Golden boy Lewis takes Silver Medal but will not be turning pro just yet
Monday 18 July 2011
A dream week in the life of Tom Lewis ended last night with the 20-year-old collecting the Silver Medal as the leading amateur at the 140th Open Championship. But after all the hype and speculation about turning professional, this week it will be back to business as usual, which in amateur golf means a training session at Royal Aberdeen to prepare for the Walker Cup in September.
Lewis was hoping to parlay his new-found fame into an appearance at the Scandinavian Masters, for which he had received an invitation from the organisers. But when he phoned Nigel Edwards, the Walker Cup captain, to offer his regrets at not making it to Aberdeen, he was swiftly disabused of the idea that he could let down his team-mates ahead of the match with the Americans.
Peter Uihlein, the US Amateur champion, will be leading the visitors and was Lewis's competitor for amateur honours at Royal St George's yesterday. Uihlein ended with a 75 to be 12-over par which meant that Lewis could afford a triple-bogey eight at the 14th and still finish in front of the American. A 74 left him at nine-over par.
Lewis hit his second shot out of bounds at the 14th and ended up in a bunker with his second ball. But that moment aside, yesterday he added to the great memories he will take away of his first Open. There was a 35-footer that went in for an eagle at the seventh and a wonderful approach shot at the 18th which prompted another rousing ovation as he walked up into the amphitheatre at the final green.
"The Open has been amazing for me," said Lewis. On Thursday he became the first amateur for 43 years to share the lead in the Open after his superb 65 playing alongside his father's hero, Tom Watson. "The first day was wonderful. I couldn't have asked for more. It was a shame [that on] the last three days I haven't played anywhere near as good as I had hoped, but to win the Silver Medal is a great honour."
The Welwyn Wonder joined a mighty list of former winners, including Jose Maria Olazabal and Hal Sutton from Royal St George's, and more recently Tiger Woods in 1996, Justin Rose in 1998 and Rory McIlroy in 2007.
Lewis, the son of a professional, will certainly start being paid to play golf shortly. Rose, as a 17-year-old, followed his glorious Birkdale performance with an appearance at the Dutch Open the next week amid great media interest. He only just missed the cut, by one, but it took another 22 attempts before he reached the weekend of a professional event.
Rose is now a respected Ryder Cup player but Lewis may follow the McIlroy model, waiting to play in the Walker Cup and then hoping to earn enough from a handful of invitations to make his card for the European Tour.
Lewis has already exhibited a very professional attitude in his approach to the game but his standards are high. "I don't think I'll be turning pro right away," he said. "I think I've got things still to learn, since I've just lost by about 20 strokes this week. But I will sit down with my team and work out what is best for my future."
Playing with Phil Mickelson on Saturday was an eye-opener, he said. "I'm ready in certain areas but playing with Phil made me feel terrible around the greens. If you're going to play with the best players in the world, you have to chip and putt like they do. I've just got to keep grinding away."
Lewis should not be too hard on himself, since even the best players cannot compare their short games favourably against Mickelson, whose brilliance produced an outward 30 yesterday. However, Lewis did indicate that if it were not for the Walker Cup, he would have no hesitation in stepping out on the Tour.
"It shows that the Walker Cup means a lot, for an amateur to make this decision. When I spoke to the captain, he said he really needed me there next week. Other players have turned down invites on the Challenge Tour to be there and it's a bit wrong of me not to be there, too.
"It's disappointing I'm not allowed to play in Sweden but if I'm going to stay an amateur, then I've got to do what the amateurs do."
Edwards has been among those profuse in their praise of Lewis's potential but he certainly would not have wanted to lose one of his top players at this stage. There remains, however, a conflict for the amateur bodies who spend a lot of money developing new players and then see, when the timing is right, individual players going their own way.
That time is soon for Lewis and he admitted the thought of going back to playing in front of one man and a dog on the amateur circuit will be a comedown after this week. But whatever the future holds in terms of victories and riches, helping Great Britain and Ireland regain the Walker Cup would be a fitting end to this stage of his career.
The 140th Open in numbers
20 Darren Clarke's victory was his first Open Championship title in 20 attempts, and his first major win. His previous best was when second at Troon in 1997. His last top-10 finish in a major was when third in the 2001 Open.
1947 The year the last Northern Irishman won the Open – Fred Daly at Hoylake, with a score of 293.
1967 At the age of 42, Clarke becomes the oldest winner of the Open since Argentine Roberto de Vicenzo who was 44 when he won at Hoylake in 1967.
7 American Phil Mickelson eagled the seventh yesterday. Four of the last five champions hit an eagle in their final round.
£900,000 The money earned by Clarke – the biggest prize in the tournament's history.
10 Number of former winners who missed the cut, including Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and John Daly.
21 Years since two majors have gone to a Briton in a single calendar year. Sir Nick Faldo collected the Masters as well as the Open in 1990.
11 Number of major rounds out of the dozen so far this year in which the leader has come from Great Britain.
2 Number of holes-in-one at this year's Championship. Tom Watson hit one on the sixth hole on Friday. It was the first time the 61-year-old had aced in his 115 rounds at the Open. Dustin Johnson had earlier achieved the same feat at the 16th hole on the opening day.
3 Joint first-day leader Tom Lewis, 20, sought to become the fourth amateur player to win the Open. The last player to do so was Bobby Jones in 1930, when the American celebrated winning his third title.
12 The last 12 majors have all been won by different players, and it is now six without a win for a player from the US.
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