Golf

Hamilton follows father's path with LPGC appearance

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 20, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Jun. 20, 2018 11:55 pm

Drake Hamilton couldn't really seek out any course knowledge from his father before playing in the 45th annual Pepsi Little People's Golf Championships.

A few years have passed since Todd Hamilton last played Westview Golf Course.

Yet, what Drake gleaned from his father's advice proved mighty helpful as the Westlake, Texas, golfer finished fifth in the boys 14-15 division, carding a 3-over 74 Wednesday in the final round to shave five strokes off his first-round total.

"He actually gave me a tip last week," Drake said. "I wasn't playing very well, and he just told me to focus."

Todd Hamilton knows as well as anyone what persistence and focus can do.

It can make you legendary.

In 2004, Todd Hamilton shot back-to-back rounds of 67 in the British Open and took a one-stroke lead into the final round. A bogey on the 18th hole dropped him into a tie with Ernie Els and forced a four-hole aggregate playoff. Hamilton made four pars and Els had three pars and one bogey, giving him one of the golf's major championships and making him one of the most unlikely winners of any major.

Todd grew up in Oquawka, Ill., and went to Biggsville Union High School, where he won back-to-back Class A state golf championships in 1981 and '82. It landed him a scholarship to the University of Oklahoma and eventually the chance to play professionally, although he spent the first 12 years of his career on the Japan Tour.

He had 11 victories internationally and earned more than $6 million, ranking second all-time as the leading non-Japanese money winner.

He finally earned a PGA Tour card in 2004, won the Honda Classic along with the British Open and was named the PGA Rookie of the Year at the age of 38.

Todd, who is 52, now plays on the Champions Tour, where he ranks 61st in the Schwab Cup standings with three top-25 finishes this season.

That lengthy career began with an appearance in the LPGC in 1975.

More than 40 years later, Todd's mother, Jean Pearson, was back again with her grandson.

"She told me about the tournament in January," Drake said. "I checked it out and signed up."

He wasn't sure what he was getting into exactly.

"I thought it was a great tournament," Drake said. "We had the practice round Monday. I'd never played a tournament like that. It was neat."

Despite rain interrupting play both days, Drake gave it favorable reviews.

"I thought it was a good environment," Hamilton said. "It was good competition."

His fifth-place medal was validation he played well enough to contend, although he felt he should have been in the title mix. A shot that went out of bounds on the par-5 17th hole during Tuesday's opening round led to carding a 10 on the hole and an 8-over par finish to the day.

"I didn't play as well as I thought I could," Drake said. "I left strokes out there."

Still, the experience of playing in a tournament his dad once did is what made this memorable.

That's legendary in it's own way.