Hamilton puts home town on the map
Todd Hamilton grew up trampling the fairways of a modest 9-hole golf course in farm country, fine-tuning his swing with what he could learn from books and his father.
Not the typical route to a major golf championship, perhaps, but on Sunday the 38-year-old PGA Tour rookie stared down one of the world's best players and walked away the British Open champion.
``Not to be conceited or anything, but I think my career is a pretty neat story,'' Hamilton said.
It sure played that way back in Oquawka, a Mississippi River town of about 1,500 people 70 miles west of Peoria, as locals celebrated one of their own winning the Claret Jug.
``My heart was beating like a trip hammer,'' said Hamilton's father, Kent, who took time to serve coffee and soda to the throng of reporters that descended on the town.
Hamilton may have been the ultimate long shot to play in the British Open, let alone win it.
As a young boy he didn't have a set of clubs he could handle. Instead, his father used a hacksaw to cut his own clubs down to size. Hamilton played round after round at Hend-Co Hills Golf Club in Biggsville, one day playing 63 holes.
He went to high school intent on being a golfer. The only problem was Biggsville's Union High School didn't have a golf team, so Hamilton petitioned the school to create one. He was the only member and his coach was his father.
Hamilton won the state championship in his junior and senior years. From there it was on to college in Oklahoma and a pro career. But he repeatedly tried and failed to qualify for the PGA Tour.
He played all over the world, including India, and went to Japan to play on the Asian tour. It was there that his career took off -- four tournament wins and more than $1 million last year.
In December, he finally did qualify for his PGA Tour card on his eighth try, and on Sunday, he beat the greats of the game at one of the golf's biggest events. He finished regulation play tied with Ernie Els at 10-under and made four pars to win the playoff.
``It really shows you that dreams do come true,'' his father said. ``If you believe it, it can happen.''
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