Date: October 04, 2015
Author: Tom Fee in Hong Kong

To win, you need to lose

It’s no secret that golf can be an unfair game.

At the weather affected Open Championship at St. Andrew’s, we saw Jason Day in tears on the 18th green after just missing a putt to make the playoff.

Days earlier, on a wild and windy Friday, the Queenslander completed just two holes as St Andrew’s became unplayable. Play was quickly suspended, yet that brief moment was enough to change to his ultimate destiny.

Two of Day’s three bogeys for the tournament came during that period – and he would eventually miss the playoff by one.

As many questioned if the talented Australian would ever win a major title, Day went on to win four of his next six events, including the PGA Championship.

“All I want to do is win,” said Day of his dramatic run.

“Ever since The Open, my mind changed and my attitude has been to win.”

The Open trophy, that eluded Day so cruelly, was just meters away when APGC Chairman Dr David Cherry announced that China’s Jin Cheng, as the leader after 54 holes, was the Asia-Pacific Amateur Champion.

A shot behind Cheng was Victorian Ryan Ruffels and NSW’s Cameron Davis. Defending champion Anthony Murdaca was in sixth and just four back, while Travis Smyth, Lucas Herbert and Jarryd Felton were all inside the top 20 and hopeful of making a run in today’s difficult conditions.

Just like Jason Day at The Open, the Australians were devastated, and tears were shed as their dreams of playing next year's U.S. Masters were shattered.

The tournament organisers, an elite group that consisted of members of the R&A, Augusta National and the Asia-Pacific Golf Commission, took the Australians aside for a private meeting. They shared their disappointment in the situation, having no choice but to call the prestigious event after 54 holes.

“They’ve really made some friends with how they’ve handled themselves,” said Golf Australia coach Paul Skinner after that meeting.

Later at the press conference, a visibly upset Ryan Ruffels and Cameron Davis made it clear that they knew nothing could be done with a typhoon lashing at the Hong Kong coast.

“I guess it's not hard to tell that we are both pretty gutted,” said Ruffels.

“The tournament did great in just trying to get us out there today.  They did the best they could, but there's not much you can do when the conditions are like that.”

The pair answered many more questions about missing out on a Masters invite, but their demeanour changed when the attention moved to the upcoming Australian summer.

“I’m really looking forward to all the tournaments we have coming up,” said Davis, who will play the Australian Open and many more professional events in the coming months.

“If we play golf like we did this week, we'll be in with a chance in most of the tournaments we play.  The more opportunities we give ourselves, the more chance we have of success.  The rest of the year is going to be really exciting.”

And when Davis and Ruffels were talking about winning, they weren’t just thinking about amateur events.

“I guess Aaron Baddeley got a start in the Masters from winning the Aussie Open as an amateur, so that would be nice,” said Ruffels

The painful experience from missing out in Hong Kong is not something that is usually felt in the amateur world.

For amateurs there’s no money, and the trophies are usually left at the club. The prizes they do win are merely symbolic gestures, such as vouchers, or golf equipment that they will likely pass on to friends.

None of it will compare to the experience that awaits Jin Cheng at next year's first major, just like there is nothing in the amateur game that will compare to the pain of missing out.

But it's a feeling that is all so common for professionals, and it took Jason Day until his mid-twenties to experience it, but it eventually spurred him on to greatness.

For Ruffels and Davis, and all of the Australians, it's a lesson they can build on from a much younger age, and as Davis and Ruffels sat in the press conference, the remaining four got to work in gym with a tough training session.

“I think for us as amateurs, this is one of our majors — there's not many tournaments we get to play where we actually get the opportunity to play in a real major,” said Ruffels.

“So, obviously I’m disappointed, but even the fact that we have to learn to deal with this disappointment is a learning curve in itself.  So I know Cam and I are proud of our efforts this week despite our result, and we're going to take a lot out of it to keep going forward.”