Silver medal opens doors for Locke

Sam Locke perches on the edge of the 18th green at Carnoustie with his parents and holds his silver medal for finishing best amateur. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA
Sam Locke perches on the edge of the 18th green at Carnoustie with his parents and holds his silver medal for finishing best amateur. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA
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An audience with five-time winner Tom Watson was an added bonus for Sam Locke before he collected the Silver Medal as leading amateur in the 147th Open Championship and now the 19-year-old will sit down this week with another player whose name is on the Claret Jug to decide his future.

“I haven’t spoken to Sam or his dad yet about his future plans,” said 1999 winner Paul Lawrie, pictured, who mentors Locke, having watched the Stonehaven player do him and his foundation proud at Carnoustie on his debut in the game’s oldest major.

Before the event started, Locke’s intention was to stay in the amateur ranks to try to make the Walker Cup at Royal­ Liverpool next September. After showing he can handle himself on a stage like this, though, turning professional sooner rather than later is now a possibility.

“We had a quick chat before the thing started and Andrew [Locke’s dad and caddie for the week] mentioned that he wanted to play Walker Cup next year. Whether this will influence that I don’t know yet,” added Lawrie.

“I plan a wee sit down on Monday, as I do anyway whether he has a good week or a bad week. So Monday we will find out more about what he is thinking.”

While not always a guide about what might lie ahead for winners, Locke joined the likes of Jose Maria Olazabal (1985), Tiger Woods (1996), Justin Rose (1998) and Rory McIlroy (2007) in picking up the coveted Silver Medal. He’s the first Scot to achieve the feat since Lloyd Saltman at St Andrews in 2005.

“Not only did he win the Silver Medal, he was the only Scot to make the cut, a phenomenal performance,” said Lawrie, speaking at Carnoustie as a Loch Lomond Whiskies ambassador. “Considering this is the biggest golf event in the world, I think he has done a great job this week.

“The difficult thing, and we want to be careful, is that we don’t want to go totally overboard on this, and he needs to know that. He has a long way to go, and I don’t want that to sound patronising or to shoot him down. But my job now is to have a chat with him, and tell him, ‘Right Sam, you’ve won the silver medal, you’ve done brilliantly but this is where we are’.

“That’s my job as a mentor, to keep doing that. I’m not saying he needs that kind of a chat, but that’s my bit of it now, having been through it myself, good and bad.”

Locke’s last round – a 78 that saw him come home in 42 for a nine-over-par 293 total – wasn’t what he’d been looking for after being on such a high after his success in being the only one of four amateurs in the field to make it to the weekend had earned him that audience with Watson on Saturday. “I was asked yesterday after I got off the course, and I was told he was wanting to come and meet me,” said Locke. “I couldn’t believe it. It was nice to know. We spent about probably 15 to 20 minutes together, with my mum and dad as well.

“We were all, ‘Wow, we’re meeting Tom Watson’. It was great to meet him and pick his brains and learn from him. He’s obviously a great of the game and hopefully I can follow in his footsteps.

“One of the things Tom said was how he dealt with when he was nervous. It’s a different approach and I’d never heard it before. It was nice to learn that. He said he deals with it more physically, slowing his walks down. Instead of thinking of it mentally. He kind of thought of it in a different way.”

If he sticks with his original plan, the first task for Locke – who will be back working as a barista for Marian Lawrie, Paul’s wife, in the coffee shop at the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre on the outskirts of Aberdeen – will be to defend his Scottish Amateur title at Blairgowrie in a fortnight’s time.

“I’m going to have to sit and have a think about it,” admitted Locke of what lies ahead for him. “Right now we just need to enjoy the situation we’re in.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being here and learning a lot and soaking it all in. But we’ll see.

“We’ll need to have a think and make a proper decision and it will be a few days before we come to a decision.

“I’ve learned on the golf course how to deal with myself in front of lots of people and the cameras. But, you know, I felt I would enjoy it. You’re expecting a lot of people here, but I felt I would enjoy that more because I saw it as a chance to show people what I could do, not a chance of not wanting to do bad in front of them.

“The back nine today wasn’t what I wanted but, overall, I’m really pleased, just playing in the tournament for a start, let alone making the cut and doing reasonably well. It was brilliant walking down 18 today – you’ll never forget an experience like that.”

On joining that illustrious company as a Silver Medal winner, he admitted: “It’s really nice to know you’re in the company of some of the great names in golf. If I can just keep working hard and doing what I’m doing, there’s no reason why I can’t become a big name.”