'I belong at the Open – my talent suggests that'July 13, 2017 Golf News
Britain’s new amateur champion Harry Ellis is the comeback king who is on a major mission – and he doesn’t lack for confidence...
You’re four down with five to play. Be honest. You’ve accepted defeat, haven’t you?
You’re thinking about shaking hands and getting off the course – getting anywhere so you don’t have to watch your opponent basking in the glory.
Some, though, are made of sterner stuff.
When Meon Valley’s Harry Ellis faced that seemingly insurmountable deficit – and he was three down with three to play as well – against Australia’s Dylan Perry in the Amateur Championship final at Royal St George’s, he drew on reserves few of us have.
The rewards? Lifting the famous trophy in a dramatic match that went to the 38th hole and blocking off his calendar for the next 11 months.
The Masters and Shinnecock Hills, for the US Open, are still in the distance. But firmly on the radar of the Hampshire 21-year-old is Royal Birkdale.
Think the Florida State University senior is apprehensive ahead of his major bow next week? You don’t know Harry Ellis…
How on earth did you come back from that deficit in the final?
You draw from previous experience. I have been in a few finals – some have gone my way, some haven’t. I was so calm and so collected the whole time.
I accepted that I wasn’t playing good enough in the final and deserved to be that far down. But I never believed I was out of it. I kept telling myself ‘keep hitting good shots’. The final stretch at Royal St George’s is no gimme.
I looked at the sign for the 14th and said ‘let’s go’.
You won the English Amateur at 16. Now you’re a history maker. Only three players have won both Amateurs and you’re the youngest…
That stat about being a history maker is the one that really makes me go ‘wow’.
When I won the English Amateur, it was a lot to deal with. There were a lot of things to balance out.
When I look back, I think ‘thank God I did’. I always wanted to win the Amateur Championship – because it is the Amateur.
To join that club, and to do that and beat Sir Michael Bonallack’s record by six years, was pretty impressive.
I was happy in the strokeplay. I played a fantastic round at Royal St George’s – it could have been a 63 – and I drew a lot of confidence from that round. But I was disappointed not to win the strokeplay.
The last 64 [at the matchplay] can sometimes be the hardest match. Everyone is still fresh and it’s all very even so it was good to get that one out of the way. You’ve got to play good golf and, most of the week, through the middle part of the round was where I really won the matches.
Now you’re off to Royal Birkdale. Can you believe you’re playing in the Open?
I believe I belong there. That’s why I work hard and my talent suggests that.
Whatever happens that week, I will learn a lot about myself, and learn where I am against the world’s best.
I won’t get absorbed in seeing those faces. My goal is to take away the silver medal. If I play how I know I can, I don’t need to worry about it.
I am going to be nervous but it will be more excitement – a mixture of emotions. I have been through enough to control them and know what’s best for me.
You recently played Birkdale for the first time…
It’s a great golf course. They’ve narrowed the fairways for this tournament than in previous years but the rough isn’t too penal.
You will have to have great strategy and depending on what weather you face will determine what club you will hit off the tee.
It’s a course where you have got to get the ball in play off the tee and around the greens it is not too bad.
It was great to do it a couple of weeks before. No one was there so I was able to absorb it all. It was great to get something like that out of the way.
I didn’t want to be there and, in my mind, taking it all in [when the Open gets underway]. So that was a good decision to go and play the full 18 holes.
The Amateur champion gets paired with some legends. Scott Gregory last year played with Open winners Sandy Lyle and David Duval. How will that affect you?
You respect them and you accept that you’ve seen them on TV so many times.
But it’s about staying in your own bubble and telling yourself you belong there. You don’t get worried about external factors. It’s just taking in what you need to.
I believe that my game can stand up and you have to make the most of the opportunity and experience everything. The silver medal is up for grabs for one of the amateurs. If I can control my game and play the way I have been playing of the last few weeks, it will take care of itself.
If all that’s not enough, you’re going to the Walker Cup as well…
It’s a lifelong dream and it is just the cherry on top. We will have a great team and a great chemistry and I’m going to embrace the whole experience.
It’s such a great event. I’ve seen it for so many years and I know players who have gone to play in it. It’ll be my birthday when I am there – I’ll be 22.
Did playing much of your golf in the US college system make it a tougher task to get in Craig Watson’s team?
I believe it makes it harder to be selected. I have played pretty good all year so the Amateur was no real surprise to me.
I made the mistake of winning the English Amateur (five years ago) and really pushing the following year to get into the team.
When you push like that, nine times out of 10 it makes it harder to perform and make it. In the five years since, I have matured so much and matured as a golfer. My main focus this year was to make the Arnold Palmer Cup team in college.
I know that my mind is very short term and that if I took care of business I could have a chance. I was on the fringes, now I have cemented my place.
Only two Great Britain & Ireland teams have ever won across the pond. It’s going to be a big ask at the LA Country Club…
You have got to take that away mentally and realise that if we all stick together and play tough we can beat them at home. That would feel even sweeter taking it back.
You do work hard and that’s where you dream of being over the last few years. I believe that I am where I belong and to give myself these opportunities is great.
I am going to do everything I can to make the most of these opportunities and prepare for when I turn professional.