Elson making the most of 'no man's land'

Jamie Elson
Jamie Elson ( Getty Images )

Sunday, May 29, 2011

VIRGINIA WATER, England – Jamie Elson has made €160,825 this year. Not bad for a guy with a part-time job.

The former Augusta State player is caught in no man’s land this season. He doesn’t have full status on the main European Tour after finishing 132nd on last year’s money list. That gives him category 12 status, which entails dividing his time between the main tour and European Challenge Tour.

Elson has made the most of restricted starts on the main tour. The 30-year-old Englishman is in this week’s €4.5 million BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth courtesy of a second-place finish in last week’s Madeira Island Open.

It was his second top 5 of the season, after a fourth place in the Joburg Open. Both tournaments earned him more than €60,000.

“I literally have to play this season by ear,” Elson said after an opening 72, 1-over par. “Category 12 isn’t a bad category because your events are spaced out. You can prepare properly.

“If I keep playing the way I am then I don’t see a problem making the top 115. I’ve been knocking on the door and could have won last week, but my putting let me down.”

College and amateur golf aficionados will remember Jamie Elson. He played four years at Augusta State between 1998-2002 where he was a two time All-American under coach Jay Seawell. Elson helped Great Britain & Ireland win the 2001 Walker Cup at Sea Island, Ga., winning one and a half points. Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell were on the same team.

Elson got his European Tour card at Q-School in 2003, then played the 2004 season but failed to retain his playing rights after that. Then he got injured and disappeared.

After seven years of hard graft, Elson says “the dream is still alive.” He just needs another €55,000 this season to secure playing rights.

A good week here at Wentworth, the richest tournament on European soil outside the Open Championship, would help turn that part-time job into a full-time position.

Elson’s injury cost him his tour status, and he ended up playing the EuroPro Tour, a British developmental tour.

“I developed a wrist injury through bad technique,” he said. “I probably lost a year over two seasons. I had a splint on my arm for four or five months and couldn’t do anything.

“I lost all of my status. I lost confidence. I didn’t have a coach and I struggled to get my form back.”

The turning point came in 2009 when future wife Hannah (they married Sept. 13 last year) persuaded Jamie to fly to the United States and visit ex-coach Seawell. He also decided to start working with Scott Hamilton, who teaches out of Cartersville (Ga.) Country Club.

Elson met Hamilton through Augusta State roommate Jayce Stepp. Stepp is also from Cartersville and was coached by Hamilton. However, Elson never worked with Hamilton when he was at ASU.

“Hannah persuaded me to go to the US. I’d just got through first stage of (European Tour) Qualifying. She said it might help. We were flat broke, but she asked me to trust her instincts. So I saw Jay, had a lesson with Scott and I shot a third-round 64 at second stage. It was the best round of golf I’ve ever played. It got me to final stage and I got my card. Although I didn’t keep my card last year, I had some good signs of what was to come.”

Elson believes he mostly got by on talent during his amateur and college days.

“My game was nowhere near where it needed to be. I’ve always read the game well, have a good imagination and a good short game, but I’ve never really had a solid foundation with my swing. It’s always let me down. Since I’ve been working with Scott, I’m a different golfer. My swing has never been better.”

Elson never thought of throwing in the towel during the dark days. Money and inspiration made sure of that.

“You only do quit when you have no money left. Thankfully, I had one or two people that helped me keep the dream alive.

“It was a little frustrating watching Graeme and Luke doing so well, but it was also inspirational. I knew I could do it as well if I got my act together. It just took me a little bit longer.”

After the emotions of the last five years, the Englishman is now able to put his career in perspective.

“I think maybe getting my card in 2003 came too soon. I didn’t have a solid foundation. I was just getting by on talent. I hadn’t found the people to help me. I have now.”

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