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The sixth group off Friday at The Open Championship offered quite the juxtaposition.
There was Padraig Harrington, the 49-year-old, two-time Open champion with 24 career starts in golf’s oldest major championship. And then there was Sam Forgan, the 31-year-old English golf professional, who after more than a decade of trying had finally qualified for his first Open.
It’s not hard to guess who was most emotional while walking down the final fairway Friday at Royal St. George’s.
“It was a bit strange,” said Forgan, who at one point while finishing off his round pulled his hat over his face in an attempt to shield himself from the moment. “Not really an emotional guy, to be honest. I suppose it's one of those you don't really know when you're going to get another chance like this.
"I don't think it was because I played badly. I don't know. I just loved it.”
Forgan’s Open debut may have been short-lived – he shot 73-77 to miss the cut – but amidst a sea of touring pros who, like Harrington, probably have many more cracks at capturing future claret jugs, the assistant pro at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club was appreciative of every second. He knows his chances may be one and done.
Forgan had been entering qualifying for The Open since he was a teenager. He played collegiately in the U.S. at Louisiana Tech and since graduating has competed almost solely on the EuroPro Tour, a developmental tour in Europe.
But it wasn’t until this year that he finally punched his Open ticket, holing a 15-foot putt on the final hole to earn one of three qualifying spots just up the road at Prince’s Golf Club in July.
“Your dreams are always better than reality, aren’t they? So, I suppose in my dreams I would’ve shot two 67s and enjoyed the walk, but no such luck this time,” Forgan said shortly after earning his Open berth. He was featured on a docuseries called, “Road to The Open.”
Where Forgan’s road takes him now is a bit uncertain. He and his wife, Morgan, will welcome their first child next month, and Forgan, who has competed in just four pro events in the past two years, said Friday that he’s contemplating hanging up the touring spikes.
“It's one of those you obviously get a taste for it and that's nice, but for me, strange time in my life really, I suppose. I've got a kid on the way and that sort of thing,” Forgan said. “So, yeah, so I kind of said this year might be my last year playing anyway, so I guess we'll kind of look at that when I get home. Talk with the wife and that kind of stuff and see what's going on.”
If Forgan changes his mind, Harrington sees a player that is capable for achieving success – at least physically.
“He hits it as well as anybody or a lot better than a lot of players out there, but it's just a belief in his game,” Harrington said. “We always say that in any range you can find loads of guys out there, and it's the ones that believe that do the scoring. For him, he should take away from this that he's well capable of doing it, it's just a question of believing, being comfortable in this position.”
But if this year does indeed mark the end of Forgan’s competitive career, he can always look back on this week: his first Open with his brother, Jack, on the bag. The Forgan brothers’ first Open experience came at Hoylake in 2006 when they watched Tiger Woods win over Chris DiMarco and Ernie Els.
“That was the first time I’d ever been to a professional event, and I said to myself, I don’t think it’s going to get any better than this,” Forgan said.
Well, it has.
“It's been a journey, one we both loved it I think,” Forgan added. “I'm sure I can speak for him. He loved it as much as me.”