Monday, October 12, 2009

Ending the Season on a High Note

The 2009 golf season is over.

After four months of solid, almost non-stop tournament play, Sam competed over the weekend in his final event - a Grand Prix in the French resort of Le Touquet. It's a great tournament on a great links course. Famed architect Henry Colt designed the layout in 1931 and he created a challenge - a 7,000 yard monster.

Sam played well and I was delighted, after all my health problems, to caddy him. In the first round, the skies were blue and the wind calm. Sam started out with three bogeys and then drove his ball deep into the woods. Fortunately, he was able to pitch out and earned only a bogey. Then, on the ninth hole, the hardest on the course, he made it ack to even par by rolling a 225 yard three iron second shot to five feet, and draining the birdie putt.

The wind picked up on the back nine, but even so, Sam stayed sharp. He putted well and recovered even after the disappointment of seeing four putts lip out. His final 74, two over par, put him in fourth place, only two shots from the lead. "I should have been two under if my putts had gone in," he added.

The next day, players out in the morning enjoyed a nice autumn sunshine. When Sam teed off at 1 p.m., the skies had turned gray and the wind had begun to howl. The course was going to be a monster. Sam's playing partner was his 16-year old friend Thomas Detry, who had enjoyed a wonderful season, winning the Dutch Boys International and qualifying for the European Tour event, the KLM Open. Thomas had helped Sam navigate Royal St. Georges at the British Boys. But now he seemed tired of golf. "I had a lot of homework and too much golf over the summer," he complained. "I wish I wasn't here." From the start, Thomas failed concentrate.

In contrast, Sam still seemed to enjoy himself. He wanted to be out on the course and he showed it by trying. The long par three second hole had caused many players, unable to hold the green with their tee shot, to double or even triple bogey. Sam's tee shot rolled through the green, but he chipped close and parred. He again was even par going into the fourth hole Even though he was not as sharp as in the first round, he found himself even par going into the fourth hole. But his second shot, a three wood screecher, headed straight toward the green, only to plug into a trap. What should have been an eagle or even birdie turned into a bogey.

In addition to the blowing wind, rain began falling. Sam struggled and by the time he reached the 11th hole, he was five over par. His playing partner Thomas Detry was even worse, six over. But officials told them that all the scores were high and that they still had a chance. Thomas still did not seem to care. Sam rebounded and made several excellent pars. Several times, he needed three woods to reach the greens of par fours. By the 16th hole, the rain had turned into a true tempest. Thomas took a quintuple 9 and finished with a horrendous 87. Sam continued making pars, even threatening several times to gain birdies, and finished six over. Unfortunately, some of the scores earlier in the day were low and he ended up only fifth. He was disappointed. "I really wanted to win," he said.

And yet I could sense that he was pleased. He had proved to himself that he belonged with the best amateur players in Europe. He had played for the Belgian national team. He had enjoyed himself and the golf had helped him grow up. Now he has to concentrate on his studies and prepare for college. His goal remains, not to become a golf professional, but to enjoy golf and leverage it for a rich, varied and fulfilled life. I am proud.

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