Earlier this year, after the Racers took home third place in the OVC tournament in April, just five shots behind Jacksonville State, junior golfer Patrick Newcomb took home gold of his own, winning OVC Golfer of the Year. At the time, Eddie Hunt, head coach of the Racers golf team, said Patrick had more confidence than any other player Hunt had ever coached.
But for Newcomb, that confidence has been a hard fought battle he only recently feels he has won.
Two months after the OVC season was over, Newcomb set out to defend his title in the Kentucky State Amateur just up the road in Benton, Ky. Despite his 2011 win in the same tournament, Newcomb felt saddled with a need to not only compete well, but to win again.
“Being the defending champ, there’s always a little bit of nerves,” Newcomb said. “I’d been playing pretty well for about the last six months, so I went into the State Amateur playing really well. I went there and won, like I planned on doing. Mainly, though, winning it was just proving that the first time wasn’t a fluke. I kind of got the feeling that some people thought I wasn’t the best player there, or that I was just crazy hot that week I won it the first time. I just wanted to prove that I deserved to be there.”
Newcomb lead the pack in every round, eventually winning by four shots. Still, there were moments Newcomb said he wasn’t sure he could come out with a second win, moments when he fell below his own expectations.
“.Through the first six holes I just didn’t play well,” Newcomb said. “I was missing a lot of greens and I was still over par. I think on my seventh hole that day I holed out from the fairway and it catapulted me back. Everything I’d done, playing so well, came back to me.”
After his win at the Kentucky State Amateur, Newcomb started play at his next tournament almost immediately, playing round one in Indiana for the late June Web.com Tour just days after his previous win. Fatigue in the 100-degree heat and a tougher field of competition left Newcomb in the dust and out of the tournament by his second round in Newburgh, Ind.
Regardless, Newcomb said the tour gave him experience that would prove valuable as he pursues more challenging events.
“When I got there it was really overwhelming, he said. “I was more of a spectator than I was a player. It was a good experience, though, and I learned a lot. It helped to jump me into the Southern Amateur.”
In mid-July Newcomb competed in the Southern Amateur Championship in Little Rock, Ark. Newcomb steadily worked his way through the field, ending the first round in 57th place and finishing in 14th place.
“I birdied four of six holes just to get into the Southern Amateur on a tough golf course,” Newcomb said. “I thought I was out. When I got there, it was like all the pressure was off. I tried to play well and put myself
in a position to win and I did a really well there. I was tied for fourth with four holes left and ended up finishing 14th. I bogied three of my last four. It was kind of disappointed, but a top 15 finish isn’t anything to be upset about.”
In late July, just a few weeks after the Southern Amatuer, Newcomb qualified for the U.S. Amateur, making him the first Murray State golfer to qualify since his brother, 2010 graduate Nick Newcomb.
With sibling rivalry fueling him, Newcomb made it to the round of 16, despite a disappointing performance in stroke play. However in the round of 16, Newcomb fell behind early, never managing to recover.
“Until I got there I wanted to make match play, but thought if I don’t, I’m not that worried about it because I played so much this summer,” Newcomb said. “I got to the tournament and played badly in the first round. I had to birdie my last hole to get into playoffs. In the playoff the next morning I parred the first hole to get in. I was playing well, but I wasn’t hitting the ball as well as I can, and the big thing with me is my ball striking is usually the best part of my game and it just went away. When I went into match play I was just trying to hold on.”
Still, his performance was impressive. Newcomb was one of only 14 collegiate golfers to make it to the round of 16 and better still, he performed well enough to best his brother’s achievement in the U.S. Amateur.
Newcomb will return to his team for the first match of the season Sept. 10 to play against Wasiota Winds Fall Kick Off in Pineville,Ky.
Story by Kyra Ledbetter, staff writer