July 14, 2011
When you're a 20-year-old amateur playing with your namesake in a major championship on your home turf, the pressure is tremendous. But you sure wouldn't know that while watching Tom Lewis stalk the links at Royal St. George's.
The kid who won the British Boys Championship in 2009 at this same golf course not only tied the lead after the first day at the Open Championship, but his 5-under 65 was the lowest round ever by an amateur in this major championship, beating the likes of Justin Rose in '98, Tiger Woods in '96 and Frank Stranahan in 1950.
So who is this Lewis kid? Probably not some flash in the pan. To qualify for the Open, Lewis shot 63-65, and told people that he'd wait to turn professional until after the Walker Cup, unless he wins the Open, which shows just how much he believes in himself. This is a kid that started playing golf at the age of 4 (hello, Mr. Woods), and lost in a playoff last November at the New South Wales Open, his first-ever professional event down in Australia. He tied for 59th in his only European Tour event, the 2011 Dubai Desert Classic, and said after, "I don't think I performed well." Mighty lofty expectations for Mr. Lewis, set by himself it seems.
Lewis, playing with his namesake Tom Watson, birdied four holes in a row before getting his ball up and down from the side of the 18th green to tie Thomas Bjorn at the Open, and never looked the least bit rattled. The best moment of the day for the young Lewis? When the 4-footer for par dropped in on the 18th green, Watson was standing behind him, smiling like his own kid had just shot that number.
We get a lot of these stories at major championships, where someone you've never heard of plays a great round of golf early in the week, but when a kid this young does it, with his anticipated date of turning professional coming after the Walker Cup, you can't help but stand back in awe. Playing with his legend, in the biggest tournament of his life, and he calmly and stoically puts together the finest amateur round ever.
What's next for Lewis? An hour or so of media interviews the likes of which he's never seen, and then more people pulling him in different directions. Sometimes they say the easiest place to be as a golfer is on the course, playing, and I'm sure Lewis will agree with that come Friday morning, but for now, he's the story out of Sandwich, and much deserving.