Whenever England’s Monty Scowsill is meeting someone for the first time, he knows what to expect. As often as not, the other will begin by saying, “Aren’t you the chap who …” before his voice gives up on him.
At that point, the 25-year-old Scowsill will make a cheerful fist of putting whoever it is at ease. He explains that he is indeed the individual who was eight holes up after 17 holes in the final of last year’s Amateur Championship at Nairn – and still four up with four to play – before losing the match at the 38th to Laird Shepherd.
It cost him rather more than the trophy, as he missed out on an invitation to each of this year’s Masters, US Open and the Open Championship. Shepherd instead was the man on the receiving end of some of the amateur game’s finest perks.
Scowsill – who will play among the DP World Tour professionals this week in the new Ras Al Khaimah Championship in the UAE – will tell you that his first fortnight post-Nairn was “painful.”
“Painful?” I queried.
“Yes,” he said. “Painful is the right word. I was gutted right through to my soul. I would wake up in the middle of the night worrying what people were thinking.”
Yet such was the support from family, friends and the hundreds of others who got in touch that, by the end of those two weeks, he was beginning to see positives amid the negatives. “With so many people reminding me how well I’d played to get as far as I did, my spirits began to lift,” he said.
Scowsill had never met Bob MacIntyre, but the Scottish star, to whom saying and doing the right thing has always come naturally, was among the first to give him a call. “When I lost in the final of the 2016 Amateur at Royal Porthcawl,” said MacIntyre, “I thought it was all over when really it was just the beginning. Remember that it’s just one tournament; there are so many opportunities ahead.”
Colin Montgomerie was another well-known Scot to have delivered words of encouragement. He had sent a good luck video to Scowsill – “from one Monty to another” – ahead of the Amateur final. When the two of them came face to face in a Dubai car park this month, the older Monty had his own Amateur tale to hand. Back in 1984, he had been expected to defeat some unknown Spanish teenager in the final at Formby. “But damn it,” said the former Ryder Cup captain, “if he didn’t beat me.” For the record, the unknown teenager was none other than José Maria Olazábal who was four up at the turn in the afternoon, with his killer blow an eagle at the 11th.
Had Scowsill wanted to write a book on golf’s more improbable defeats, he could not have hit on a better way to set about it as one person after another revealed how something just as bad, if not worse, had happened to them.
Scowsill, who graduated in business studies from Exeter University after switching from cricket to serious golf at the age of 18, is not about to write such a book. Instead, he has set his heart on turning professional at the end of this year after what he hopes will be a strong amateur season. Among other things, he is planning on reaching the top 10 in the European Amateur rankings, playing for England, and finding himself a sponsor. Shortly before Christmas, he set up a website – montyscowsillgolf.co.uk – detailing his results and asking for anyone interested in supporting his journey to get in touch. Already, people have been doing just that.
“My parents have supported me for long enough,” he said. “At some point, I’d love to be able to fly them around the world to watch some of the tournaments.”
Monty’s father, Jeremy, has already sampled the experience, with Monty having put his prize money from the recent Emirates Amateur Open towards flying his father out to the UAE. (Under the R&A’s new Rules of Amateur Status, the amateur who wins a scratch event can now collect a useful £700.)
Jeremy caddied for his son at Nairn and few will forget that poignant shot of the two of them departing the prize-giving together. Apparently, there was no conversation as the pair walked and thought, which is where Monty’s mother, Julia, stepped in to report that the club’s president had asked the family to join the members for a drink at the bar. She thought they should accept.
Monty thought not; it was the last thing he wanted to do. “As it turned out,” he said, “it was 100 percent the best thing.”
He cheered up enough to enjoy the members’ friendly chatter and, such was their appreciation of him and the way he had conducted himself on and off the course that they made him an honorary life member.
It was only when the Scowsills stepped into the car for the long journey back to Suffolk – Monty plays his golf at Aldeburgh and Woodbridge golf clubs – that father and son had the conversation which had not taken place earlier.
“I’m so sorry I let it go,” began Monty, who was thinking of how he had cost his father a trip to Augusta.
To which Jeremy replied: “Please don’t ever apologise to me. I’m so proud of you and what you put in to get there.”
If that was the remark Scowsill will treasure the most over the coming years, there was another at the other end of the spectrum, one which should serve as a lesson for everyone in what not to say when someone has just lost a match he or she should have won.
It came from an official from the county scene down south. Instead of doing the obvious thing in trying to make Monty feel a bit better about himself, the fellow ploughed straight in with his analysis of events: “I’m afraid you took the wrong club off the 18 tee,” he began.
He was in fact talking about the 36th hole where Monty’s drive had cannoned into a tree.
Had he said as much in real time, no one would have been surprised had one of Monty’s friends engaged in a moment of pugilism.
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