Ben Lown committed one of golf’s ultimate sins, leaving the course before the tournament’s conclusion.
Fortunately for him, he returned just in time.
Lown hustled back to The Brickyard in Macon, Ga., winning a sudden-death playoff to earn his first trip to the U.S. Amateur Championship.
Lown, of North Augusta, and USC Aiken’s Matt Atkins will tee off Monday at Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colo., in the first round of the tournament. After two days of stroke play, the low 64 golfers advance to match play, beginning Wednesday.
“Playing in my first one is a relief,” the 23-year-old Lown said. “It’s so hard to qualify for a USGA event.”
Lown graduated from North Augusta High School and attended Newberry College, graduating in 2011. During his career, he was a three-time, all-South Atlantic Conference selection, and he also earned All-American honors. When he finished, he posted the school’s second-lowest career scoring average (73.8). In his senior season, Lown helped lead the Wolves to a fifth-place showing at the NCAA Division II national championship – the best finish in school history.
After college, he wanted to give the eGolf Tour a shot. He said he needed about $30,000 to cover entry fees and membership, but Lown only received half the sponsorship commitment. While golf stayed on his mind, he decided to take a job in September in construction testing.
Lown recently got a sales job, which allowed him the flexibility to work on his game and prepare for a shot at the U.S. Amateur.
In his third time in qualifying, he appeared headed home early again after missing a six-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the sectional qualifier. After posting rounds of 72-70, Lown departed the course, grabbing some food down the road with family and friends. At the time, he was the leader in the clubhouse, but with several groups behind him he figured he’d get passed for one of five spots into the U.S. Amateur.
As he waited for his food, Lown kept checking results on his phone. The closer to the tournament conclusion, the more he realized he needed to get back to The Brickyard. A typical 15-minute drive took just 10 minutes. He arrived just in time for a playoff with three others for the final qualifying spot.
Lown was the only one to find the fairway on the first hole of sudden death, the par-5 17th. From 185 yards out, he hit his 7-iron approach to 15 feet. He two-putted for birdie to win the playoff.
Lown is hoping for a repeat performance in the U.S. Amateur. And if he can finish in the top 64, he believes he can make a run in match play.
“I can get hot at any time,” he said.
The top two U.S. Amateur finishers likely will receive an invitation into the 2013 Masters Tournament. For someone who grew up near Augusta National Golf Club, Lown knows what’s at the end of the rainbow.
“I don’t know what I’d do If I made it,” he said. “That’s always been a dream of mine.”