LORTON, Va. – Andrew McCain doesn’t have to delve far into his conscience to find inspiration. His 8-year-old brother, Matthew, was born with Down Syndrome, a condition which affects a person’s physical and mental development.
His finishes in golf competitions, including this week’s U.S. Amateur Public Links at Laurel Hill Golf Club, seem to matter little to Andrew when he thinks of the incredible strides his brother has made. Matthew recently graduated to the next grade level, a significant achievement for someone with the genetic disorder.
Andrew, of Minneapolis, admits that he “didn’t really understand” what was happening to his little brother when he was young. Now 19, he has a greater appreciation for the daily battle Matthew has to endure.
“He’s still my brother. I know he has a disability, but I don’t see it as much as probably other people do,” said Andrew. “He’s definitely been a blessing. It’s been really cool to have him. He’s awesome—always smiling and having fun. He’s been doing well and has been high functioning.”
Andrew was so inspired by his brother’s achievement that he spent time this summer volunteering at Special Olympics golf events. The sheer will and courage of the athletes has left an impression on him.
“It just puts things in perspective,” said Andrew, who opened stroke-play qualifying with a 7-over 77 on Monday. “I can go out and make a double [bogey] and golf doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, I’m out here having fun and doing something not a lot of people get to do.”
When it comes to his own golf, Andrew is working with Sean Foley, Tiger Woods’ coach, on his mechanics, and is planning a move to Tampa, Fla., this summer.
And when setting his own goals, which include turning professional, his hopes for Matthew’s continued progress are never far from his thoughts.
“I just can’t wait until he gets big enough to caddie,” Andrew said with a laugh. “Right now, he’s a little small, but hopefully in a couple of years I can get him on there on the bag and we can go have some fun together.”
Back in the Game
It’s a safe bet Cory Gladstone didn’t rehearse the throw-away line, “I’m just happy to be here,” prior to this week’s national championship. In his case, it’s actually a truism.
That’s because Gladstone took a 15-year hiatus from the game while working in the mortgage industry in San Diego. During that time, he didn’t think about touching a club.
“I was too busy,” said Gladstone, who stopped playing at age 18. “That was a crazy time back then out in southern California. The money was good. There was no reason to golf.”
Following his entrepreneurial endeavors, golf rose to the forefront about two and a half years ago. At age 34, he started playing again and refining his motion with the help of Brian Smock, an instructor at Coronado (Calif.) Golf Course. A former baseball player who played a little high school golf, Gladstone was able to quickly re-acclimate himself to the game. But he knows he’s a work in progress when it comes to course management and other intricacies.
“Golf, for some reason, came pretty easily with the hand-eye coordination,” said Gladstone, who carded a 4-over 74 on Monday. “I’m kind of learning how to play the game. It’s not just, ‘Bomb it.’ ”
Gladstone qualified for and played in the 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Shadow Hawk Golf Club in Richmond, Texas, but is in cram mode on the competitive stage.
“There’s so much to learn. My experience level is low,” he said. “I’m competing and trying to catch up with everyone who’s been playing constantly since they were young. I’m trying to get in as many events as I can. I just have to get more experience.”
Call to Service
Addison Lambeth, of Browns Summit, N.C., hasn’t had much time to work on his golf game this summer. But it hasn’t been school work, a desk job or an injury that have kept him away from the course – it has been the long hours he has been working as a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps.
“I’ll try to suck it up and hit a few balls at the end of the day,” said Lambeth, 25, who opened with a 3-under 67 in the first round. “But after working for 14 hours it’s easy to lose focus. I don’t play anywhere near as much as these other guys out here.”
Lambeth has made the most of his first competitive event of the season. He was given leave for his qualifying rounds and shot 141 to share medalist honors at Independence Golf Club in Midlothian, Va. Because his commanding officer is a big sports fan, Lambeth was able to get time off for this week as well. He didn’t have to travel far either – the host site, Laurel Hill, is located just 18 miles north of where he is stationed in Quantico, Va.
“I’ve got a lot of guys pulling for me,” said Lambeth, who also qualified for the APL in 2007 when he was a freshman at Appalachian State University. “I’m having a lot of fun, but I’ve already been here once. I want to win it this time.”
Man on a Mission
Like a lot of juniors who love the game, as a child Tommy Higham lived and breathed golf.
But that all changed in 2010 when he made his Mormon mission to Brisbane, Australia. The days were long and arduous, starting with classes that began at 6:30 a.m. before going into the community and witnessing. This was his life for two consecutive years. He was only allowed to call home on four occasions in that span.
Higham, now 23 and a sophomore at Brigham Young University, thinks of golf in a different light these days.
“I think it gave me a better perspective on golf,” said Higham. “I played golf my whole life since I was a five-year-old. It was more than a game to me. It was my life. After I took a two-year break, it kind of gave me a perspective as to what golf actually is.
“I think it improved my mental game. It is just a game – It’s not my whole life. It has changed my perspective on the game, which has helped me a lot.”
While in Australia, Higham didn’t lose his natural talent for golf. Last month, he beat his 16-year-old brother, Kiefer, 6 and 5 in the final match of the Idaho State Match Play Championship to post his third victory in the event.
Michael Trostel is the senior curator/historian for the USGA Museum. Email him at email@example.com.
Andrew Blair is director of communications for the Virginia State Golf Association. He is assisting the USGA this week at the APL.