Sergio Garcia recalls 1998 Amateur victory
12 years on from his 1998 Amateur Championship triumph at Muirfield, Sergio Garcia recalls that victory in advance of this year’s Championship, which begins at Muirfield and North Berwick golf clubs on Monday. Garcia, 30, overcame Welshman Craig Williams 7&6 in the final, bringing a week, which had seen 2006 US Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy and 2008 Masters Tournament Champion Trevor Immelman reach the quarter-final stage, to its conclusion.
“I remember that it was a hard week, like every Amateur Championship is, but it was wonderful,” said the Spaniard, who has won seven times on the PGA Tour and eight times on the European Tour. “I remember playing Muirfield: it’s a great golf course. I had a great time.
“It was a really big event. Winning a championship like the Amateur, that you play both stroke play for the first couple of days and then match play – it’s huge. It gives you a very big boost of confidence. It gives you the opportunity of playing The Open and the Masters. Not many amateurs have the chance of doing that and you gain unbelievable experience there, so it was huge for me.
“I learned a lot from it. We played a lot with pros as an amateur but it’s the big, big tournaments where you learn the most, and that was something unbelievable,” he added.
Having made his Ryder Cup debut in 1999 at the age of 19, the youngest-ever player to compete, Garcia has gone on to represent Europe against the USA in a further four consecutive matches, Garcia starring in the winning European team on three of those occasions. He has accrued an impressive Ryder Cup record of 14 wins, four halves and six losses: a record which he credits, in part, to his amateur match play career.
“As a professional, we don’t get to play a lot of match play but fortunately for us, in the amateur days you got not only to play individually, but also in team events: Spain against different countries, European championships and things like that.
“It was great experience. It helped us gain that team spirit, having all had it with our national teams. It’s helped the European team at the Ryder Cup.”
Having registered wins of 7&6, 7&5 and 4&3 en route to a dominating victory in 1998, Garcia knows what it takes to be successful over six tough Amateur Championship days. He had this advice for this year’s competitors:
“There are only a couple of things that you can say,” he explained. “You have to be patient. It’s a really long event. Just try to get yourself into the match play. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve won the stroke play or not because then, when match play comes around, anything can happen. Just play your own game and, hopefully, that will be good enough.”
The 115th Amateur Championship will take place at Muirfield and North Berwick on 14-19 June. 288 players will play two rounds of stroke play, one each at Muirfield and North Berwick, before 64 players and ties progress to the match play rounds beginning on Wednesday at Muirfield. A place at the 150th Anniversary Open Championship and the 2011 Masters Tournament are on offer for the 2010 Champion.