June 17, 2009

UCSB's Lewis ready to enjoy his Open experience

June 17, 2009

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By ROBERT S. JOHNSON NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER

Scott Lewis doesn't feel like he's hit the big time just by qualifying for the U.S. Open.

But he's definitely noticed that the tournament - even the practice - is different than anything he's ever encountered in golf.

People have watched him hit at the driving range. He got his named announced and applause when he teed off for a practice round.

"There's nerves, but it's nothing I haven't experienced before," Lewis said in a phone interview Tuesday. "Just a few more people watching me tee off."

And there was the autograph seeker.

"It was, 'Oh, are you talking to me?'" Lewis recounted. "I didn't even realize it until my dad tapped me on the shoulder. I heard (the request), but I didn't really grasp it."

The attention from reporters and fans alike at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y., isn't the only difference for Lewis, who just completed his sophomore year at UCSB.

"It's hard not to notice that Jim Furyk was four feet behind me hitting balls on the range today, but at the same time if I stay focused on what I'm doing and what got me here it will be easier for me," Lewis said. "I'm not treating as bigger, I'm treating it as the same way. Obviously it is bigger than any tournament I've ever been in, but I'm not going to change anything about my preparation and routine.

"I'm just trying to soak in the experience and enjoy it as much as possible."

But at the same time, Lewis knows that he is doing something he may never do again.

"It definitely feels special," he said. "It's the first time I've ever been in a professional tournament inside the ropes.

"I'm just trying to soak in the experience and enjoy it as much as possible."

As he learned Tuesday, though, there is bound to be some frustration once the competitive golf begins.

The rough is deeper and thicker than anything he's ever encountered. And the holes are longer than any he's ever played.

Way longer.

As if the 605-yard par 5 13th isn't daunting enough, holes 10 and 12 are both par 4s that eclipse 500 yards. The fourth hole is 517 yards and par 5, but the hole that best got Lewis' attention was No. 7.

At 525 yards, it's the longest par 4 in U.S. Open history.

"I hit a drive as pure as I can hit it, and I hit it long," Lewis said. "Then I got out there and still had 250 yards left.

"It was sort of a wakeup call."

One that Lewis can't wait to get for real.

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