2005: Profile - Simmering summer
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Michael Sim made his first impression in golf when he was 4 years old. That’s when, using a 9-iron from a cut-down set of clubs his parents had given him, he wandered alone to his front yard to hit a few golf balls he had snatched from his father’s bag.
Taking a mighty swing, as any 4-year-old would, he made flush contact. The ball zoomed from its grassy lie, traveled 60 yards in the air and made a direct hit on a neighbor’s glass door.
“Looking back now, it’s kind of funny,” said George Sim, Michael’s father. “He came running into the house, and as soon as he saw his mom he said, ‘I didn’t do it. It wasn’t me.’ ”
Sixteen years later, Michael Sim is making an even bigger impression. This time it’s on an international stage, as back-to-back victories at the Sunnehanna Amateur and Monroe Invitational – along with the 2004 Southern Amateur title – have propelled the young Australian to the No. 1 spot in the Golfweek/Titleist Amateur Rankings.
Over the years, numerous Australian players such as Aaron Baddeley, Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott, Nick Flanagan, Marcus Frasier and Aron Price have come to America to hone their games against some of the world’s best college and amateur players.
Few made their mark on the U.S. scene as quickly as Sim.
After failing to qualify for match play at the British Amateur in early June, Sim journeyed to America to begin a full summer schedule.
He started with a playoff victory at the Sunnehanna, and a week later captured the Monroe – the first to win both events in the same year. Trying for a hat trick the following week, Sim finished second at the Northeast Amateur.
“You couldn’t ask for a much better start to the summer,” Sim said. “It’s going to be a busy summer, so hopefully I can continue playing as well as I have.”
Born in Scotland, Sim at age 6 moved with his parents and two sisters to the town of Connolly in western Australia. His progression as a player has continued since, beginning with an outstanding junior career.
“He keeps improving every year,” said George Sim.
Michael Sim has worked with swing coach David Milne at Joondalup Country Club since he was 12.
“Michael’s work ethic is second to none,” said Milne, a two-time Australian PGA Teacher of the Year. “He has always had strong self belief, and seems to play better at the next level. Every year, he keeps making small improvements rather than having flash-in-the-pan results. His strengths are his tactical and mental game.”
His 6-foot, 150-pound frame and blond hair make Sim appear more suitable for the beach than the golf course. He feels just as comfortable in either setting.
At home, when he’s not playing golf, Sim enjoys going to the beach and hanging out with friends. He follows Australian Rules Football (the Kangaroos of Melbourne are his favorite team) and also likes dog races.
“But the beach is my favorite way to relax,” he says. “I love body boarding. It’s just a lot of fun and it takes my mind off of everything.”
Following the Northeast Amateur, Sim took a week off because “I need a break and don’t want to get burned out.”
He followed the break with a tie for sixth at the Sahalee Players Championship July 8. From there he plans to close out July at the Southern Amateur, the Porter Cup and the Western Amateur, then will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Amateur.
Crisscrossing America to compete can be beneficial, but it also is expensive. Sim estimated his summer schedule will cost between $6,000 and $8,000, and his family is footing the bill.
“My dad wanted me to come over here and play,” Sim said. “We had talked about it, and we both agreed that if you want to get the best from your game you have to compete against the best. Last year was my first year over here and it was a great experience. It helped me so much just seeing what these guys are doing and how they handle themselves, and then putting it into practice.”
The elder Sim, an accountant, has no regrets.
“I think it’s a very good experience for Michael to play tournaments in the United States and against such good competition,” he said. “It toughens him up and shows him what he has to do to reach that next level.”
His impressive resume thus far already has caught the attention of not only his peers, but those in golf’s corporate world.
“I feel he’s certainly one of the next-generation stars coming out,” said Jim Ahern, manager of player promotion/administration at Titleist and FootJoy Worldwide. “I’ve watched him for about three years now and he continues to get better. The people in the Australia Golf Union have had high expectations for him, and he’s now living up to those expectations.”
Sim and his father said he will wait until the end of the summer to decide whether to turn professional or remain an amateur.
“He’ll just do it when he feels it’s right,” George Sim said. “For now, there’s a lot of (amateur) golf ahead of him these next few months.”
Whatever his son’s decision, you can be sure it will be explored thoroughly.
Said countryman David Lutterus, who roomed with Sim for a year when both attended the Australian Institute of Sport: “He thinks a lot, sometimes maybe too much. He tries to analyze everything and leave nothing to chance. But he’s fun to be around and is always up for a laugh.”
Sim’s friends say his victories haven’t changed him a bit.
“He’s a great player and a great friend,” said fellow player Tom Davis, who is traveling with Sim this summer. “The thing about Michael that makes him so well-liked is he doesn’t let success go to his head. He’s very down to earth. He’s a gracious loser, although he hasn’t done much of that lately.”
Even though the victories continue to mount, Sim said the biggest thrill of his young career came in March when he played in his first PGA Tour event. As winner of last year’s Southern Amateur, Sim earned a sponsor exemption into Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando, Fla.
“That whole week was just awesome,” said Sim, who shot 72-77–149 and missed the cut by a shot. “Just being around some of the best players in the world was pretty special. Watching Tiger (Woods) and Vijay (Singh) and all the others was a great experience. I learned a lot and I think it’s helping me now.”
One Bay Hill experience was quite memorable.
As Milne tells the story: “Mike found himself like a kid in a candy store with all the manufacturers lined up with their wares. So being a Titleist player, he made himself known to the representative and, apart from the new driver and wedges, asked if there was anybody that could help him choose a putter suitable for him. One of the gentlemen volunteered, and off they went to the practice putting green with a handful of putters to demo.
“After a few minutes, the gentleman selects one of the putters (a Futura Phantom Mallet) and tells Mike it suits him the best. Now Mike is not sure of the credentials of this gentleman so he tries a few more, but eventually selects the one that was recommended. He thanks him and, back at the trailer, Mike asks the Titleist rep he knew, ‘Who was that man?’ The rep gives him a bit of an odd look and says, ‘That was Scotty Cameron!’ ”
Sim has come a long way since he shattered his neighbor’s glass door 16 years ago. And most agree he has a bright future ahead, one in which there likely won’t be any more broken windows, only broken records.