2021 U.S. Amateur champ James Piot enjoying fruits of his labor
James Piot has enjoyed team and individual success on the golf course
James Piot has enjoyed team and individual success on the golf course

Lifting the Havemeyer Trophy opens a lot of doors.

For James Piot, one of those doors was representing the United States in The Spirit International at Whispering Pines in Texas.

“He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s working his way up and is just starting to have some success,” Team USA captain Stacy Lewis said. “Events like this are a bonus, they’re fun. They get to go represent their country. It’s a pat on the back for all their great play this year.”

Most golf fans were introduced to Piot this summer when he triumphed in the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont, defeating Austin Greaser in the final match. He birdied three of the final eight holes to turn a three-hole deficit into a 2 and 1 victory.

Asked if he was starting to get used to the newfound attention, Piot, who was on the field with the Havemeyer Trophy at halftime of the Michigan State-Michigan football game, shrugged and said that he was getting used to it. Then he paused.

“I mean, I’m used to playing in big events.” Piot said. “Going into the U.S. Amateur, my ranking was kind of all over the place. WAGR (World Amateur Golf Rankings) had me in the 40s but other rankings had me higher.”

It was pretty clear he didn’t appreciate the storyline line that he had come out of nowhere to win the biggest championship in amateur golf. The words came quickly, it wasn’t the first time he felt like he had to defend his pre-U.S. Amateur resume.

“I had a win in college. I was Michigan player of the year.”

Piot, who was just awarded his second straight Michigan Association Golfer of the Year, plays golf with a chip on his shoulder. It doesn’t come across as anger or bitterness or aggression, like with some players. It comes across as calm and cool, sunglasses either on the back of his hat or protecting his eyes. His playing style stood in contrast to Austin Greaser, his opponent in the U.S. Amateur final. Greaser swung hard and stalked the golf course with long, intimidating strides.

While watching the live stream of the final round in Whispering Pines’ Spirit Hall at the same table as the South African team, one of the players remarked that Piot reminded them of Jordan Spieth. It’s a fair comparison, even down to their swings.

Piot still has something to prove, even as a player that has accomplished a lot in the last 18 months. Underneath the cool demeanor, Piot describes himself as gritty.

“Playing in the Big Ten you play a lot of hard golf courses. It’s turned me into a gritty guy. Never give up. For me, I keep pushing and know that birdies are coming.”

While Piot has enjoyed success on the individual stage, he is suited for team golf. Maybe it’s the experience he has garnered with the Spartans, but it seems more ingrained than that. He’s a competitor, but he enjoys the banter and camaraderie. He joked with Rose Zhang about her ability to completely forget her score once the round is finished and went so far as to wear temporary face tattoos on the final day of The Spirit.

During the week at The Spirit, Piot was constantly shining a light on his teammates Rose Zhang, Rachel Heck, and Sam Bennett, boosting them up with his words when his play wasn’t up to his standards.

“The boys have already said they’re (Zhang and Heck) are going to lead the team this week,” Stacy Lewis said.

During an interview with his Team USA teammates following the medal ceremony, the group was asked to share the one moment they will remember from the entire week.

“This is it right here, getting the gold medals on the stage. For me it’s been a great week being with this squad.” Then Sam joked, “They’re all probably going to have back problems after carrying me this week. It’s been awesome, and I’ve loved every second of it.”

Even though his play at The Spirit wasn’t up to his standards, opportunities to play in events like The Spirit come around usually only once in a lifetime for a high-level American amateur. Piot’s play has earned him quite a few more major invites in the coming six months.

“He’s got a lot of great golf courses he gets to play and some pretty cool experiences coming, too,” Lewis said.

Piot’s U.S. Amateur victory earned him invitations to the 2022 Masters, helping him check off one of his two bucket list courses; he's still waiting to play Pebble Beach. He’ll also travel to next summer’s U.S. Open at Brookline, home of one of the most historic victories in all of sports made famous by 20-year old amateur Francis Ouiment, when he took down two of the game’s greats, Ted Ray and Harry Vardon, in a playoff to win the 1913 U.S. Open.

The doors have certainly opened for Piot, and with a good head on his shoulders, a self-assured attitude, and a cool demeanor, things appear to be on the rise for the U.S. Amateur champion.

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