Golf

Free thinking helps launch barrage of birdies at West Florida Golf Tour

EAST MANATE -- There are no swing alterations or technical changes.

Yet Sam Osborne's game has found consistency in the last month, which is why the Englishman and former Palmetto resident has vaulted to the top of the West Florida Golf Tour's Summer Tour Points Race.

Osborne's collected more than $4,200 in earnings from his last two WFGT starts, and is tied for fifth place in this week's event at Tara Golf & Country Club following Monday's first round.

He fired a 2-under par 70, which is two shots off the pace set by Bradenton's Domenico Geminiani in the three-day, 54-hole tournament that continues Tuesday and concludes Wednesday.

The back-to-back consistent results and Monday's round were indicative of how Osborne's game has evolved in the last month.

Rather than letting a bad shot plague a round, he's staying focused through each shot.

"It's more of letting myself play, instead of trying to force it," said Osborne, who qualified for the United States Open back in 2012 and now lives in Sarasota.

Legendary golfer Bobby Jones, who is the only person in history to win the Grand Slam -- four major championships -- in the same calendar year, once said golf is a game mainly played on the six-inch course between your ears.

The free-thinking approach has yielded positive scores for Osborne. In seven WFGT Summer Tour rounds, Osborne has gone under-par in six of them. He won at the Meadows - his first WFGT victory in more than a year -- to start the good stretch and that 54 holes featured a double eagle and 12 birdies with only four bogeys.

"I think you get a bit scatter-brained sometimes, but you don't realize you're doing it," Osborne said. "You start thinking about your swing or

something else. Or hitting a bad shot and you get out of what you should be thinking about, which is just hitting a good shot."

Osborne also advanced past the local U.S. Open qualifier held at TPC Prestancia on May 11.

While Osborne didn't qualify for this year's U.S. Open from the sectional qualifier at The Bear's Club in Jupiter, he said he can build off of getting to that stage.

"He just seems more relaxed," WFGT tournament coordinator Ross Hanson said. "I think he's enjoying himself more when he's playing."

The WFGT's Summer Tour is 15 weeks long and concludes in late September with the Tour Championship at Lecanto's Black Diamond Ranch. The top three players receive $2,000 bonus checks.

Osborne is in the field for the Waterloo (Iowa) Open next month, and is planning other events in the Midwest.

So he might not be in contention for the Summer Tour points race title, but what is certain is he's found a mental edge from not over-thinking.

It's also simplified his putting, which hasn't always been on point in the past.

"My putting has held me back a little bit, probably the last few years," Osborne said. "But at the moment, it feels good so I'm enjoying it."

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