Sunday, August 26, 2007

Metro Starter Ed Downing at the U.S. Amateur

I ran into Ed Downing, a long time Starter at Metro, at the U.S. Amateur championship match at the Olympic Club Sunday. Turns out that a friend of Ed's was hosting Michael Thompson at his home all week. Thompson, a senior at Alabama, fell to Colt Knost in the final match. Ed was Thompson's designated escort to and from the Olympic Club. Ed got to know Thompson, and said he was a great guy.

Michael Thompson

I asked Ed to write a few sentences about his experience. He kindly obliged:
I got to spend the week at Olympic as a result of one of my best friends being a member there. He had volunteered to host one of the players, Michael Thompson, during his stay in San Francisco. In the beginning, we joked about how cool it would be if Michael made it to the finals. We looked him up on the web and found out that he was a ranked amateur. He finished fourth at the NCAA's this year. To our surprise and joy, he did make it to the finals.

I rode with my friend Jim and Michael to and from the tournament every day except Thursday when I worked my shift at Metro. The first 2 days were stroke play and 64 of the 312 players moved on to match play. Michael shot 145 and finished 40th in the stroke play. His first match play match was against Web Simpson, the top ranked amateur in the country and a member of the Walker Cup team. Michael won that match 5 and 3. This is when we began to think he might do well. He won two matches on Thursday. The second one went 20 holes. He won both his quarter-finals and semi-finals matches on Friday and Saturday without having to play the last 2 holes. Sunday's 36 hole finals match went 35 holes before Michael was defeated by Colt Knost, the reigning Publinx champion.

During the week , I got to know Michael's parents and swing coach very well. They are really nice people. He has had the same swing coach, Suzie Meyers, since he was 14. She is a former LPGA player. They didn't do anything to Michael's swing all week. She was just there to give him confidence and support.

Michael had an air of confidence and maturity that I didn't see in many other players that week. He was a genuinely nice and humble young man. He was an eagle scout as a kid. On the rare occasion when he hit a bad shot, his demeanor never changed.

He was long. He hit 4 iron on the Lake course #3 hole, a 248 yard par 3. He drove the green several times on the uphill 286 yard par 4 seventh. In the semi-final, he hit it to 2 feet on that hole for a kick-in eagle. He says he gets his power from his legs, but you couldn't see much leg movement in his swing. He also says that he rarely tries to swing hard. The best part of his game was his putting. He made a lot of 15 footers to win or halve holes.

In short, It was great fun to be that close to a competition for a national golf championship. Until the crowds got big on the week-end, we were literally walking along with the players and checking the sprinkler heads for yardage. It was so much more enjoyable than many of the PGA events I have attended. I will be a fan of Michael Thompson as long as he is competing. By the way, he plans to finish his senior year at Alabama, play in the Masters and US Open, and turn pro.

Ed introduced me to Thompson's mother, his swing coach (former LPGA player Susie Meyers), and pointed out some other interesting folks to me, including Knost's mother and the president of the Olympic Club.

I also recognized some other folks who play at Metro from time to time.

The final U.S. Amateur-related bit of news is that when I played Friday, Diplomat Ngawang Tsephel told me that elsewhere on the course, some 16-year-old who had just played in the tourney was sneaking in a round at Metro before flying out of Oakland.