PINEHURST, N.C. (July 29, 2008)--Jamie Lovemark could have easily stayed at home. Taken the week off, maybe done some surfing. Or if he really wanted to stay sharp, he could have just gone up the left coast to Washington and played the prestigious Sahalee Players Championship.
Instead, he flew from his Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., home to the east coast and ventured down to the cozy hamlet of Pinehurst, N.C., where he played in the 108th North and South Amateur Championship.
Lovemark had never been to Pinehurst, but he figured why not.
After all, by virtue of being a 2007 USA Walker Cup team member he is exempt into the 108th U.S. Amateur Championship, which will be played out on Pinehurst Resort’s Nos. 2 and 4 courses, Aug. 18-24.
So call it a recon mission of sorts.
Say what you want about the legitimacy of amateur rankings but Lovemark, the 2007 NCAA Championships medalist as a University of Southern California freshman, is considered one of the elite amateurs in the world.
He’s got game, he’s a player and he’s got an upside. Getting a sponsor’s exemption into the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic (where he finished tied for 74th) and Nationwide Tour’s upcoming Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational validates that potential.
But Lovemark did not want to squander an opportunity to get a leg up on his U.S. Amateur comrades.
Last year’s finalists and the 10 members of the victorious USA Walker Cup team are exempt into the U.S. Amateur. But Amateur finalists Colt Knost and Michael Thompson have since turned professional, along with Walker Cuppers Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Jonathan Moore and Webb Simpson. Career amateur Trip Kuehne has retired.
So that left Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Kyle Stanley and Lovemark. Stanley and Lovemark opted for the North and South. Lovemark’s Trojan teammates Rory Hie and Tom Glissmeyer also made the trip east.
Fowler and Horschel gave their reasons for not making the same decision at this week’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. Both players were members of the United States Palmer Cup team that lost to Europe 14-10 and returned home on Saturday, June 28. The North and South Amateur Championship began two days later.
“I had just gotten back from Scotland and I wanted to get some time off, to spend some time at home with friends and family. So I didn’t want a crazy summer,” said Fowler, who will follow the APL with a spot in the same Nationwide Tour event as Lovemark, the Western Amateur and then the U.S. Amateur.
As for the outspoken and forthright Horschel: “I came back from Scotland and that day went straight to a wedding. Plus, I had already committed to take some time off. Yeah, the guys who did play got an understanding of what the course is like and see it, but I think it’s going to play completely different. I think it’s going to play a little bit faster and firmer and the rough is going to be different. But it’s not a big deal, I didn’t think I needed to see it before the Amateur.”
While Stanley reached the semifinals, Lovemark marched right to the championship before losing on the 40th hole to Matt Savage of Lexington, Ky.
So Lovemark got eight competitive rounds in on No. 2. And before the question “What did you learn” could be finished, he knew the question and answer. “Don’t short-side yourself.”
“You have to play it a couple of times to appreciate and understand it,” Lovemark said. “Especially around the greens.
“I’m sure the rough will be a little longer [for the U.S. Amateur], but I guess the greens can’t be that much faster cause its so hot, but I guess they can if they cut them too short, but I’m sure they will be firm. Around the greens they may shave the banks a little more.”
As for his mission?
“Successful, both from learning the course and getting a good feel for my game,” he said. “I’ve been working on a few things the past few weeks and I feel good heading into the rest of the summer.”
And that’s a good sign, because Lovemark ended his sophomore season at Southern California on a sour note. Though he led the Trojans in stroke average, he failed to win a tournament and finished T-8, T-16 and T-43 at the Pac-10, NCAA West Regional and NCAA championships, respectively.
“At the end of the season things started to get a little out of control a bit, but I took some time off and have been tightening them up a bit,” he said. “So I’m excited and can’t wait to get back to Pinehurst.”
This time, though, with a little bit more knowledge.
--Story written by Stuart Hall for the USGA