TULSA, Okla. – Perspective will be difficult for Cameron Young to see through the thick haze of bitter disappointment that came with falling agonizingly short Sunday at Southern Hills.
The 104th PGA Championship was right there for the 25-year-old Westchester native to seize as late afternoon fell over northeast Oklahoma.
Young had one hand on the Wanamaker Trophy.
He was going to bring that big, shiny chalice back to Sleepy Hollow Country Club for everyone to touch and pose for pictures around it as a thank you for everything those from the club have done to advance his golfing career since he was a youngster with sawed -off sticks.
Young, playing in only his second major championship, stood on the 14th tee tied for the damned lead with 54-hole leader Mito Pereira that 6-under par.
The dream was so close to coming true he could almost touch and taste it. Young’s dad, David, the director of golf at Sleepy Hollow for the past two decades, and mom, Barbara, once an accomplished competitive golfer in her own right, walked every hole and watched every shot.
On Saturday night after Cam’s third round, David Young, leaning on a wall up near the Southern Hills clubhouse, was talking about the three runner-up finishes his son already had on the PGA Tour this season, saying they were just waiting for that one special Sunday round to put him over the top.
But Young could not summon what he needed to summon on those final five holes – the most important five holes of his life to date.
Young bogeyed the 14th, a 224-yard par-3, when he hit his tee shot in the right bunker, splashed out to 12 feet and failed to make the par-save putt. That dropped him to 5-under, one shot back.
Then came the killer – a double bogey on the 524-yard par-4 16th hole. That’s where he left his approach shot in the right bunker and three-putted to tumble to 3-under par, three shots behind Pereira’s lead.
Young would bounce back with a birdie on the 17th hole to inch back to 4-under, two shots out of the lead, but it was too late. He would end up falling one tantalizing shot short of a playoff between Will Zalatoris and eventual winner Justin Thomas.
Zalatoris and Young were teammates and roommates at Wake Forest and they were paired together in Sunday’s second-to-last group. As much as Young would root for Zalatoris, it had to hurt just a little bit more that it was his teammate in that playoff and not himself.
Now, back to perspective.
Some 20 months ago, Young was ranked 2,066th in the world and had no playing status on any tour. Now, he has his PGA Tour card, is getting into majors and he might be the leader in the clubhouse as the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year.
Yes, Young failed to win the Wanamaker on Sunday, but he is an ascending player, a player on the verge of winning for the first time on the PGA Tour and a player who knows he can win a major championship.
“He’ll be furious for a while,” David Young was saying afterwards. “He played awfully well and missed some putts on the first seven holes that were pretty makeable. Nothing fell. But to contend in a major, you have a lot of positives to take away – and he will after he gets done being mad for a few hours.
He’ll walk away knowing he can win one of these. He knows he can. He was right in the hunt for 70 holes. I think from a common-sense standpoint, he’ll have calmed down in a few hours and realize this is one step closer to where he wants to be. ”
Cameron Young described the end result of the day as “pretty disappointing,” adding, “I’ve been close a few times, and I’ve had some bad Sundays. This was just another one. It was clearly a difficult day. It’s major championship golf.
“I’ve made so many mistakes, even in tournaments that I’ve been close to winning. I think it proves to me that not only can I win, but I can win by a lot. I just have to wait for that to come together.
“If I keep putting myself in tie for the lead or one back with nine holes to play, one of those times I’m going to shoot 5-under on the back, and that’s going to be good enough. It was not today. There will be another one. ”
Barbara Young, standing on the first tee and watching the mayhem that was taking place around her with Thomas and Zalatoris walking past them on the way to start the playoffs, said of her son: “He’s not afraid to win. He’s not afraid. ”
On the biggest stage Cameron Young has ever been on to date, he never looked at it.