By Gideon Rubin
As a youth up-and-comer at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, Jamie Lovemark made a large number of fans.
It didn’t hurt, of course, that by the time he was 12, Lovemark made the junior golf circuit look ridiculously easy.
“We knew from a very young age it looked he was going to be something special and it turned out he was awfully good,” Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club Pro Emeritus Chuck Courtney said of Lovemark. “He was more or less a prodigy.”
But that wasn’t the only reason he stood out.
In an area that routinely turns out some of the nation’s best golfers, it was other qualities that got Rancho Santa Fe’s extended community to take a liking to him.
“He’s always minded his P’s and Q’s and he’s always behaved beautifully,” Courtney said.
The former Torrey Pines High standout went on to experience collegiate stardom at USC and then burst on the pro circuit in his 2010 debut before a back injury sent his career into a free fall.
A year after undergoing surgery, Lovemark is on the comeback trail.
He is coming off a breakout month, placing in the top 10 in three straight July tournaments, highlighted by winning the Midwest Classic on the Web.com tour on July 21.
Lovemark tied for seventh the previous week at the Utah Championship on July 14 and tied for sixth at the Albertsons Boise Open on July 28. Before the Utah Championship, Lovemark had made cuts in just five of his previous 12 tournaments on the tour – without a top-10 finish.
His turnaround has thrilled his Rancho Santa Fe fans who weren’t sure if their prodigy would ever pick up where he left off when he hurt his back.
“His career looked like it was in a state of collapse a few years ago,” Courtney acknowledged. “Now he’s returned and everybody is very happy about it – everybody.”
Lovemark won the Midwest Classic in thrilling fashion, with him draining a 15-foot par putt on the last hole to win the tournament by one stroke.
Lovemark shot a 5-under-par 66 on the final day and a 18-under 266 overall at Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate.
Lovemark’s title was his first since winning the Mexico Open in 2010 – his only other professional championship. The win also catapulted Lovemark from 76th to 14th on this year’s money list, earning him $108,000 to bring his total for the year to $149,983.
“It feels great to be playing well again and this win is a huge relief for me,” Lovemark told reporters after winning the Midwest Classic. “It was nice to finally put four good rounds together.”
Lovemark had one of the most distinguished careers at arguably the nation’s most prestigious high school programs at Torrey Pines. He averaged a 35.4 score on nine-hole courses his senior year, which worked out to 16 shots under par for the season.
He shot an 8-under-par 64 on an 18-hole course at Singing Hills Golf Course, and shot a 30 (6-under-par) on the front nine holes of the 2006 San Diego Section championships.
In 2005 he became the youngest player ever to win the prestigious Western Amateur competing against an international field of elite golfers in a tournament that counts Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Justin Leonard and Phil Mickelson among its previous champions.
He won the 2007 NCAA individual championship in 2007 as a freshman at USC where he was a two-time first-team All-American.
Lovemark achieved his success with a self-taught swing his father helped him develop – a rarity at a time when individualized instruction is pervasive, and not all for the better, Courtney said.
“Most of these players are far, far,far, over-analyzed, over-videoed – and over-coached,” Courtney said. “I think it’s just over the top, I don’t think it’s even good for them, frankly, I think they should learn to be more independent, and Jamie is.”
The result is a repeatable swing that’s silky smooth and which comes in stark contrast to the more mechanical swings ubiquitous on today’s junior circuit.
“It’s refreshing to me to see somebody that’s done it on their own,” Courtney said. “He has a magnificent game and he learned it on his own.”
Lovemark hasn’t been seen much of the home course he practically grew up on since moving to Florida a few years ago.
But the former amateur sensation’s resurgence has given his fans back home something to be excited about.
“He’s just a nice young man and all of us at Ranch Santa Fe are thrilled and hope that he (continues) on his comeback trail,” Courtney said. “I hope he continues and I’m not alone — he’s got a lot of fans in this town. Everybody around our club — the golf people that are paying attention to him — are all abuzz.”