Three days after the King’s Prize, Sam competed in the Belgian national championship. This is the single biggest Belgian tournament of the year, the Belgian equivalent of the U.S. Amateur that brings together all the country’s best amateurs of all ages. It was played on a challenging, hilly course near the Waterloo battlefield called Empereur after Napoleon. These days, Waterloo is a rich suburb of Brussels surrounded by rich farmland. The anniversary of Napoleon’s defeat to Wellington just had taken place.
Sam started will playing the first round in one over par. The second round, he improved to one under par, finishing with two beautiful birdies. The third and final day again was 36 holes. Sam left at 6 a.m. and the day rose bright and hot. My dad ad I rejoined him after the morning 18 holes– he looked exhausted, but happy, having shot one over par and leaving him fourth before the final round.
During lunch, he asked me to caddy. “I’m so tired,” he acknowledged. If he asked me to help, I knew he was genuinely fatigued.
Even so, he shot off like a rocket, birdying the first hole. On the third, a par three, his ball nestled next to the hole, threatening to fall for his first ever hole in one. He dropped a long putt on the fourth, and on the fifth struck a pure shot from a fairway bunker to within five feet, only to see his putt lip out.
Then the rocket began to lose altitude. A sloppy drive on the ninth hotel led to a double bogey. And then true disaster – a ball out of bounds on the 12th, a second drive into a fairway bunker and a disastrous quadruple bogey. He straggled in with a six over par 78 – and finished 11th. For a 16 year old, who started playing serious golf only three years ago, that was an accomplishment. Sam left the course with a smile.