NCAA Champ Lovemark Will Give AT& T National the Old College Try
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Jamie Lovemark sat down on the edge of the No. 17 green on Congressional Country Club's Blue Course yesterday and fidgeted with his shoes. It wouldn't be the last time he would pause to adjust the immaculate, white leather golf spikes. After all, he only got them on Sunday.
"I haven't gotten new shoes for a year. Maybe I should have kept it that way," Lovemark joked. He said he's not that superstitious. "I figured I'd wear them and loosen them up a little bit. It only takes one round, but they look stiff as a board. I'm moving my toe and you can't even tell."
The 19-year-old amateur is the youngest player in this week's AT&T National, but even as he readies for his third career PGA Tour event and fourth professional tournament against golf's biggest names, Lovemark is very much at ease.
He just finished his freshman year at Southern California, where he won the 2007 NCAA men's golf individual title, becoming only the third Trojan to do so and the first in 26 years. He was tied for 11th entering the final day of the NCAA tournament when he shot his second consecutive round of 64, including three straight birdies, to win the championship by two strokes.
"It didn't look like I was going to win after a couple days," Lovemark said of a win that he felt helped silence any skepticism that his eight top 3 finishes were a fluke. "It was the first big tournament I had to come back to win. I had my coach out there the last 18 holes being the caddie and my teammates were watching me too, so it was a pretty loud and fun gallery."
At 6 feet 4, Lovemark looked older than his age as he walked the course yesterday. Clad in a white polo and white visor, the Southern California native gave all his shots sound effects, regardless if they fell in a bunker or landed perfectly on a green. He also sings quietly to himself as he tees up his ball.
"He looks like an adult, but really he's just a big kid," said Glen Holroyd, 52, Lovemark's uncle and caddie for all his professional tournaments.
Holroyd has watched Lovemark play golf, or at least hit toys around with a plastic club, since before his nephew was 2. He said Lovemark's greatest strength was present at a very young age.
"He's always had the ability to concentrate," said Holroyd, who lives in Phoenix. "When he was 5, and coming around the course, playing the front nine with me in Arizona. Most 5 year olds you couldn't keep their attention long enough to even think about playing something like that. They'd be running off in the desert or chasing lizards, but Jamie was just there to play golf."
Lovemark won the highly competitive Western Amateur in 2005, and in his two previous PGA Tour events, the 2006 Western Open and the 2007 Buick Invitational, he finished tied for 54th and tied for 39th respectively.
He's looking to improve.
In his most recent professional outing, Lovemark equaled the best amateur finish ever at a Nationwide Tour event, taking second at the Rochester Area Charities Showdown in Byron, Minn., in June. After entering the final round tied for 24th, Lovemark hit 17 of 18 greens and 11 of 14 fairways, and shot 7 under par to force a playoff against former Ryder Cup player Chris Riley.
"I didn't think I had chance to even win, realistically," Lovemark said of his first career Nationwide Tour appearance. "But having the chance to be in a playoff in a Nationwide Tour event, the second biggest tour in the world, I couldn't really ask for much more other than winning."