Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Kiwi the King of Canada

New attitude for New Zealander pays off with national title

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The biggest change for Kiwi James Beale between entirely average results in 2013 and a 2014 that already includes two major amateur golf titles, including this week's Canada Men's Amateur Championship at Elmhurst?

Attitude adjustment.

"It's been good," Beale, 21, said after prevailing in a three-man playoff with a 20-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole on Thursday. "It's been kind of surreal. I can't really believe it so far. But my golf in 2014 has been taking a turn for the better. I've worked hard so it's been cool."

The hard work has brought him titles at the Canadian Amateur, which includes tickets to next week's U.S. Amateur and the 2015 RBC Canadian Open, and less than a month ago at the Pacific Northwest Amateur, a match-play event that's one of the high-end annual competitions. It was played this year in Washington.

"There was a turning point just last winter, really," Beale said. "I just kind of looked back at myself and realized that attitude is more important than swing.

"So it's all in the head and I started thinking about that."

Beale rolled in a 20-foot downhill putt on the third playoff hole Thursday. He, Richmond Hill, Ont.'s Taylor Pendrith and Atherton, Calif.'s Jonathan Garrick, having tied at 6-under 276, each posted pars on the first two extra holes, Elmhurst's 18th and first.

When they came back to the 18th, Beale watched Garrick miss the green and chip to 10 feet, and Pendrith come up just short on a 30-foot birdie attempt.

"We were struggling to read it," he said of the winning putt. "We didn't see a whole lot happening... so played it dead straight and played it straight and trickled it down there and just couldn't believe it. It bounced in."

Beale, a native of Auckland, New Zealand, has just finished his senior year at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., and plans to graduate later this year.

He's looking ahead to a potential pro career, and his attitude even before Thursday's final round began will be something he hopes to repeat again and again.

Beale was having a very fine week, five back of the leaders after two days and three back of third-round leader Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., starting Thursday.

"Absolutely I thought I could win," he said. "I just had to put together a solid round. The wind was up, the course plays sneaky tough and I knew if I stayed patient and put together a solid round I'd have a shot.

"I didn't keep track but I knew they (the leaders) were struggling. Standing on 17 tee, I heard someone say they were at six (under) so I knew that we were tied.

"I had an idea. I was nervous, but it was grind out some pars."

He managed to make a 12-footer at the 18th in regulation to post his number and get into the playoff.

He wasn't a defeatist but said he was just about ready to shake Pendrith's hand on the second playoff hole.

The Canadian national team bomber had just blasted a drive on the 403-yard par-4 first hole to 10 steps off the front of the green and chipped up to four feet

"I was ready to take my hat off," Beale said. "Unfortunately he missed it. The greens are a bit dodgy sometimes, hard to read. I was just grateful for a chance."

There, he had hooked it into the trees, advanced it to a greenside bunker and got it up and down to stay in the playoff after Pendrith's miss.

"I was scrambling around on that hole," he smiled. "I don't know what I was doing. Made a par somehow and snuck through to the next hole."

And now a trip to next week's U.S. Amateur at East Lake near Atlanta.

"I was actually first alternate," he said. "I was going to go down there and wait."

No waiting now. The new attitude is in.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 8, 2014 C6

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