Junior Boys

Horsfield mentally tough in winning Junior Players

Sunday, August 31, 2014

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Some say golf is 90 percent mental.

Sam Horsfield will agree. After struggling with his mental game for much of the summer, the Davenport, Fla., native knew he needed to address that part of his game before making the three-hour trip to TPC Sawgrass earlier this week for the AJGA Junior Players Championship.

“I felt like I was getting too mad and too uptight out on the course,” Horsfield said. “After the U.S. Amateur, I put in a lot of work on my mental game. . . . I needed to have a better attitude out there.”

Sunday, Horsfield reaped the benefits of that hard work. Playing in just his second AJGA event, the 17-year-old Florida commit overcame a rough start to card a final-round 1-over 73 and secure a one-shot victory at the Junior Players.

“It’s pretty sweet,” said Horsfield, who sank a 3-footer for bogey at his final hole to finish at 3-under 213 and avoid what would’ve been a four-way playoff with Kristian Caparros, Hidetoshi Yoshihara and Brad Dalke.

“I’ve had some tough finishes lately, so getting the win today was huge for my confidence.”

Confidence isn’t something Horsfield normally struggles with. He won the 2013 Florida State Amateur by 11 shots. He captured another big amateur event, the New Year’s Invitational, by four shots in January. He was stroke-play medalist at the U.S. Junior in July and made match play at the U.S. Amateur earlier this month.

But this summer, Horsfield’s confidence and mental strength have been tested. No, he hasn’t played poorly. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite.

Playing what would widely would be considered championship golf, Horsfield fell short in match play in all three of his USGA starts this summer. He was eliminated in the first round at the U.S. Amateur, a couple of weeks after falling in the semifinals at the U.S. Junior. He also was bounced in the second round of the U.S. Amateur Public Links in early July.

“Those things happened for a reason,” Horsfield said. “I learned a lot losing, especially at the U.S. Junior. Going to extra holes in my semifinal match against Davis (Riley), that was a great learning experience and really helped me out a lot.”

Horsfield experienced similar pressure Sunday on one of junior golf’s toughest tests, the Players Stadium course. He entered the final round with a two-shot lead, but saw that advantage quickly evaporate after a bogey at the par-4 first and double bogey at the par-3 third.

“I got off to a terrible start, but was able to steady the ship on the back nine,” Horsfield said.

Trailing Caparros by a shot at the turn after a birdie at the par-5 ninth, Horsfield kept his focus. He birdied Nos. 12-13 to pull even with Caparros and walked off the par-3 17th green with a one-shot lead after Caparros had bogeyed the 17th one group before.

He missed just two greens and one fairway on the back nine, and he would’ve been even better had it not been for the finishing hole, where he pulled a hybrid into the water left.

“Just a terrible shot,” Horsfield said. “Right off the toe.”

There’s a chance that two weeks ago Horsfield would’ve let his emotions get the best of him in that situation. But after seeing Caparros bogey in front of him, Horsfield remained calm, knowing that he could still win with bogey.

From 240 yards away, Horsfield found the green with his third shot and then two-putted from 50 feet to close out the victory.

“I stayed calm today," Horsfield said. "I didn't get too high or too low."

There’s no question for those who have watched Horsfield play over the years that the kid from England has the talent to play professional golf – even Ian Poulter has spoken highly of the teenager. He’s had that physical ability for quite some time.

Now, he’s proving he has the mental toughness to go along with it.

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