Buckeye Hoag Teeing It Up At Memorial

Bo Hoag is one of the best Ohio State golfers in recent years, and this weekend, the local Columbus kid will take part in the Memorial Tournament, the PGA Tour event held in town. In addition to his OSU ties, Hoag's family has plenty of ties to fellow OSU golf alum Jack Nicklaus and the Muirfield Village course.

Flip open The Memorial Tournament's annual magazine program and it's not hard to find the name Robert S. Hoag.

There it is twice on page 10, as Hoag as listed as both chairman emeritus of the Muirfield Village Golf Club and as a former captain of the club. Turn to page 66 and the name is among those that are members of The Memorial Club, the endowment that helps keep the tournament fan-friendly and up-to-date and works with charities.

Of course, that's to be expected. Robert S. Hoag was a golfing buddy of Jack Nicklaus – the man who created Muirfield Village and hosts the Memorial Tournament – and one of those who helped the greatest player the sport has ever seen identify and route the Muirfield track.

That vision, of course, is now a reality, with the pristine Dublin, Ohio, course just northwest of Columbus set to host the 37th addition of prestigious tournament. But for the first time, there will be someone with the name of Hoag participating in the professional event.

Bo Hoag, a two-time first-team All-Big Ten choice at Ohio State upon completing his career a year ago, received an exemption into this year's tournament, which begins Thursday morning. The grandson of Robert S. Hoag, Bo said he's played Muirfield Village hundreds of times in his life and has been attending the tournament for as long as he can remember.

Now, he answered in the affirmative when asked if the chance to take part in the tournament that has meant so much to his family was a dream come true.

"Yeah, definitely," he said. "You know, I can't think of one event or tournament that's inspired me more to be a professional golfer. Growing up as a youngster, just seeing some players on the range or watching them on the course, (I was) thinking, ‘Oh, this is pretty cool. I'd like to do this someday.' "

In fact, Hoag said he's not surprised to find himself in the field for the first time. Though he received a special bid from the tournament committee – Hoag currently plays on the No. 3 tour in the country, the NGA Tour – he always expected to see himself playing in the Memorial.

"I always thought when I was a kid that one day I'd play in the tournament," he said. "I don't know, I just felt that way. Not that I ever thought I deserved to get in or something like that, or that I'd actually be given an exemption.

"I'm very fortunate to get in the tournament. I mean, there's so many good players. This is one of the world's best fields, so for the committee to give me an exemption, I can't thank them enough. I look forward to kind of capitalizing on it."

Hoag hopes to see a day when he doesn't need an invitation to make the tournament, and his track record shows he might get there one day. After earning a U.S. Open sectional qualifying bid in 2004 at the age of 15, he captured Ohio prep player of the year honors as a senior at Upper Arlington, Ohio.

At Ohio State, Hoag earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2009 and 2011, leading the Buckeyes into the final eight at the NCAA tournament as a senior. He played every tournament in college, twice earning all-region honors and finishing as an honorable mention All-American in 2009. He had 20 top-10 finishes as a Buckeye.

Since finishing his career at OSU, Hoag has moved on to the NGA Tour, where he is currently 29th on the money list having made $14,321. He has made the cut in all six events, topping out with a sixth-place finish at the Savannah Lakes Village Classic in April.

"My game feels good," Hoag said. "Honestly, I don't really have a goal that I have. I can't say I just want to do this or that. Every tournament I play in, I think if you ask any other player in the tournament, they'd say they want to win the tournament. Nobody tees it up to finish 10th or something like that. So that's in the back of my mind, but I'm not really focused on a finish."

Nicklaus said it was nice to see his friend's grandson get a bid into the field and expects his local knowledge to come into play.

"I think Bo knows the golf course pretty well," Nicklaus said. "He needs to be Bo, just go out and get a little experience under his belt and get a couple of decent rounds, and he'll be better as he goes."

Hoag – who said he's shot a 7-under round before at Muirfield – has played in PGA Tour event before. He teed it up at the Honda Classic in March in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., starting with a 1-under round of 69. Hoag followed with a score of 81 to miss the cut but feels that experience will give him valuable insight in how to play this weekend.

"I think it's important I already got my first PGA Tour start out of the way and kind of know the atmosphere a little bit, what it's like inside the ropes, teeing off on Thursday and stuff like that," Hoag said. "It's good to know what to expect. I think I might have a few more fans here, but I think I can definitely draw off of that and just be a little more comfortable."

The Upper Arlington native is staying in his own bed this week and should have a good cheering section. When he finished his practice round Monday, he was surrounded by a throng of autograph seekers, but the star turn on what could double as his home course shouldn't result in any extra nerves, Hoag said.

"People have asked me, ‘Are you going to be nervous?' " he said. "I'm always a little anxious to get started any tournament I play in, but you know, just because it's the PGA Tour, it shouldn't be any different than any other tournament I play in. It's still golf. It's the same game. You've just to hit the shots that you can hit."

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