Having come through local qualifying, 27 year old Tom Lewis will tee it up at The Open for the first time as a professional. The former Amateur Champion had a memorable week at this event in 2011 and in this week’s Player Blog, Tom sat down to recount his memories of that week, what it was like and his thoughts ahead of Carnoustie.I have been thinking about The Open for the last seven years. I haven’t played it since I was the leading amateur in 2011 at Royal St. George’s and that’s why I went to qualify at Prince’s — that part of the world has been good to me. I’ve been close to qualifying at Hillside the last few years but never quite managed to get over the line. Fortunately I did this time. After bogeying the 10th I knew I had to play well and the putts started to drop. I was aware I was very much in contention but I felt calm and confident. I just tried to focus on each hole and the challenge it presented and not think about The Open. At the end of the day I signed for a second round 68, the only sub-70 score of the day, and won qualifying by two shots.
My week at The Open in 2011 is a little bit of a blur to be honest.
Luckily I had played a practice round with Henrik earlier in the year in Dubai and got to know him a little then. He had given me some advice and I had some time to pick his brains and get to know him a little. That definitely helped and it was a pretty perfect group for me to get paired with him and Tom.
I remember telling my dad that I was going to be playing with Mr. Watson, he’s my father’s hero in the game, and he couldn’t believe it. I think he was more excited than I was. Tom was actually the inspiration for my name when I was born so it was a pretty cool moment for both my dad and I.
Mr. Watson couldn’t have been friendlier to play with. He has such a respect for the game, The Open and the fans and it was clear to see. He was very polite and said some nice things to me on the first tee on Thursday and throughout those two days.
I shot a five-under 65 on Thursday and was tied for the lead. Someone told me afterwards that it was the lowest round by an amateur ever at The Open. It was amazing and it surprised a lot of people, but to be honest, it was what I had been doing regularly in events that summer. Clearly, The Open was a whole different caliber of event, but it was the same game and I was happy that I had managed my emotions and my game.
Standing on the 18th green at the end of the week next to Darren Clarke, receiving the Silver Medal for low amateur, was a special, special moment in my career and I still have the photo from that moment up in my house. I didn’t need any motivation to turn pro, but after that week I knew I was ready. I played in the Walker Cup a couple of months later but turned pro immediately after that.
I was so keen to prove myself as a pro. Perhaps too keen.
I think everyone is always trying to improve. In hindsight, I think I tried too hard. When I think back to 2011 and my amateur career, turning professional after the Walker Cup, I ended up working on my game so much that I got to a point where I didn’t enjoy it. It had become work and a grind and I had lost the joy and fun I had playing the game as kid growing up.
The challenge I found difficult playing in Europe was the fact that we play for money, not points. I got far too focused on how much I needed to earn to get to a certain world ranking or what finish I needed to move up the money list. That probably took my focus away from what I should have been working on. Looking back on what I know now, I should’ve been focusing on myself, my game and the individual areas to improve but in truth I focused on the wrong things. By chasing the wrong goal I lost my game and my confidence.
Golf is certainly more enjoyable now than it has been. I understand now what it means. I feel that this is just the start of better things to come. It’s nice not to have the hype and noise around me and allows me to focus a little more. Even though I’m ranked lower than I’ve been in the past, I’m enjoying it more than ever. When I’m enjoying it, good things will happen. Whether that happens at The Open this week or whether it happens later in the year - I’m confident I’ll get there at some point.
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