By RON BALICKI
WINDERMERE, Fla. – Jamie Lovemark hit his tee shot on the 10th hole Tuesday at the Isleworth-UCF Collegiate Invitational and immediately dropped his club on his bag and sprinted toward the clubhouse.
The USC sophomore wasn’t in desperate need of a restroom. He was in desperate need of information.
Click here to read about two college events that were played
this week in Southern California amid the smoke and high wind.
He ran into the clubhouse and directly to one of the large-screen TVs that was tuned to CNN and giving live reports on the fires raging through Southern California, and in particular his home town of Rancho Santa Fe, just north of San Diego.
“I heard that a house about 200 yards from my dad’s burned,” Lovemark said as he watched the screen for about 90 seconds. “It’s pretty unbelievable.”
At the time, the reigning NCAA champion was 7 under par for the tournament and one shot behind Georgia’s Harris English.
Lovemark, the 2007 player and freshman of the year, ran down the 10th fairway, passing his father, Gary, who was sitting at a table on the patio getting updates on his cell phone. Lovemark caught up with his group and proceeded to birdie Nos. 10, 12 and 13 and take the lead.
But he bogeyed Nos. 14, 15 and 16 and birdied 17 for a closing 70 to finish at 8-under 208, three strokes behind English.
Did the fires back home weigh on his mind during the final round and cause him to lose some focus?
“I just didn’t play all that well,” Lovemark said. “My driving was bad, my irons were bad. My short game saved me, not only today, but all week.
“I’m certainly not going to say I wasn’t worried and concerned about it (fires),” he said. “I had nightmares last night. But I also realize there’s nothing I can do about it. I just tried not to let it affect me. You just have to try to stay in the present and try to worry about what you can control.”
“I think the fire got to him, but I don’t think it had an affect on his play,” said Gary. “I told him after nine holes I heard my house did not burn, so I think he was OK. He got into a little spurt and then just sort of faded.”
Gary said he felt the problem stemmed from his son’s lack of calories and carbohydrates due to his not eating prior to or during the round.
“Jamie’s 6-foot-4 and weighs 180 pounds and we’ve done some research that shows he burns 3,000 calories (in a round of golf) and especially on a (hot and humid) day like this,” the father said. “Why no lunch? Good question. I believe he simply lost some of his energy out there.”
When the tournament ended, Lovemark and his teammates went into the clubhouse for a late lunch and to watch the news for fire updates.
While they were headed back home to Los Angeles, Gary Lovemark said he would probably be spending an extra night in the Orlando area.
“My whole area had to evacuate,” he said. “There’s about 1,800 people in Rancho Santa Fe who can’t go home, including Phil (Mickelson, who has a home in the area). I even heard they were evacuating people from one of the original evacuation sites.
“So right now I really can’t go home,” he said. “But at least from what I’ve heard so far, I still have a home to go back to.”