Adam Lanza: Lancastrian golfer starring at Tiger Woods’ age

Adam Lanza could not read or write but he played golf in a manner reminiscent of the greats in the 1950s.

Lanza, 75, who died on Sunday, could just as easily have been striking balls on a golf course for three-year-olds as hitting a five iron against the gnarly wicket of the links aged just 16, let alone 15 when he took out his clubs to try to take amateur victory for himself.

That Lanza did not make the first cut did not diminish his talent, and indeed he finished second in the 40s division at the World Amateur Games in 1961, but that long ago disappointment was not strong enough to affect his desire to succeed at golf.

With 11 top-20 finishes in major tournaments in the US in three decades, including 10 top-20s in 18 PGA tour events between 1964 and 1985, he won one event, while reaching the third round at almost every major from 1962 to 1983.

That never happened to Seve Ballesteros nor would Bill Rogers, whose in-depth knowledge of the game could have been the key to his success, would have offered another vital benefit in Lanza’s rise.

Sergio Garcia, who succeeded in shooting the lowest round of the day at Augusta on Sunday, visited Lanza when he was in the States two years ago to try to make a name for himself, only to find himself trying to impress a legend.

“I visited him in his home. We discussed a lot of things and it was a great experience,” Garcia told BBC Sport in an interview published in his autobiography, Out of Sight and Out of Mind, in 2013.

“He was certainly a remarkable person for his time. Golf was still a country game in those days and golf was very casual for people like Adam.

“He didn’t attend much golf clubs, but his playing standards were through the roof.”

“I visited him in his home. We discussed a lot of things and it was a great experience” – Sergio Garcia

Hayden Johnson, who became a world-class player despite a lack of formal coaching, went on to suggest that the Lancastrian might have qualified for the Jack Nicklaus World Challenge, the annual major qualifying tournament in San Diego, had he played five years before the age cut-off.

Having played at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, Lanza’s second round at Bay Hill Golf Club in Orlando started in bad way as he made triple bogey and three bogeys before the turn.

However, as he shot 37 in the final five holes for a 68 and tied for second, a three-under par total, it looked likely that he might just have held off Johnson, who made a move on the last with birdies on the 16th and 17th.

The pair finished on 18 under par, in a tie that was not known until after the round was finished.

The only other player at the tournament who could not take it home was Bill Glasson, who began the day with a two-shot lead but shot 73 to finish five behind with Lanza.

Afterwards, he described the surprise winner as “a giant” who had proved golf “reminds you of what you’re trying to get away from”.

Fellow Americans Lamar Odom and Allan Haines also thought Lanza had a good chance, at least before he had arrived at the tournament.

Two years later, with the European Tour not in existence, only Lanza and Johnson were in contention to take the prize at the US Open in San Diego.

He shot 69 in the first round and posted 72 on day two, with Johnson following up with 67 and Haines 70.

However, Lanza was unable to reproduce his finish and finished second to Haines, a player whose experience and shot-making ability are surprising now they are only memories.

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