AUGUSTA, Ga. – Doug Ghim grew up hitting golf balls in a makeshift hitting bay built by his father, Jeff, in his family’s backyard in Arlington Heights, Ill. It’s a long way from Augusta National, where Ghim will sit in Butler Cabin Sunday evening to receive the Silver Cup as low amateur of the 82nd Masters Tournament.
Ghim, just eight days shy of his 23rd birthday, locked up the distinguished amateur trophy on Friday as the only amateur to make the cut. And even though he didn’t play as well as he would’ve liked on the weekend, shooting 74-74 to end his tournament at 8 over and finish T-50 among the 53 players who played all four rounds, Ghim had no complaints. He felt like a winner.
“This is probably the most honorable thing that I’ve done as a golfer,” Ghim said.
That’s saying something. The Texas senior is the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year and has posted 21 top-10 finishes for the Longhorns, including two wins. He played on two Palmer Cup teams and went 4-0 at the 2017 Walker Cup to help the U.S. to victory.
Ghim also has an impressive record in U.S. Golf Association championships, though those performances have also tested Ghim’s ability to handle heartbreak.
He reached the semifinals of the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur at Martis Camp, only to fall to future Texas teammate Scottie Scheffler. A year later, he advanced to the final of the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links and led 1 up entering the 36th hole before losing two straight holes and surrendering a Masters invite to Byron Meth in 37 holes.
And then last summer, Ghim was 2 up on Doc Redman with two holes to play in the final of the U.S. Amateur. But again Ghim found himself in extra holes, and on the famed 10th hole at Riviera he saw another hope at a USGA title dashed in painful fashion.
Yet those moments have strengthened the resolve of Ghim.
“His resiliency is what stands out more than anything,” Texas head coach John Fields said. “To get up after none of those things happened … and he’s now the low amateur at the Masters, that’s monumental.”
Said Jeff Ghim: “Those experiences made him stronger; they are why we’re here now.”
Jeff is a major reason, as well. Doug learned the game at 6 years old from his dad, who became a single-digit handicap in less than a year after picking up the game in his 30s. He played most of his golf as a kid with pops in the late afternoons after school at The Arboretum Club, a public course in nearby Buffalo Grove. Jeff and his wife, Susan, worked hard to fund their son’s budding golf career, even when money was tight.
Now just months from turning pro, Doug continues to realize not only his dreams but also those of his parents.
On Wednesday, after Susan joined Jeff to caddie for Doug in the Par 3 Contest, Susan called the day, “the best day of my life.” Four days later Jeff Ghim stood outside of scoring with a cigar and a beer, his week of caddying officially over, and proclaimed the experience “a panoramic week.” Doug even left his family a lasting memory by holing out for birdie from the bunker at the par-4 18th.
“It’s as special of a week for my family as it is for me,” Doug said, “and I understand how important it is to them as well and to be able to celebrate with them this week and tonight is going to be something that I’ll never forget.”
Ghim is the third University of Texas golfer to also be low amateur at the Masters. Ben Crenshaw won the Silver Cup twice, in 1972 and ’73, and David Gossett claimed the honor in 2000. He also will go home with six crystal highball glasses thanks to the three eagles he made in the tournament – two on Thursday, including a hole-out eagle from the fairway at the 18th, and another Saturday on the par-5 13th hole, which he eagled twice this week.
Ghim doesn’t know what he plans to do with all of the glasses yet. Surely he’ll take a couple back to Austin to celebrate with his teammates. But he’ll definitely make sure he leaves a couple back home in Arlington Heights, specifically atop his family’s fireplace.
That mantel already includes family photos and mementos of Ghim’s golf career. His USGA medals are up there, as well as a personalized photo album that U.S. Walker Cup captain Spider Miller gave to him. The front cover photo of that album features a photos of Ghim shaking hands with former Presidents George W. Bush.
“Those crystals will look nice right next to those,” Ghim said.
And so will the Silver Cup.
Said Ghim: “Just a gentle reminder to not forget where you come from.”