Sharing the Load
Commentary on this story on Saturday's Headlines Podcast .
Two weeks ago, Michael, 15, a rising sophomore at The O'Neal School, caddied for his father at the British Senior Open in Turnberry, Scotland.
Last week, Pat McGowan carried his son's bag as he shot rounds of 68-68 at Myers Park Country Club in Charlotte to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Championship.
Michael finished second overall to Wake Forest All-American, Webb Simpson of Raleigh, the country's top-ranked amateur, according to Golfweek magazine.
The younger McGowan's game wasn't nearly as sharp in this week's Golf Pride Junior Classic held at his home course, Pine Needles. He shot a 74 on Wednesday to go with a 72 on Tuesday and another 72 in Thursday's final round.
"It was one of those days," he said after a balky driver put him in fairway bunkers five times during the second round.
Afterward, he talked about the recent travels with his father, a former PGA and now Champions Tour player.
At Turnberry, Pat McGowan shot rounds of 75 and 72, missing the cut by three strokes. Loren Roberts of the U.S. went on to win the championship.
"It was really different over there," Michael McGowan said after a trip overseas that included playing some rounds with his father and Champions Tour player Craig Stadler before the tournament. "When I got back here the game seemed a lot easier.
"It was fun. I was with Stadler all week. I'm good friends with him. He's funny. He puts on a show."
The 2006 North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 2-A state medalist was asked what made him decide to try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, knowing it would mean facing a field of top collegians and other seasoned players.
"I didn't make the U.S. Junior," he said, "so I thought I might as well try to make the U.S. Amateur. And I made that which is pretty interesting."
He called qualifying with his father by his side a great experience.
"I really didn't think about it until I was done and I thought, wow, this is pretty awesome," he said. "I hit a lot of greens, made a couple of putts -- unlike this week."
Pat McGowan ranks the experience as one of the best of his golf career.
"I can tell you it was the biggest thrill of my golf career," he said. "Michael has been playing junior golf since he was about 11 and he's just showing more interest in the game now.
"He doesn't play every day, but when he plays, he's excited. He has a great attitude. When you're 15, you expect all the putts to go in. You have a pure mind."
The elder McGowan may have had a lot to do with his son's "pure" mind.
"He told me to trust myself, that I was the best putter in the world," Michael said. "Whatever I said, he'd say, 'That's right, trust it.'"
This country's top amateur event will be held at Hazeltine Country Club in Chaska, Minn., on Aug. 21-27.
Michael's uncle, Kelly Miller of Southern Pines, is a first alternate out of sectional qualifying for the U.S. Am held in Durham in late July.
Michael's mother and Pat's wife, Bonnie, is the daughter of Peggy Kirk Bell, and works in the golf schools at the resorts. Miller, married to another of Bell's daughters, Peggy Ann, is the president of Pine Needles and Mid Pines.
The father and son duo of McGowan and McGowan expect to team up again in Minnesota.
"We're planning on it," Michael said.
Howard Ward, The Pilot's golf writer, contributed to this story.
More like this story