S.F. golfer sees hard work pay off in form of spot in U.S. Amateur 

click to enlarge San Francisco’s John Sawin won a playoff to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, which tees off Monday. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • San Francisco’s John Sawin won a playoff to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, which tees off Monday.

The lonely place of the putting green is where many golf tournaments are won and lost, hopes fulfilled and shattered.

And John Sawin, the 28-year-old investment banker out of San Francisco, has lost plenty of tournaments, and seen plenty of golf goals unfulfilled.

For 12 years, from high school to college, the Philadelphia-native tried — yet failed — to qualify for the United States Golf Association's U.S. Amateur Championship. But three weeks ago at Schaffer's Mill Club just north of Tahoe, Sawin, in a sudden-death elimination playoff with two other golfers, tried his luck on the green again.

"I tried mentally to remove myself from the implications of that playoff, and just focus on hitting good golf shots," Sawin said. "And I actually felt like I did a pretty decent job with it."

Indeed.

After his opponent bogeyed, Sawin — armed only with a self admittedly questionable short game and an Odyssey putter — stared down a 4-footer for par.

He sunk it. And qualified for the 113th U.S. Amateur in Brookline, Mass., set to tee off Monday.

"It didn't exactly hit me that that was, you know, game over for me," Sawin said. "Once it set in, it was almost overwhelming that I had actually done it and finally achieved this goal that I had been working on for so many years.

"It was nice to finally bury one that really mattered to me and reap the benefits."

But reap such benefits Sawin nearly didn't. After three Ivy League team championships at Princeton from 2004 to 2006, Sawin hung up his clubs in favor of starting his finance career with Barclays in New York City.

His golf game nonexistent, Sawin yearned to mend the break he had taken with the course.

Barclays coworker and Princeton golf buddy Stu Francis, helped with that.

"He planted the idea in my head," Sawin said of his transfer to a Barclays branch in the Bay Area nearly four years ago, which restored his golfing passion. "It's been a great fit for me."

Yet though it was the move west that bettered his golf game, it wasn't where he first learned the sport.

Sawin was all but 2 years old when his father Henry, a former golfer at Georgetown, placed a club into his tiny hands and taught him to swing.

"I was his first son," Sawin said. "So I think he was pretty anxious to get a club in my hand as soon as I was able to stand myself on my feet."

And watching his son swing is what Henry will be doing this week in the most prestigious amateur tournament in the country.

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