(Complete interview with Argyle Downes)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When Argyle Downes puts his tee shot into the air on the 10th hole at Glade Springs Resort shortly after 8:15 Tuesday morning, he will do so as the youngest player to compete in the West Virginia Open in six years.
The 14-year-old native of Charles Town will test his skills against the state’s top professionals and amateurs in the 87th edition of the state championship event. Priority number one for the rising sophomore is to make the cut and play in Thursday’s final round. But after Monday’s practice round, Downes is setting his bar of expectations much higher.
“After seeing the course and how comfortable I am on it, I want to come in the top 25,” Downes said. “I would like to not have to qualify for next year (by finishing in the top 40). I know that is a little bit of a stretch. But I would rather set my goals really far ahead.”
The Cobb Course can play longer than 7,000 yards, creating some new challenges for Downes and the rest of the field.
“There is an almost 250-yard par 3, so obviously I have to hit 3-wood or hybrid to get there. It is really not terribly long. I just have to hit a couple more long irons than I am used to.”
Downes earned his spot in the state open field by finishing tied for third in the qualifying tournament at Cacapon State Park on June 12. He shot a 5-over-par 77 and was one of six players to advance. Downes played consistently, making 13 pars, which was tied for fourth among all players in the field. Downes’ father was checking the live scoreboard online as he approached the 18th green.
“I two-putted for par. My dad starts looking at me and he had a big grin on his face. I had no idea what that really meant. I shot 77 so I felt pretty comfortable with where I was. I thought I was going to be right on the cut line. It turned out to be a little bit than I expected.”
Downes has competed in three events this summer on the WVGA-sponsored Callaway Junior Tour. He won the 14-and-under division tournaments at The Club at Cress Creek and his home course of Locust Hill. He also finished as the runner-up in the event at the Pines Country Club in Morgantown. Downes has built a love for the game of golf for nearly his entire lifetime.
“Ever since I could walk, I had a plastic club in my hand. I would hit plastic balls all over the house. When I was three or four, I got my first real set of clubs. I started playing tournament golf when I was seven. I was not always great but I was always trying to push myself to do better.”
Golf can be a humbling game at times. However, Downes has made an effort to learn from each round, good or bad.
“I have been down on myself in the past and I just realized it is not beneficial in the long run. I could have just turned those off days into some learning and some practice, just trying to do new things. That will help me going forward.”
When he is not in competitions, Downes says he prefers to practice while playing, rather than spend a ton of time on the driving range.
“I just try to play as much as I can. I figure that when you are out on the course, you get in situations that you wouldn’t get in when you are just practicing. The pressure you have on yourself to play well is greater on the course than when I am practicing.”
Downes will enter his sophomore season at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania this fall. He hopes to take his game to the college level while eventually pursuing a career in medicine.
“I would like to play Division I hopefully. I want to be a dentist or a professional golfer. If golf is going well, I might stick to that. But I really think dentistry is where I would like to go.”