HALLAMSHIRE’S Barclay Brown has twice trodden a path taken in the past by former US Open champion Justin Rose, most recently last week when winning the Carris Trophy – the English Under-18 boys’ open championship.
Today he will start a journey that he hopes will see him walk in the footsteps of two former US Masters champions, Danny Willett and Nick Faldo, by winning the English men’s amateur championship.
It will be a big ask of the 17-year-old, who also has his name engraved alongside that of Rose on the prestigious Douglas Johns Trophy.
But few, if any, of Yorkshire’s more than two dozen competitors will carry more confidence than Brown into the event at Formby and Hesketh following his win at Fulford.
That the England boys’ international claimed the Carris Trophy in spite of incurring six penalty shots in his first round of one-over-par 73 speaks volumes of his growing maturity as a golfer, although he admits there would have been a time when such misfortune would have seen him blow a fuse – and his chances of victory.
“I just kept telling myself it was the first round and, thanks to quite a good start, despite a double bogey and a triple I was only three over par through nine,” explains Brown.
“I knew I could get it back somewhere around level for the day and then I had three rounds to get it back.
“I’ve played golf for a while and have seen that anything can happen at any level. I used to get really, really angry – as everyone saw when I was a lot younger.
“But I have seen several times first-hand how that had a vastly negative effect on my game, so I have managed to eradicate that and it has helped me a lot.”
Two rounds of four-under-par 68 followed, showcasing his considerable natural ability, to leave him two shots behind 54-hole leader Gregorio De Leo, of Italy, going into the last day.
The strong mental attitude that had served Brown so well in round one was to the fore again – as was an astounding ability to score well when his game was taking him to parts of the Fulford course that he would not have expected to visit.
“I had some fairly miraculous ups and downs in the last round, I was a bit all over the place,” says Brown, adding: “But I kept it together and I holed a lot of 6-10ft putts, which kept me in it.
“A few of them were to keep me four shots behind. Throughout the round, up until about the 10th, there were so many times where I could have gone five back and that was the number that I thought, ‘that is a long way to come back from’.”
The new English Under-18 champion feels the turning point came at the seventh when De Leo had a 10ft putt for par while Brown had gone through the back of the green and onto the eighth tee. Both players lay three.
“I holed it from about 25 yards for par and he missed his putt, so I got a shot back on him when it looked like I was going to be five or six down – that was massive,” he added.
“Then on eight I hit it straight into the long grass and he was down the fairway, but I got it up and down from about 80 yards and he didn’t, so that was another shot back.
“I hit it in the heather on the par-3 10th and got up and down from about 20 yards and the same thing happened on 11. I was in thick rough, had to flip it over a bunker and put it to about 4ft to get up and down.”
The stroke play championship had effectively become a match play contest between the two despite Finland’s Eemil Alajarvi notching six birdies in his last 10 holes to set a target of six under, which Brown would surpass by two with birdies at both 17 and 18 for a closing 71.
It gave him a one-shot victory over De Leo and a triumph that he felt had been coming for a while.
“I kept thinking that I have been playing really well this year,” says Brown. “I went to the Fairhaven Trophy and really thought I was going to win there then I was three over for the last six and I lost it (by two strokes).
“Last week (at Fulford) I had the same kind of feeling. I knew if I played well I had a chance and I kept saying to myself that I didn’t really want to let another chance slip by.
“This is definitely the biggest title that I have won.”
As he will not turn 18 until next January he will have the opportunity to defend the Carris Trophy.
Shortly after, in September 2019, he will begin a golf scholarship at Stanford University, alma mater to both Tom Watson, winner of eight major titles, and Tiger Woods, who has 14.
Rose, Watson, Woods: the Yorkshire teenager is already moving in exalted circles.