Britain’s Top Amateur Has Havemeyer Trophy on His Mind
August 14, 2017
By Dave Shedloski
Scott Gregory might have missed the cut in the two major championships for which he qualified thanks to his victory in the 2016 Amateur Championship, conducted by The R&A, but competing in the Masters and U.S. Open earlier this year could not have been better preparation for the one prize he covets the most – the U.S. Amateur Championship.
As the 117th U.S. Amateur began Monday at The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles, Calif., Gregory is certainly a player to watch. He figures that the challenges he has encountered the past few months – particularly competing in the Masters and U.S. Open – will have him geared for one of his last big amateur events. His last one might be the Walker Cup in September at The Los Angeles Country Club, depending on the results at Riviera, but first things first.
Gregory, 22, of England, has been building his game toward capturing what he said is the biggest prize in amateur golf.
“I really feel good about my game, overall, the experiences I’ve had, what I’ve learned about myself,” Gregory said earlier this summer. “I’d like to sort of end things at the Walker Cup at the end of the year, unless I win the U.S. Amateur. Then I would stay amateur because I wouldn’t turn down another trip to Augusta.
“But I can’t think of anything I want more than the U.S. Am. That means I’d have them both [the U.S. Amateur and the Amateur Championship titles]. How many people have done that? The U.S. Amateur, it’s the one thing that beats what I’ve already won. That would be big. That would mean a great deal to me.”
Gregory, who comes into the U.S. Amateur at No. 6 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, doesn’t know much about Riviera, except for what he has seen on television, or stroke-play co-host venue Bel-Air. But the trip to Southern California could be beneficial in his preparation for the other major amateur competition in the area.
“The fact that it’s at Riviera, I can get out to see L.A. Country Club for the Walker Cup. That’s quite nearby, and that lets me make the most of the trip no matter what happens.
“The Walker Cup, that would be sweet. It's a goal I've had quite a while. It's something that I'd love to do, and I think it sort of says that you've reached the pinnacle of the amateur game. That's something that I would like to have in my amateur career.”
After winning the 2016 Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales, Gregory played in the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon, missing the cut. In April, he had a rough start at the Masters, opening with an 82 before settling down the second day with a 75. He remained in America for the Memorial Tournament and then played in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where he missed the cut again with a 4-over 148 total (75-73).
Staying to compete at Erin Hills also meant another miss – defending his Amateur title at Royal St. George’s. The Amateur Championship started a day after the U.S. Open concluded. He had regrets, sure, but not a shred of doubt about his decision.
“You never want to miss defending, but I wasn’t going to be able to get back before the start of the first round, and we’re talking about the U.S. Open, another chance to play in a major,” he said. “It really wasn’t a hard decision. You want to be able to defend the things that you win, especially when it’s something as big as the Amateur Championship. But in order to take your game to the next level, you have to play against the best and you have to take those opportunities when you can. That is the best thing for improving as a player is to play in majors. Those are the ones you dream of playing in. And every one of them is valuable experience, no matter what you shoot. Just being there matters.”
The benefits of remaining for the U.S. Open extended beyond merely competing at Erin Hills. Gregory has become friendly with a number of professionals. The most important relationship he forged is with fellow Englishman Justin Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion.
“Justin Rose has been a huge help, quite friendly,” Gregory said. “He’s from Hampshire, the same county in England that I’m from. He’s offered me some great advice, and he’s been very nice, very encouraging.
“But just spending time here and there with any of the players out here is special. Obviously, when you play against the best in the world, you learn a lot about the things in your game that you need to improve. But they are doing what I want to do. At Augusta, I was up there on the putting stats. On [those] tricky greens, that gave me a massive amount of confidence. I wasn’t pitching it very well. But I can hit it pretty well, just not as consistently as they do. So, I have things to work on, but I don’t think I’m far off.
“I’m starting to sort of put it all together, and we’ll just see where that takes me.”
Perhaps hoisting the Havemeyer Trophy at week’s end.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.