Bryce Lewis is playing some of the best golf of his life.
The Hendersonville graduate recently qualified for the US Amateur championship after finishing second at Willow Creek Golf Club following an 8-under par performance on 36 holes.
His qualification for the championship at Pinehurst is the second of his young career after qualifying in 2017.
He will try and follow in the footsteps of Commando golfer Steven Fox, who won the US Amateur championship in 2012.
“It was certainly a tough day for me,” Lewis said of the qualification at Willow Creek. “I woke up at 5 a.m. for a 7:40 tee-time, which was the earliest t-time of the day and had to play 36 holes. I didn’t have a caddy which forced me to carry my clubs for 36 holes during a 95-degree day. Mentally it was a grind, but I thought I did a good job of staying focused.
“I told myself before every shot to stay calm and don’t force anything, just to take a deep breath and relax. I did that and it turned out well for me. There is no doubt it was a grind though, however, that is what college golf is all about. You do that almost every tournament, so I’d say that was a good start for me and my college career.”
Lewis’ best hole came on the turnaround after playing 18. Staring on hole 10 for his second 18 after shooting 64, Lewis eagled the hole after hitting his 3-wood over the trees and landing just 12 feet from the pin.
“That was a really good start for me,” he added. “I didn’t hit it as well the next 17 but mentally I was able to stay focused and I never gave up. I was able to birdie the last hole to get in by one stroke.”
A rising sophomore in the classroom at the University of Tennessee but still a freshman on the course, Lewis recently redshirted his first year for the Big Orange and is ready to take on the challenges of competing at the SEC level his second year.
“I loved my first year,” he said. “It has been a crazy summer after redshirting last year. Overall it was a good experience for me. I learned a lot from the coaches and older players, got better mentally and my golf game really improved. I really enjoyed my first year but I’m excited about competing next year.
“I have been playing a lot more and I have really seen an improvement in my game,” he continued. “I am staring to see the things that I worked on at school pay off in my game, I’m learning new shots and just getting a better overall feel. Yesterday was nice to see all my hard work pay off.”
As previously mentioned, this will be Lewis’ second US Amateur Championships after qualifying in 2017 at Los Angeles’ Riviera Country Club.
“I definitely think that experience will help me for this year’s tournament,” he said. “Back in 2017 I was in it through nine holes but then blew up on the back nine. Playing in this tournament before will help with my nerves and how to play on a really good golf course that is hard. I can’t wait to get out there.”
Lewis will head to Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina for registration on August 8 before playing in round one on August 12.
“There are over 200 players with the top 64 making it to match play,” he said of the tournament. “For me in 2017 that would have been a huge accomplishment to qualify for match play but this year that is the goal. If you make match play anything can happen, so I’m looking forward to competing and accomplishing that goal.”
If Lewis is able to win the US Amateur Championships nothing changes, he still plans to go back to UT to get his degree and play for coach Brennan Webb.
“It’s the same future I have planned right now, nothing changes if I win,” he said. “I love UT and I love my teammates. I really think that is where I am supposed to be and the place that will help me get better.”
After sitting out his freshman year, Lewis says his goals for the next four years are simple - play in every tournament and compete for a national championship.
“I want to be in the lineup every tournament,” he added. “The goal is to win team and individual tournaments. As a team, I think we could win the national championship next year if we all play well. We have 15 really good players that are all competing to push one another for one of the five spots that can play. I feel like we are better than anyone else when we are playing at the top of our games.”