PGA Tour pro Jonathan Randolph had just awakened in his ninth floor hotel room with a view of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu last Saturday morning. He was facetiming with his wife, Lacy, who was back home in Oxford.
Lacy Randolph is due to deliver their first child, a son, on April 1. Lacy and Jonathan have plenty to talk about these days.
So, in the middle of the facetime conversation, at precisely 8:10 a.m. Honolulu time, Jonathan’s phone started blaring that awful sound you hear when there is a weather warning or an amber alert.
“I had just put in my contacts and my eyes were still adjusting,” he says. “I had a hard time reading it at first, but I did see that everything was in all capital letters.”
His eyes adjusted fairly quickly; his brain, well, he’s still not sure about that …
The message said that there was a ballistic missile headed for Hawaii. It said to seek shelter immediately. The finals words chilled Randolph to his marrow: “THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Remember, he was facetiming with his pregnant wife as he received the news.
What to do?
“I decided I needed to tell her what was going on,” he says. “She needed to know. I tried to be as calm as I possibly could. I told her that there might be a missile headed our way. I said I had better get off the phone and that I would let her know as soon as I could what the deal was.
“It was pretty tough, I’m not gonna lie. She was great. As soon as she got off the phone with me, she contacted the rest of my family.”
Jonathan Randolph, 29 years young and with no idea if he would live to be 30, put on his shoes and ran down 10 flights of stairs to the hotel basement.
“And then I thought, ‘Wait a second, I don’t want to be down here and have the whole hotel come down on top of me,” he says.
“I didn’t have a car,” he says. “My caddy had rented a car and he was a few blocks away. I told him to come get me and we’d try and get as far away from the city as possible. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking that surely our Patriot missiles will shoot that thing down before it gets here.”
About that time, sirens started blaring all over the city.
“I saw people huddled up on street corners, sobbing, clutching their Bibles,” he says. “It was awful. People were panicking. I’m not gonna lie. It was pretty awful. I was having a hard time keeping calm myself. Strangest thing, my legs were cramping, my quads and calves.”
Adrenaline can contribute to muscle cramps. So can 10 flights of stairs, down and up.
He looked at his phone and refreshed the Twitter feed. That’s when he saw a message saying that the missile warning had been a mistake.
“They said it was 38 minutes from the first warning until then,” Randolph says. “Seemed a lot longer. It felt like forever.”
He called Lacy. She was still shaking. He called his dad, and then he finally thought about returning to the real world.
“I found out it’s not that easy to adjust back from all-out survival mode,” he says.
Imagine: “Oh, yeah, I’m supposed to go play golf.”
Randolph had a couple hours before he was supposed to tee of in the third round of the Sony Open after shooting 68 and 69 the first two days. Remember, pro golfers are trained to remain calm in high stress situations. Nothing had quite prepared him for this.
“So my first drive, I pull-hooked dead left and hit a spectator in the hip,” he says. “Luckily, he had a range finder in his pocket and it hit that instead of his hip dead-on, so he wasn’t hurt.”
After making bogey on that first hole, Randolph gathered himself and got it together enough to shoot another 69. His playing partner, Tony Finau, shot a 67 that included a hole-in-one on the eighth hole.
“How about that? From emergency missile warning to a hole-in-one.” Randolph says. “Never has a hole-in-one seemed so inconsequential. Tony and I were still talking about what had happened that morning when we finished that afternoon.”
On Sunday, Randolph shot 66 to earn a check for $23,560. He flew to Palm Springs overnight and will play in the CareerBuilder Challenge there this week. His wife is making that trip. So is the family dog.
He’s excited about that – and his golf game. He currently ranks No. 66 on the 2018 PGA winnings list thanks to his third place finish in the Sanderson Farms Championship in late October.
“I’m putting the ball it really, really well, and I’m driving it really good, too,” Randolph says. “My shoulder which was bothering me and kept me from playing much the last few weeks is a lot better. I just feel really good about things right now.”
Everything, as we often are told, is relative. And this was roughly 48 hours after the scare of his life.