Bio

Name: James Stephen Byrne

Height: 6’ 0”

Weight: 185lbs

Born: Gorleston, England

Date of Birth: 2nd January 1989

Parents: Paul and Siew-Heok

Alma-mater: Banchory Academy, Arizona State University

 

The grip changes took a long time, but I got there in the end.

I was born in the early hours of Monday the 2nd of January in 1989 in Gorleston, England. I was actually due on Christmas day, but my mum obviously knew that my age group in golf tournaments would be determined by my age on the 1st of  January, so she held on and gave me an extra year as a junior. Bless her. At just 3 weeks old, we packed up (I didn’t help much) and drove about 8 hours north to Banchory, Scotland, where we’ve resided ever since.

From a young age I showed a lot of interest in sport. I remember getting a plastic set of clubs from Santa at about 2 or 3 years old and chipping plastic balls around the garden into flower pots. I tried a lot of sports, but I seemed to stand out at both swimming and golf.

Me with my plastic driver, apparently going for the Parnevik look.

Neither sport came particularly naturally to me, however. As a swimmer, I remember developing a fear of deep water after eagerly diving in one day and landing right on my cousin Mike’s head. When I eventually got over that fear, I soon became terrified of the starter’s horn (which I still argue was far too loud for an 8 year old), which meant that at the start of the race I would either freeze on the blocks or just cry uncontrollably. It wasn’t a great introduction to the sport, but eventually, somehow, I became pretty good at it.

My introduction to golf, thankfully, was a little more tear free. There was one incident I can remember though, when I was practicing in a bunker and swung the club back only to strike someone straight in the forehead. I turned round and look who’s lying on the floor with a nasty bump on their head – you guess it, cousin Mike. Again. Maybe he just wasn’t too keen on me getting involved with sport? Anyways, I probably knocked a few of his teeth out and maybe a few brain cells but I certainly didn’t knock the creativity out of him, as he’s done an excellent job designing this website and has his very own which is certainly worth checking out.

Making the local papers

In order to be a success in swimming, you must completely dedicate yourself to it, and by the time I was 14 the workload was getting relentless; 5am starts 5 days a week, intense training sessions, strict diets and early nights. My friends all got to stay up and watch Pop Idol and Big Brother (a strange bunch), whilst I would be collapsed in my bed at 9pm after an exhausting days work, trying to get a good night’s sleep before getting up and doing it all again. With homework and exams thrown in, I was running out of hours in the day, but I loved racing and competing and was reluctant to give either sport up.

Swimming the 200IM at the 2003 British Age Group Championships

Eventually, after getting home from school one day half asleep and physically drained, I figured it was time to make a change. As much as I loved swimming, the training was no longer enjoyable and I was working myself into the ground. In golf, I knew I had a sport I could play as a profession, and one that would allow me to travel the world. It was an easy decision really, and one I certainly haven’t regretted.

With twice as much time on my hands to work on my golf game, I improved twice as quickly. The following year, I won my first national junior tournament at the North of England Under 16s, winning by six shots with a tournament record of seven under par. In 2006, I secured my first national mens title, winning the Newlands Trophy at Lanark Golf Club with nine under. In the two years since putting my cap and goggles away, it had been a rapid progression on the golf course, and I soon had my sights set on the professional game.

Holding aloft the Scottish Boys Strokeplay Trophy, after coming through in a playoff.

In 2007, I went into the Scottish Boys Championship at Cardrona GC as the favourite. I was 18 years old, and it was my last chance at a major boys title. I opened up with a five under 67, and followed it with two more 69s. At 11 under, I had just a one shot lead over Michael Stewart, who was also playing great golf. After nine holes, I found myself three shots in arrears, as Michael had stormed to a 31 front nine. Then I holed my second shot from 105 yards at the 10th, and it was game on again. I made 3 more birdies to incredibly restore my three shot lead, but finished poorly to wind up in a playoff. Fortunately, I birdied the 3rd extra hole, and was overjoyed to win my first major boys championship in my final appearance.

Later that year, I made my international debut at mens level when I was picked to represent Scotland in the European Championships. Alongside the likes of Richie Ramsay and Lloyd Saltman, it was a fantastic experience and we picked up a bronze medal by finishing 3rd. I have been fortunate to have represented Scotland, GB&I and Europe on a number of occasions during my amateur career, and I’ve always enjoyed playing as part of a team. Golf is very much an individual sport, so it’s great fun to hit shots and make putts for your teammates and your country, rather than just yourself.

Representing Scotland in 2007 in the European Team Championships

At the end of 2007, I packed my bags (did it all myself this time), hopped on a plane, and crossed the Atlantic to enlist at Arizona State University on a four-year golf scholarship. It was a fantastic four years in my life, and I developed enormously not only as a golfer but as an adult. Living on your own is not easy, especially when you know you’re missing out on the best homemade sticky toffee pudding in the world back at home. I soon got over the homesickness though, and settled into the routine of workouts, classes, golf practice and sometimes the occasional beer or two. It was a good life.

In 2009, I went on a hot streak over the summer that I’ve probably not replicated to the same degree since. Over a stretch of five rounds I averaged 63.8 and picked up two more order of merit titles along the way. It was crazy golf, but the most fun I’ve ever had and more importantly a sign that I was getting better. It’s one thing shooting the occasional low number, but to do it five times in a row is a lot different.

Wearing the distinctive gold of Arizona State at a tournament in Chicago

2010, I was beaten in the final of the Amateur Championship by Jin Jeong, who went on to finish T13 in The Open the following week. His putter was red hot, and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it. It was heartbreaking to miss out on a place in The Open and the Masters, but it had been a great week and I took it on the chin. Later that year, I went to Buenos Aires and met up with Ross Kellett and Michael Stewart to represent Scotland in the World Amateur Team Championships. It was a massive event, and I was pleased to finish 4th and help Scotland to a 5th place finish.

May 2011, and I’m sat in a lecture hall staring emptily at the wall in front of me. It was my last ever exam, and the years and years of late night studying and homework and researching and assignments and reports and field studies and tests were finally at an end. A few days later, I officially became a graduate of Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing, and I was ready to come home. I sold my car, somehow packed everything I owned into a suitcase, said goodbye to college life and hello to the real world. It was time to find myself a job. I had finally grown up, but what would I be? I had always wanted to be a fireman…

I’d had my sights on September  2011 to be the date that I would turn professional for some time, but it all depended on my selection to the 2011 Walker Cup team. I’d had a great 2010, but very average college form meant that I needed some good results to secure my spot. Fortunately, I played consistently well over the remaining events and was proudly named amongst the 10 GB&I players.

Representing Great Britain & Ireland in the 2011 Walker Cup matches.

Those two days over a windswept Royal Aberdeen Golf Club were two of the most memorable of my life. Up against a heavily favoured American team, we rose to the occasion and the expectation of the home crowd and delivered a 14-12 victory that will surely go down in history as one of GB&I’s greatest ever. Winning 2 points from 3, I was delighted to have performed well and to have signed off my amateur career in style.

A few days later, I announced that I had turned professional and signed with sports management company IMG. I had dramatically decided against being a fireman and at the last minute thought it would be fun to be a pro golfer. Since then, I’ve travelled all over the globe playing the game I love as a profession, and although I haven’t won, yet, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

My thanks go to everyone who has supported me through my progression as a golfer and a person, and there are many of you. It’s been a great journey so far and hopefully there are more memorable moments to come.