LORAN SMITH COLUMN: Georgia's Macpherson falls just short at Sandwich

Photo by John Millikan

Photo by John Millikan

SANDWICH, England -- When Bryden Macpherson returns to Athens next week, he will catch up with the treasured trophy he claimed by winning the British Amateur in June.

While the Amateur trophy is not as familiar to golf fans as the Claret Jug that goes to the winner of the Open Championship, it is actually heavier and much bigger.

"About three foot-high," Macpherson grinned after Friday's round when he posted a 4-over 74 and a 144 total for two rounds of the tournament. He wasn't very happy with the results in that he missed the cut by a single stroke, and he chastised himself for finishing double-bogey, bogey.

"I didn't play all that badly," he said, "but I failed to get up and down on both finishing holes, which cost me. I didn't feel like I was nervous, I just made a couple of poor shots. You can't do that in a tournament like this."

When Macpherson defeated Scotland's Michael Stewart 3 & 2 at the Hillside Golf Club to win the British Amateur, he knew what that meant -- an invitation to the Open Championship and also the Masters next April. After his Amateur victory, he flew home to play in the Dogwood tournament and enjoyed a few days with his buddies back in Athens. He had his trophy shipped to coach Chris Haack, but not before he took a look at the names of the past winners engraved on the trophy, starting with the immortal Bobby Jones of Atlanta.

"It was fun," he said, "seeing some familiar names on the trophy that are from my era, players like Sergio Garcia and Jose Olazabal."

With an Australian background, he grew up with a familiarity with names and history of golf in the United Kingdom. He knew about Greg Norman, a two-time Open champion, and before the Shark, Peter Thompson, who won this championship five times. He knew, too, that when the Amateur title became his, he was the second Aussie to win the event -- Doug Bachli being the first in 1954.

Winning the British Amateur was a goal of his, and he can't help but think of the possibility of the ultimate accomplishment of being able to place the Claret Jug beside his British Amateur trophy some day.

"This is the biggest golf event in the world, and you can imagine how great it would be to win here. My plan is to come back and learn more about links golf, gain more experience and hope that my dream comes true," he said.

Returning to Athens to move forward with his degree plans at the University of Georgia is next on his agenda, but he will return to Great Britain next summer, not only to defend his Amateur title, but to add to his links experience. Already, he is ahead of most players, having played in the Amateur three times.

"The only way to improve your game is from experience," he said.

A native of Melbourne, Macpherson's link to the University of Georgia was through Wayne Smith, an Australian who played for Dick Copas, a former Bulldog golf coach.

If you didn't know what he looked like, you could easily spot Macpherson early in the week as he played practice rounds, wearing a Georgia cap.

While he said that the lifestyle in Athens after growing up in Melbourne was a, "culture shock," he has made friends easily.

"I have a lot of friends," he said. "They are all good guys, and I am looking forward to getting back home and seeing them before school starts this fall."

There is one thing he misses about Australia: "A good beer."

If he achieves his next objective in British golf -- an Open title -- he won't have to worry about that. Or little else.