U.S. Open 2019: First-timer Rhys Enoch is one of Pebble Beach’s most sentimental stories
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PEBBLE BEACH — Most of the focus at the U.S. Open this weekend, understandably, will be on the starry names contending for the title. Go further down the leader board, though, and there are storylines that won’t get as much attention but are no less compelling—or worth rooting for.
Among them is that of Rhys Enoch, who on Friday was sitting on the cut line, needing just a pair of pars on his final two holes to make it to the weekend in his first U.S. Open after earning a spot in the field through sectional qualifying in England. Still, the nerves persisted as he needed to get up and down on the par-3 17th and then again on the par-5 18th. When he did, it capped a sensational round of 66 for the Welshman, a score bettered only by leader Gary Woodland’s 65. And only Woodland, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods have ever gone lower in a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Nice debut. And one Enoch’s younger brother would have enjoyed seeing.
“It’s been so long, but whenever there’s a big moment in your life you think about who’s missing and what’s missing,” said an emotional Enoch on Saturday afternoon after finishing a less spectacular but still respectable even-par 71 to sit at two over through 54 holes in a tie for 46th. “Ten years is a long time.”
Rhys’ younger brother, Ben Enoch, was just 19 when he was killed in a car crash in May 2009. He was one of Britain’s most promising amateurs, on his way to the Lytham Trophy when his Peugeot crashed into a trailer in Whitchurch, Herefordshire.
A Walker Cup hopeful for Great Britain and Ireland, Ben was set to attend East Tennessee University on a golf scholarship that fall, joining Rhys, who was two years ahead of him in school.
It’s true time heals wounds, but Ben is never far from Rhys’ mind. The two were often joined at the hip growing up and, well, a brother's love is a brother's love. Rhys has his brother’s nickname “Been” tattooed over his heart, along with Ben’s favorite quote. It’s from author Marianne Williams, and it reads, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
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The climb back from the grief that consumed Rhys has been a slow one. In addition to losing his brother, he suffers from chronic-fatigue syndrome, which nearly derailed him this week in dreamland.
“Rhys has had a terrible chest infection, so he struggled all the way through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,” said Steve Enoch, Rhys’ father. “And then [Friday] sort of started to get a bit better and back to himself and shot 66.”
Making the cut also proved valuable beyond a personal triumph. Doing so exempts Enoch, currently 358th in the Official World Golf Ranking and a member of the Sunshine Tour in South Africa, into the second stage of Web.com Tour qualifying, which helps tick off another box in the long road to what he hopes one day will lead to the PGA Tour.
“It’s unreal,” Enoch said of his time at Pebble Beach, where he’ll celebrate his 31st birthday on Sunday. “It’s the best place around.”
Something Ben would have agreed with.
“He would have loved it,” Enoch said. “Probably would’ve been on the bag, if he wasn’t playing here himself.”