having signed off his college career with a flourish, finishing joint-third in the NCAA Championship, James Ross has his sights set on repeating the feat on the amateur circuit back home before trying to take the Martin Laird and Russell Knox route on to the PGA Tour.
In his final outing for the University of Houston, the Royal Burgess player earned all-America honours – the first Cougars’ player to achieve the feat – in seven years after signing off with a 66 to finish on five-under-par at Prairie Dunes in Kansas.
It was an excellent performance from Ross in the blue riband event in American college golf and has set him perfectly for a domestic campaign this summer, when his assignments will include an appearance for Europe in the Palmer Cup – a Ryder Cup-style event – at Walton Heath next month.
“I’m delighted with my play at Prairie Dunes,” said Ross, last season’s Scottish Amater Golfer of the Year. “Of all the college golf I’ve played, that course was by far the most similar to a links course back home. I felt pretty comfortable the moment I saw it and had a good feeling going into the event.
“My previous two events there had been pretty poor but, for some reason, I felt fairly relaxed and confident going into this week. Being my last college event I had the mindset of just trying to enjoy it and see what happens.
“I got off to a decent start in my first two rounds and was sitting inside the top 20 at one-under with 70, 69. The tournament had several delays and play suspensions due to the thunderstorms, but I tried to not let that get to me.
“They had to cancel the fourth round of stroke-play completely to allow them to finish the event. So, going into the third round, I knew I had to enjoy my last collegiate round.”
But for a bogey at the last, where his 9-iron approach agonisingly spun off the front of the green, the 24-year-old would have been involved in a play-off won by highy-rated Stanford player Cameron Wilson. “I knew that I would be close to the lead but I didn’t think I would only be one short,” added Ross. “It’s obviously a bit disappointing to come up just short but to tie for third in that event is probably my best tournament result over here considering the field.”
As Ross waited to discover his own fate as well as the team’s – they finished tenth to just miss out qualifying for the match-play phase – he found himself part of the event’s ground-breaking TV coverage on the Golf Channel. “Once I came off the course I was interviewed several times by them,” he revealed. “They had the full set up with all the studios etc on site and, as I was the leader in the clubhouse for most of the afternoon, I ended up doing three TV interviews, one of them live with Kelly Tilghman. It was a great experience, but also pretty surreal, to sit there on set and I hope I’m back there in the near future!” Unable to get back home in time for the Scottish Stroke-Play Championship starting at Panmure on Friday, Ross will begin his domestic campaign in the St Andrews Links Trophy in just over a week’s time. He’s then off to Royal Portrush for the Amateur Championship and will try to qualify for the Open Championship as well before lining up in Andrew Coltart’s team for the Palmer Cup.
“It should be a great summer and I plan to enjoy every moment as it will more than likely be my last summer of amateur golf. My plan right now is to turn pro at the end of the year but nothing is set in stone yet. If I do I’ll be coming back to the States (as Laird did after he finished at college while Knox stayed on in Jacksonville before they both became PGA Tour players) and basing myself out of Houston. By doing that, I can continue to work with my swing coach Kevin Kirk, and also move in with my girlfriend Meghan.”