I was at both Ohio State and Augusta State, Ohio State, people think would be oh, it’s a great program because Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf were there, but we weren’t very good. We were top 50, but that’s all. We had a lot of guys who thought they were pretty good and my coach and I didn’t see eye to eye on a lot. I think I was a bomber and hit it kind of all over the place and scrambled, while I think he liked the guys who hit the fairway more.
I’ll never forget. There was one qualifier I wasn’t even allowed to try to qualify. It was my second year there, and I won by shooting 15 under in the qualifier over 3 rounds. I think the next closest guy was 3 over and my coach still wouldn’t take me to the tournamnet. The guy that he took over me didn’t break 80 in the next round. We had a teammate, named Scott Anderson. We called him “Money” because he was from Montana but he went to see the coach and said if you don’t take Miller to the next event I’m not going either because this is ridiculous and I went and I think I finished 7th or 8th at Michigan State.
Basically, I was going to go back to OSU and my parents said if you don’t get more scholarship every year, you can’t go back, becasue we can’t afford it. Then I got part of the scholarship taken away instead of being given more. I had the lowest stroke average of all the returning golfers. The lowest average belonged to Scott Anderson, and he was a senior. My coach lowered me from a 30% scholarship to 10%, and I went in and said I can’t do this and I transferred to Augusta State. There were a bunch of teams ranked significantly higher than Ohio State that really wanted me: New Mexico, Vanderbilt, Alabama.
My coach at OSU, however, did not want me. Fortunately, the next year I won a collegiate event. I had some other good finishes and was ranked pretty high in the world rankings. (Editor’s Note: Miller won the Hootie at Bulls Bay in 2006. Results at end of interview.)
The next year, leaving college, it wasn’t a thought to not try to turn pro. You know professional golf is tough because there’s not a draft. You see with a lot of kids, you know somebody local, like Ben Reichert, he wins the Porter Cup and I’m not sure he would have been as a draft pick because I don’t know if he had a great college career. You go into it on your own and you don’t get anything guaranteed. You have to privately raise money to be able to play.
Every week costs about 3 grand and a lot of guys don’t make any money. If you don’t have money or the backing of family or friends that are wealthy, it makes it very, very difficult. I had had a group put together and that group kind of fell apart. Right after the financial crash in 2008 from the stock market. And so I scrambled. I actually worked at UPS for the winter term and raised some money from close family and friends. I put a contract together that stipulated that I would pay them back every dollar I made up to when the loan was repaid, and then it would turn into a revenue share after that. That was that was my way of getting enough money to try to play professional golf.
Ultimately, I qualified for the Canadian tour and then I got into a bad boat accident in July of 2011. It set me back, because I broke pretty much my whole face. I had just turned 26. The full recovery took about nine months. In that time I decided that I didn’t really want to be a guy that was that was 32 and still trying to play and not having worked anywhere in my in my life.
I was planning to go to tour qualifying school that fall and I had the money and I was ready to go but I still couldn’t hit golf balls because I had my jaw unwired at the beginning of September. My jaw had moved a couple of centimeters and I couldn’t clamp my teeth down. So I had my jaw rewired shut and I didn’t end up going to Q school and then I asked myself what do I want to do?
I had knocked my front 4 teeth out in the accident and I ended up not getting them in until May of the following year. I was going to go to Florida and try to caddy. I had actually been hired to caddy at MacArthur Club in Hobe Sound. I couldn’t really leave since I didn’t have dental insurance. A good and close friend, Chris Dantonio (Chelsea Dantonio’s father) offered to do all my work for free, and so it was easy to stay around in Buffalo. I went to a very close friend, Billy Hanes, and I said, hey, I think I’m gonna be done with golf or at least for a while and I’m gonna start interviewing for some jobs and I need a job. I need to make some money so I can afford living. You know I had a health insurance bill that I was paying. It was 300 bucks a month and I had other things I was trying to do. I started working at Hanes Supply in October that year. Billy and I actually cleaned shelves and did inventory. He took some of what we did and built a nice little niche inside of his business.
I started to interview and what I did was, I called a lot of the guys I knew from golf and I said, hey, you do this, and you seem to do pretty well. Can I come talk to you about what you do? I have a finance major and a minor in accounting, like I’m not an idiot, but I’ve never worked at jobs. I’ve always worked golf courses. I mean, I get how things work, but…
So I did that for a few months. I interviewed and I talked to people about what they do for a while and then I got offered the job at Morgan Stanley. The interesting thing on the Professional Golf, I wouldn’t call them regrets per say, but I just wish I had had more money. I never got to really do it the way I wanted to do it. I think guys, especially now they’re so good, so the golf has to be your life. REmember that I had to work in Florida while I was down there to try to make you know enough money so I didn’t spend the money that people gave me on living expenses. I needed to make money to pay for my living expenses so I could use the sponosor money for more tournaments. I think you really need enough money to do it. Otherwise, I don’t wanna say it’s a waste of time. The really talented guys start making money quickly and right away. I made my first cut on one mini tour and I think it paid me three grand. The week cost 2500 bucks, so all that I cleared was $500.
My dad has a couple of close friends, one being Danny Yates, who was a two-time Walker Cup captain, and played on 2 Walker Cups. He used to come to the Porter Cup all the time. My dad’s other close friend was Vinny Giles; my dad was actually his first client. Vinny went to Georgia and then to law school at University of Virginia. My dad came just after him at Georgia, so it didn’t overlap much there. But as he got law degree they played on 2 Walker Cups together, you know, blah blah blah and so my dad when he turned pro in 71, he signed on with Vinny and then, about six months later, Vinny signed Lanny Wadkins, and Lanny and my dad were very close friends and you know, I know that had a lot to do with it and then fast forward you know. He worked with Davis Love, junior, and the point of all that ’cause you know…
There’s a lot of guys that my dad was tight with, back in the day, from Walker Cup and amateur golf. My dad kind of always said “Look at these guys that you know they use their golf in their careers, and it’s obviously extremely valuable.” Every single one I had mentioned, I think is a member at Seminole and you know has played in Walker Cup competitions. There are tons of USGA events and not playing professionally wasn’t going to stop me from pursuing amateur golf and success. A lot of guys that play pro golf burn out, regardless of how they got there (they were good at it, the parents kind of got them to do it or whatever) but for me it was always just something I loved.
And so it was never a question of continuing to play in golf, in amateur events and so (I know I should know this) I actually think when I won the State Mid Amateur in 2014, I’m almost positive it was my first state title. (It was. He won a Four Ball the next year with Billy Hanes.) Pathetic. I should know these things, but I won that at Teugega, it was a validation. As a younger amateur, I played the whole circuit in our region: the Northeast, the Porter Cup, the Monroe, the US Amateur, the US publinx. I’ve now played in 10 USGA events, after the 2021 Mid Amateur.
I think it was always a big goal to be able to play the Coleman at Seminole, and to compete in the Crump at Pine Valley. Those are the premier events in amateur golf. I played the Floridian, the Crane Cup in 2014 after I won the mid amateur and I played well in that. That kind of helped me get into some other events and fairly quickly and so I played the Coleman that following year. I think a big reason was that the guys that run the events knew my dad from back in the day and they knew I wasn’t a bad player, and now, I had a tournament win to validate my entry. Sometimes it takes guys years to gain entry into those events.
I play a good amount of client golf. Personally I don’t love to play just to play for fun. I play to compete. That’s the fun for me; the idea of playing every every Saturday and Sunday at Crag Burn without any event just doesn’t excite me.
This year I’m going to play the Coleman, and an event at Fishers Island. I’m going to try to qualify for the US Amateur, and the US Mid Amateur. I might try and play the Canadian Mid Amateur because it is in Toronto. I’ll hopefully play the Crump again if I’m lucky enough to be invited.
Regarding the New York State Golf Association and the Buffalo District Golf Association, I always wanted to be influential. I wanted to be someone in the game of golf. I’m so passionate about golf in my youth.
You want to make sure that kids like you have that opportunity. Remember that I played my first state event when I was 14 and I lost in the finals and then I lost the next year in the finals in a different bracket. I went through some changes and didn’t win anything until the 2014 NYSGA Mid Amateur. I only played two or three state amateurs because it always conflicted with one of the bigger events. Looking back at that, I actually think that would conside that to be a regret. I wish I had played every year and and really given my best to try to win a state amateur.
The state am is still a major goal. It was a big bummer not to pull it off at Craig Burn af ew years back. I had the lead after three rounds, then made a 10 on the 2nd hole of the last round. I fought back but ultimately lost by two to Ben Reichert. He played well but I still feel like I will win a state am. With work and everything and the tournament being a Tuesday through Thursday event. It’s very tough to to focus and be all in, so you just really have to hunker down. I’ve always had a goal of getting involved with the USGA on the local level and I’ll get to that now.
Joe Sprague was a guy that I knew from the Northeast Amateur. I had reached out to him about getting involved at the USGA level and he said, well, you have to start with your local Golf Association and move your way up to your state Golf Association and you know, obviously show that you have an interest in in the game and growing the game and making the game better.
Golf gives you so much. I think about it now. Looking back at all the places I’ve gone, all the people I’ve met and I’m only 36 years old. I could write a book about what hitting a little golf ball can do for you. You have to be a nice guy, you can’t be any less. You need to pay attention to people, look them in the eye, be friendly. I certainly get angry on the golf course, but you should try to not act like a jerk out there. I’ve had my fair share of jerk moments so I can understand it. They say that you get married and begin a family and life finally catches up with you.
Right now, we have two puppies and as I’m completing this interview, I’m watching the Gainbridge LPGA tournament. I have both dogs sleeping on me and my wife Candace is flying back from Orlando. My mom just won this award at for the LPGA, the Nancy Lopez lifetime achievement award, and she was there to celebrate Mom.
People ask me a lot: does my wife get annoyed with me playing golf. I said no, she actually looks at it as nice because she gets alone time pretty much every weekend. We’ve always gotten along on that. Funny enough, I met her the week before I went to the John R. Williams at Oak Hill in 2012. And I remember asking (she’s an accountant by background and now works as an outsourced CFO for law firms) You know she had said, oh, is that something that you do? You play golf and play tournaments and I said, yeah, it’s like my thing. And so that has never been a point of contention for us, ever.
I’m sure if we have kids down the line, it might be, but right now it’s actually nice for us and that’s what we’re doing. I still think I have two to three great years left (thinking like PGA Tour players, their prime is about 33 to 39.) I mean obviously Phil just passed 50, but he’s really focused on his mind and his body. I think if I if I continue to go at it, I think I have three to five more years of really solid golf. Unfortunately, you know, I think from that point (from probably 42 to 55) who knows? You can plan some stuff, you can do well and and eat right. Randy Lewis won the USGA Mid Amateur when he was 52ish, so it can be done, but I think a lot of guys in their forties and early fifties are just looking towards senior golf.
We’ll see, you know, I like to compete and if I get to a point where I can’t compete at a high level, I probably won’t do it. I probably will become the Saturday Sunday player Craig Burn and hopefully get a skins game going out there every weekend or something like that, but that’s pretty much it.
I know that’s long, but I figured that’s kind of what you wanted. But if you have other questions just holler.
2006 Hootie at Bull’s Bay
1 Jamie Miller Augusta State -9 F -1 70 64 70 204
2 Webb Simpson Wake Forest Univ. -8 F +1 68 65 72 205
3 Sonny Nimkhum UCF -1 F E 70 71 71 212
T4 Luke List (10) Vanderbilt E F +2 70 70 73 213
T4 Beck Troutman (10) Louisiana State U. E F -1 74 69 70 213
T6 Stephen Lewton North Carolina State +1 F -1 74 70 70 214
T6 Kyle Reifers Wake Forest Univ. +1 F -2 69 76 69 214
T6 Robert Riesen North Carolina +1 F -1 72 72 70 214
T9 Brian Duncan (10) Clemson +2 F +1 72 71 72 215
T9 Florian Fritsch South Carolina +2 F -1 70 75 70 215
T9 Eirik Tage Johansen South Carolina +2 F +7 67 70 78 215
T9 Doug Manchester Wake Forest Univ. +2 F +6 67 71 77 215
T9 Gari Maton Charleston, Coll. of +2 F +1 73 70 72 215
T9 Stefan Wistorf UCF +2 F E 76 68 71 215
1 Wake Forest Univ. -10 F +6 275 277 290 842
T2 UCF +6 F +3 289 282 287 858
T2 South Carolina +6 F +12 279 283 296 858
4 Augusta State +8 F +11 296 269 295 860
5 North Carolina +14 F +8 288 286 292 866
6 Louisiana State U. +22 F +3 300 287 287 874
7 North Carolina State +23 F +14 298 279 298 875
8 Vanderbilt +25 F +14 297 282 298 877
T9 Alabama, U. of +27 F +10 299 286 294 879
T9 Clemson +27 F +16 293 286 300 879
11 Florida State Univ. +29 F +11 293 293 295 881
12 Kentucky, U. of +31 F +12 292 295 296 883
13 Charleston, Coll. of +32 F +16 293 291 300 884
14 Virginia, U. of +33 F +23 297 281 307 885
15 Auburn +34 F +11 296 295 295 886