Watson draw gives ailing Rowe a major Open tonic
SCOTT Rowe will clamber out of his sick-bed to line up alongside defending champion Tom Watson in the first round of the US$250,000 Kent Hongkong Open at Fanling this morning.
The 17-year-old Hongkong amateur champion has been handed a dream draw which has pitted him with eight-time major winner Watson and Taiwan's Chen Tse-chung.
It will be a memorable and nerve-racking experience for a young man who is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Watson and win a four-year golfing scholarship and study psychology at world-renowned Stanford University.
However, the biggest moment in Rowe's career to date was threatened on Tuesday when he was taken to hospital after being physically sick both before and during the Pro-Am.
Tests revealed that Rowe was suffering from an untimely bout of gastroenteritis and he was on medication yesterday to ease the pain.
''It couldn't have come at a worse time, but it would take a broken leg to stop me getting on to the first tee with Tom Watson,'' said Rowe, who initially thought the illness was the result of nerves at the prospect of playing with the legendary American.
Rowe, Watson and Chen will tee-off on the first hole at 8.06 this morning and from the 11th tee at 12.16 tomorrow afternoon in the second round.
Despite two appearances in the world amateur team championships for the Eisenhower Trophy, Rowe admits that he is unsure how he will cope with the pressures of performing in such illustrious company in front of large galleries.
''I know I'll be frightened as hell on that first tee, but hopefully after a couple of shots I'll settle down. I just hope my first shot is not a huge banana slice or a big hook,'' said Rowe, who names five-time British Open champion Watson as one of his heroes.
Watson, one of golf's gentlemen, will have his own piece of advice for Rowe when they meet on the tee. Said Watson: ''He's too young to have nerves. I'll tell him to play his own game and just concentrate on playing the golf course . . . not his partners.'' In preparation for the Open, Rowe has been practising at Fanling for the past fortnight hitting up to 700 balls each day and paying particular emphasis on building up the strength in his left arm.
''I've been hitting 500 balls normally and about 200 using just my left arm,'' said Rowe, who has been propelling his six-iron 140 yards with his left arm.
Rowe, whose father, Kevin, will caddie for him, added: ''I'm pleased with my build-up. My driving has been pretty solid although my putting is a little suspect.'' Don Clegg, president of the Golf Association of Hongkong, said: ''Scott has been an outstanding player for Hongkong over the past three years and is one of the finest golfing talents we have ever seen in the territory.
''We believe that putting him with Watson and Chen is good for the tournament. We expect a lot of people to watch them on Friday afternoon.'' Rowe is not the only Hongkong player to have received a plum draw.
Multi-time national champion Yau Sui-ming has been paired with Spanish superstar Seve Ballesteros, making his Hongkong debut, and American Todd Hamilton, winner of last year's Asian Tour Order of Merit. They begin at 8.24 this morning from the first tee.
Richard Kan, Hongkong's 1992 Order of Merit champion, will play alongside Japanese Isao Aoki and Ken Mattiace of America, while Royal Hongkong Golf Club senior professional Joe Hardwick will be partnered by 1985 winner Mark Aebli of America and popular Burmese Kyi Hla Han.
Dominique Boulet lines up alongside European Tour player Danny Mijovic of Canada and American Eric Meeks with Hongkong PGA champion Tang Man-kee joining up with highly-rated Swede Robert Karlsson and Taiwan's Hsieh Yu-shu, the leading Asian finisher at Fanling last year.
Others include the trio of Northern Ireland's David Feherty, Kiyoshi Hoshi of Japan and Canada's Asian merit champion Rick Gibson.