Sunday, August 31, 2014

Aye! Local laddie to tee’er up in Perthshire

From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

Some who read this section don’t read much of the sports section and few of you are from Scotland, so let me call attention to something you’ll find interesting if you love North Louisiana. Three young guys around here have put together an impressive resume, both individually and collectively. One of them will even represent the United States – that’s the entire country and not just Louisiana – in competition overseas in September.

The three teenagers are Sam Burns and Nathan Jeansonne of Calvary Baptist and Philip Barbaree of C.E. Byrd, each a member of their high school’s state championship golf team and each a Top 7 finisher in the Junior PGA on a Bryan, Texas, course in August. Sam finished first. This is no small feat.

Also, Sam is featured with the female champion on the back page of the current Golfweek magazine for winning yet another tournament, the Rolex Tournament of Champions in June.

Two things here for the non-golf fan:

First, three of the top seven junior golfers are from Shreveport-Bossier and practice and play together. This isn’t like the Three Stooges growing up in the same apartment complex or all the Beach Boys being cousins or friends. It’s not the Beatles living as boys within blocks of each other. But it’s in the ballpark. That’s a lot of good junior golf in one spot.

And two, Burns’ Junior PGA victory – 13-time PGA Tour winner David Toms won it in 1984 – earned him a spot in the PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open in San Antonio in March. Even bigger than that, Burns will play on the Junior Ryder Cup USA team in Scotland in September.

Roy Lang III, sports editor of The Times in Shreveport, is in a small group of people who know as much golf as I do; he’s also in a tremendously large group of people who play it better. We lucked into Roy when he came from his home in Chicago to Centenary College on a golf scholarship. He says this trio of talent is legit and that Burns, just 18, is a player without a weak spot in his game.

I’m proud. And jealous.

Sam I’ve known since he was 2ish, playing with Tonka cars in the dirt while his older brother, Chase, served as a first sacker on our fall ball Orioles team 15 years ago. He remains the quietest Oriole I have ever not heard. Chase turned into an all-district linebacker at Captain Shreve High. Also quietly efficient, his little brother quit football in junior high because he was shooting under par at East Ridge Country Club, something that grownups and certainly kids don’t normally, well, do.

Funny. Just a few years before, Sam would go play golf with Chase and Chase’s friends with his little U.S. Kids set of clubs, and when bored he’d chase fairway bugs with a fly swatter. His “Uncle Butch” McClellan, close friend of Sam’s dad, Todd, since the two were boys, thought that Sam, as much as he had to fight Chase and his buddies growing up, would be the toughest linebacker to ever come out of Shreveport-Bossier.

But golf got Sam early. Or Sam got golf. And now, from Tonkas and fly swatters, he’s graduated all the way to Scotland and the Blairgowrie Golf Club in Perthshire, September 22-23. We’re talking berns and brae and heather and peat. Bogs and clover and people in funny hats. In more ways than a few, Perthshire’s a long way from Sam’s home courses of East Ridge and Toms 265 Academy and Squire Creek in Choudrant.

The courses are different and so is the language. They talk funny in Scotland. An internet investigation tells me that what appears to be an insult, “Awright ya wee bawbag?” is just a friendly “How are you!?” greeting. But if you drop the “awright” and “wee” and say, “Haw you, ya bawbag,” you’re saying, “I dislike you and think of you as a testicle.”

This makes me glad Sam does most all his talking with his clubs. Good luck, young friend. We’re proud. Speak softly, and carry a big driver.