PINEHURST, N.C.--So how do you become a good enough golfer to earn medalist honors at the U.S. Amateur Championship? Try giving up the game for two years.
OK, so maybe it's not the conventional training technique among amateurs these days. But take a look at Robbie Fillmore's resume and you'll notice a gap between 2004 and 2006, the time when the now 22-year-old was in Chile, serving on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was between his senior year of high school and his first year at BYU. Working in Santiago and Roncagua, Fillmore didn't play a round of golf more 24 months.
"I still feel like I'm getting back into it," Fillmore joked Tuesday after shooting a five-under 65 at Pinehurst No. 4 to go with a 69 on the famed No. 2 course to claim medalist honors at six-under 134, one stroke better than incoming South Carolina freshman Wesley Bryan.
Fillmore's passion for golf never left him even if his clubs did. Within two hours of returning home in August 2006 the Salt Lake City native was hitting balls. Initially the return to competitive play looked like it might be rather easy; nine days back, Fillmore shot a 66 to win a one-day tournament in Utah. It wasn't for another two months, though, that he managed to break 72.
Eventually though, his game rounded into a consistently solid form. He won the freshman of the year in the Mountain West Conference in 2007 and had BYU's low scoring average this past season (72.7).
Fillmore says that the lessons he learned while on the mission actually help him when he's on the course. "I'm a lot more mature," he said. "I've got a perspective on things that I think helps me handle tough situations."
That perspective came to him even earlier in life. At age 3, Fillmore was injured in a fire, suffering third degree burns over more than 25 percent of his body. Doctors told his family that if he survived he would never be able lift his arms above parallel to the ground. Noted Fillmore on his USGA bio sheet: "After a month in the hospital and years of rehab, here I am."