Last fall, I traveled with Team USA to the PGA Cup in De Vere Slaley Hall, Hexham, Northumberland, England. It was an unbelieably awesome experience, in more ways than one.
Before the matches began, I had a chance to play in the pro-am (well, 16 holes of it. Missed the first and last, first because I overslept, last because of radio interview - but save those stories for another day). The "Pro" in my group was a chap by the name of Richard Wallis. I had never met him but I knew he was considered by many to be one of the top players on the Great Britain & Ireland team. He's since become a friend - one who's career I follow on Twitter and share notes with once in awhile via email.
Wallis has the trademark British wit (referencing my putt blasted past the hole as "dead sheep"... still ewe (get it?)), Hollywood-esque good looks (or so I'm told by some ladies that were in attendance) and a heck of a golf game.
How good? Good enough that he was recently honored by the Guiness Book of World Records for shooting the lowest below-par score in a single round of a professional tournament ever recorded. Yes, Wallis shot a 59 while winning the PGA Southern Open Championship Pro-Am last June. And yes, others have shot 59 but Wallis' score came on a par 73 course - giving him a phenomenol -14 par for the day. (Wait, what???)
The actual certification of the award just came down and has been in various papers across Europe. I was lucky enough to contact Wallis and ask him a few questions about his accomplishment.
PGA.com: Richard, first of all, again, congratulations. What's it take to shoot a 59, fourteen-under, in a single round? I mean, that's just a silly score. Video game type stuff, right?
Wallis: You know what your spot on, when I first shot the score my first thought was, that's a 'play station' score and I chuckled to myself...it took a couple of days and probably after a bit of the hype that it sunk in what I had achieved. First of all a PGA event 59 and then the realisation of -14...I mean dreams are made of such things. Literally felt top of the world.
PGA.com: Going back to that round, when did you know you had something special going?
Wallis: I probably started thinking about a serious number after 15 holes, I had started birdie, par, par so really quite a soft start but for the next 12 holes I was -12 so at that point I was thinking of a deep number. The eagle on 15 (a 350 driveable par 4) opened my eyes to the 59 but a missed 3ft'r on 16, I thought had skuppered it a bit but a birdie finish brought it back to life!
PGA.com: The course is a par 73. That's a little unusual for our audience in the states. How common is that in England?
Wallis: A par 73 is very rare, I only know of 1 other and it's in Wales.
PGA.com: Not to be a real idiot, but is it an easy course? I've played courses in England, and they are every bit as challenging (if not more so) than some of the toughest layouts we have here. Still just trying to wrap my head around a 14-under par day.
Wallis: Haha well a lot of people have asked the same question. Let's be honest, even on the easiest of tracks you've still got to hit the shots and make the putts. This course is your typical Surrey course, narrow, heavily tree lined fairways with small greens. The only benefit with small greens is, when you hit them, your likely to be close. I missed 1 green and had only 20 putts for the day.
PGA.com: You've played in European Tour events, a hundred professional events a year, etc. What's the one thing keeping you from a playing card on the big tour?
Wallis: Good question, if I knew that I'd be winning on tour now. My time will come I'm just being patient, it's taking longer than I hoped but if I keep working hard and knocking on the door, at some point it will open and I'll walk through. I work hard, my desire and passion is there, sometimes maybe I just try too hard.
PGA.com: Can you imagine you or anyone going lower than 14-under?
Wallis: Yes for sure, there's 18 holes on a course and even in my -14 I felt like I left 2 out there!
PGA.com: You had some pretty special call-outs on Twitter after your round. That's what actually got you to start your Twitter account, right?
Wallis: Yes definitely, my sponsor thought it would help raise my profile and to a certain degree it has but if I'm honest, only to a small degree, I had hoped for a few invites haha but obviously nonne yet :-)
PGA.com: So finally, what's next for you?
Wallis: Well I'm going to keep pressing on, playing for GB&I and shooting numbers like the 59 fills you with confidence and we all know that confidence breeds success so if I keep my ambition and desire up then who knows...my life could be turned upside down from 1 single event and who knows, that event maybe next week so let's work hard and keep trying.
You can follow Richard Wallis on Twitter @Richie59wallis.