Interview With Amateur Champion Joe Long
Golfshake Ambassador Andy Picken Interviews 2020 Amateur Champion Joe Long
As a keen student of both amateur and professional golf, I am always keeping an eye out for stars of the future. It is not an exact science but certain players that you meet and interact with have that magical “something” that sets them apart from the rest.
I have been watching the progress of Joe Long for a couple of years and noted his incredible consistency at the very highest level of amateur golf. He also has a refreshingly relaxed and open personal style that is engaging. He is a character and undoubtedly has the potential to achieve spectacular things.
My interest was heightened when I realised that he set a course record at Woodhall Spa during a major event. He hasn’t followed the modern conventional route of college golf in the United States, preferring to base himself in the UK and competing against the best in the world in events around the globe.
The 23-year-old currently plays off +4.6 and it is fair to say that he is one of the top amateur golfers in the game.
I spoke to Joe after he became the 125th Amateur Champion at Royal Birkdale, beating his friend and fellow Bristolian, Joe Harvey in the final.
His story in the game was sparked as an 11-year-old being taken to his local driving range by his father’s business partner. Having been bitten by the golf bug he had a year of lessons then became a member of his current golf club, Lansdown, near Bath.
Q&A Interview With Amateur Champion Joe Long
Who are your golf heroes?
“A mixture; Robert Rock, Alex Noren and Sam Snead. I Iove the way they swing the club and how they approach the game.”
Apart from becoming the Amateur Champion in 2020 what are the highlights of your amateur career?
“Visiting and competing in South Africa. I have been extremely lucky and have played Leopard Creek three times now and the whole experience you get there is special.
"I also love the golfing experience in Australia. I played Royal Melbourne, which is awesome and definitely the hardest course I've played due to the rock hard greens.”
How do you deal with your expectations going into a major event such as The Amateur Championship?
“I try not to have expectations because I feel that creates more pressure and leads to frustration. However, I knew I was playing well going into the event and I just needed to put my focus into process goals for the week instead of being wrapped up in the outcome."
The Amateur Championship has a format that is a combination of stroke play and match play. It is played over several days and how you handle pressure must be a factor.
“Preparation for the Final looks the same as every other day, get back to the Airbnb, cook dinner, prep your golf bag for the next day and then chill out if you have any time left. The only difference was that we had a lot of media to do after we finished the semi-finals and it felt strange to know that me and Joe (Harvey) would be competing to win the Amateur."
The final was dubbed the Battle of Bristol as you are both friends coming from the same area.
“The Battle of Bristol was very surreal. It felt very strange to be playing a mate in the Final of the Amateur, we just tried to enjoy each and every moment of it. It was strange playing someone you know so well in the Final especially as we have been practicing together quite frequently since the end of lockdown. We were chatting on the way round but then focused on our own games also.”
What were the key points in the Final for you?
“The long putt I holed in the afternoon on 7, that was a big boost, and also the up and down on 13 to remain 4up was huge. Another factor was keeping the ball in play for the majority of the Final. Then being able to ‘stay in the moment’ of each shot towards the end. All the while knowing what the rewards were, accepting my thoughts would drift to future scenarios, but then bringing my attention back to the shot at hand. It was really that simple in my head.”
When did you realise you had the winning momentum?
“I realised this was mine for the taking when I holed the winning putt. I'm fairly experienced in match play and know things can change very quickly when you get ahead of yourself and focused on the result.”
How does it feel to be the 125th Amateur Champion?
“It feels incredible to be the 125th Amateur Champion, following in the footsteps of the likes of Sergio Garcia.”
As Amateur Champion you get invited to play at the Masters, US Open and The Open in 2021. I know you played in the South East Links events at Royal St George's. What were your impressions?
"Royal St George's from memory is one of my favourite links courses I have played. Some tough holes and a great challenge."
Any experience of the US venues?
"The Masters - I've never been before. This is the one I'm most excited about. Having watched the TV coverage and knowing a little about the course history, the whole vibe just looks amazing. Just my close family and friends will be going but we will be monitoring the COVID-19 situation.
"US Open - I've never visited Torrey Pines either. I have watched the playoff with Tiger (in 2008) though and it looks brutal but amazing."
What are your plans for the future?
“I have goals in mind for my future, but I'm looking forward to the opportunities I have next year and just see how things plan out. It would be great to play the Walker Cup as it's at the top of the list of every amateur golfer. I will think about turning professional after the three major championships I am to compete at in 2021.”
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