NAPLES, FLORIDA | Of course she smiled, even broke into a spontaneous laugh. That’s who she is. Always.
You’d expect Amy Olson to be happy and engaging on Thursday after shooting a 63 at the CME Group Tour Championship, one shot off the Tiburon course record and the low round of her career. Nine under makes you charming.
But what about the scratchy 72 on Friday, a round where every good putt that fell in round one hung on the lip or burned the edge in round two; a round where Olson, still winless in five seasons on tour, saw a lead slip away?
What goes through your mind during that round? And what about the gremlins and scar tissue from Evian, a major championship two months ago that Olson led after every round but the last one, a tournament where she three-putted for double bogey on the 72nd hole to lose? Does that memory churn up in your gut like bad curry?
After a 63, a 72 feels like an 80, especially when you’re in the final group. Especially when you see Lexi Thompson shoot 67 to jump three shots ahead of you with two rounds to play.
So, how does that make you feel? It’s a question that doesn’t get asked often because most players wouldn’t answer. And those who don’t blow past you usually answer with a death-stare and the kind of milk-toast soundbite that would make Crash Davis blush.
But not Amy. “I think the 72 felt better than the 63,” Olson said. “The course was set up so hard. Yesterday you’re riding the wave and every putt was center cut. Today, I hit a lot of great putts and they all seemed to burn the edge. I hit so many good putts that didn’t go in, stayed right on the edge and didn’t fall. So they all average out. I’m pleased with both rounds.”
She said it with the same smile, same lean-into-you connection that she gives to everyone. It’s her nature. It’s her gift.
It’s her faith.
The Evian Championship hit Olson harder than she expected. But she got over it quicker than she thought she would. She told me the day after that loss, “Tears of disappointment are slowing turning to tears of gratitude. The support and encouragement I’ve received has blown my mind. God uses so many things to bring him glory. I trust that He’s using this.
“I’m not trying to disguise or hide the pain. I fell the full brunt of it. But I rest in my perfect savior who won the Major victory for all of us. ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ ”
“I don’t know she held it together as well as she did that Sunday afternoon,” Katherine Kirk said. Kirk was standing behind the 18th green at Evian, waiting to congratulate Olson. Instead, she consoled her. “I was chatting with (Olson’s brother) Nathan (who caddied for her in Evian) behind the 18th green and almost crying. But Amy had such poise. It is a testament to how strong her faith is. Even the day after, you’d think shock and disappointment would have set in but she was so strong.
“Had someone told her at the start of the week that she was going to finish T2, she would have said ‘awesome,’ ” Kirk said. “But the way it happened was heartbreaking. But she has a great perspective on life. I think she knows that if she can do that she can win out here.
“In fact, she’s too good not to win out here. Deep down she knows that. We also know in golf that we lose more in golf than we win.”
That’s what beats you down. Working so hard to lose so often can make you surly. Spend a week or two around a 60-year-old former tour pro working a club job if you want to sense how the game can suck out your soul.
But not Olson. As Kirk put it, “She has a great perspective on life, no matter what.”
“I’m definitely ready (to win,)” Olson said, not after the 63 but seconds after signing her card for Friday’s 72. “I think even just starting the beginning of the year, and even towards the end of last year, I felt ready.
“People are seeing that I’ve had some good results. It’ll come. The whole key, and what’s so hard about golf, is working hard and staying patient. It’s easy to do one or the other.
“But to keep grinding and at the same time trying to force it … you really can’t. You can’t make it happen. You’ve got to let it happen. When it’s your time, it’ll happen.”
When it does, Amy Olson will smile, lean in, engage and be gracious and kind. Not because of her place on a leaderboard. But because that’s who she is.