Thursday, August 12, 2010

Holding the Head High

I kept checking the British Boys website as the round of 64 match play results came in Sam's score failed to come up. I knew his match must be tight.

Finally, he called and told me the disappointing news - he had lost in the 19th hole.

He was not as sharp as in the stroke play, he explained. He found himself two down with two holes left to play. He birdied the 17th and tied it up with a par on the eighteenth. The match moved to the first hole, a par five. His opponent birdied. Sam's second shot narrowly missed the green and plunked into the greenside bunker. He made par.

"Sure I'm disappointed," he admitted. "But I'm proud of what I accomplished."

I agree.


Hot off the presses - Sam is fifth after the two rounds of stroke play at the British Boys. He finally seems to have broken through and achieved his potential. I am in far-off Istanbul traveling for work, but Sam was so excited after his minus one second round that he called me right after he finished. He usually sounds nonchalant even after the most amazing exploits. This time, though, he sounded excited.

The British Boys brings together the best 264 under 18 golfers in Europe. It is the major of the summer season, the equivalent of the British Open for boys. Last year, it was played at the Open Course Royal St. Georges and Sam got in only as a wild card. He had a good run and reached the third round, winning his second round match in 26 holes (or was it 25? I don't quite remember since the suspense was so excruciating).

This year Sam had a habit of starting off well, and then crumbling. In last month's English Boys, he shot a sterling par in the first round, putting him in the top twenty. But in the second round, he played scared and crashed out with a ten over 83, failing to make the cut.

At the British Boys, Sam started out with a sparkling two over par on the super hard Dundonald Links. That was the ninth highest score of the day on that course. The British Boys stroke play is spread out over two courses and he tackled the easier (in relative terms) Kilmarnock layout on the second day. I feared for the worst. Instead, Sam played sterling golf, starting with a birdie on the par five opening hole and finishing one under par.

Onto match play which starts today. I'll be rooting from far-off Turkey.