British Open Golf

J.B. Holmes of the United States putt on the 1st green during the second round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Friday, July 19, 2019.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Watching golf on television isn’t exactly like taking in a football or basketball game, said Adam Young.

There’s no natural entity to root against, and having a personal connection with a participant can seem far-fetched.

Not so this week for the Catlettsburg native.

Young grew up playing against J.B. Holmes — holder of a share of the 36-hole lead at the British Open — in junior golf events, including the 1999 Bluegrass Junior at Bellefonte Country Club.

“All of us that grew up playing do know (Holmes). If we saw him, we’d speak, we’d be friendly, and it’s great to have someone to pull for,” Young said Friday afternoon, several hours after Holmes shot a 68 in the second round of the Open five time zones away at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Portrush, Northern Ireland.

“I think that’s what makes it fun, is when you see a guy up there and think, ‘Hey, I played with him. I may have beat him one day 20 years ago,’ knowing it will never happen again,” Young continued. “But just to see them have that kind of success, it really makes you feel good and really creates that bond.”

Young, 37, shares a date of birth with Holmes, he said, although he was a year ahead of Holmes in school. So they played against each other frequently from their early teen years until Holmes’ graduation from Taylor County.

Holmes won the 1998 KHSAA state golf tournament at Seneca Golf Course in Louisville as a sophomore for the Cardinals. Young represented Boyd County in that tournament, which he called a watershed moment for Holmes’ repute.

That only grew — along with Holmes’ golfing ability — once he made it to the University of Kentucky.

“Within the state of Kentucky, everybody knew J.B. was good, but it wasn’t one of those where people here now in Kentucky get accolades and are known because nowadays junior golf is played on a national level,” Young said. “He always could hit it farther than anybody around, from the time he was 13, 14, 15 years old, but the thing about J.B. was, he just kept getting better once he got to college, and that’s what separated him from a lot of the good junior golfers of that time.”

Holmes’s quietly confident, introverted demeanor has helped him become one of the premier golfers in the world, Young said. He saw that up close before it was broadcast internationally.

“He goes about his business,” Young said of Holmes. “He’s not a real emotional guy. ... That personality allows him to be grounded.”

While Holmes earned his PGA Tour card after his days in Lexington, Young went on to coach West Jessamine to the 2012 and ‘13 state titles. He succeeded Jody Hamilton — also a former Boyd County sporting figure, well-known for his time coaching the baseball Lions — as the Colts’ coach.

The Georgetown College graduate now lives in Union, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, and doesn’t spend much time playing competitively anymore.

“Now I’m 37 with a couple kids, so I don‘t really,” Young said, laughing. “That kinda died five or six years ago, but especially when I got into coaching.”

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