Aglow from his day in the sun—and a pint of lager—Joe Ogilvie leaned against a lamp post in front of Taps, a pub in Lytham, and drank in the atmosphere of the Open Championship. It was Saturday night during the biggest weeklong party in golf, and Ogilvie didn't want to miss any of the excitement. In a little more than 14 hours he would tee off in the most important round of his life, but for now this 27-year-old dreamer was content to share the moment with friends, loved ones and the good people of Lytham. Earlier in the day Ogilvie had ground out a 71 at Lytham and St. Annes, leaving him only a stroke off the lead. "It's such a special feeling here," Ogilvie said, taking a swig of beer. "I've never experienced anything like it."
He had gone from the course straight to dinner, and now to the pub, the sixth consecutive night he had visited this cramped watering hole. He was still wearing his logoed golf shirt and his plastic spikes. "At home we're in our own little worlds," he continued. "Here there's no room service, no cell phone, no Internet, no ESPN. It's almost as if you're forced to go out and enjoy it."
Last week was strange and wonderful for the Ohio-born Ogilvie. He went from fighting for his job on the PGA Tour to contending for the claret jug. Packed grandstands, crowded press conferences, rock-hard turf, warm beer—every day brought something new. In the end his still-maturing game melted in the crucible of a major championship, and he faded to 25th place. Still, for Ogilvie the journey was more important than the destination. "I learned a bit about how this game is played," he said on Sunday evening. "I learned a bit about myself, too."
That Ogilvie even reached the stalling line was an achievement. He needed a 25-foot putt for par on the 72nd hole of the Western Open to earn one of the last exemptions into the British Open, but he wasn't about to withdraw from the Greater Milwaukee Open, the tournament that fell between the Western and the British. Ogilvie had made his second pro start in Milwaukee, in 1998, on a sponsor's exemption, and the tournament remains dear to his heart. "Joe's appreciative of the opportunities he's been given," says his coach, David Hunter. "He wasn't going to let down the people in Milwaukee."
So Ogilvie's fianc�e, Colleen Parrott, came to the rescue. Back in their adopted hometown of Austin, she packed Ogilvie's passport and pretty much every long-sleeved item of clothing in his wardrobe. Following a 47th-place finish in Milwaukee, the betrothed couple took a Sunday redeye to England. Only upon arriving did they worry about finding accommodations, which turned out to be a downtrodden flat 10 minutes from the course. "The bathroom is like this wide, and the whole place is from about here to there," Ogilvie said on Saturday night, and you didn't have to see his gyrations to get the picture.
Amid such foreign surroundings, Ogilvie felt strangely comfortable. A stick figure in spikes, the 5'10", 140-pound Ogilvie has a game that's built on control, strong putting (he ranks 33rd on Tour) and imaginative wedge play, a perfect recipe for Royal Lytham. After a nerveless opening 69, he birdied five of the first 13 holes on Friday and got a jolt when he spied a scoreboard on the 14th hole—his name was at the very top. He held on for a 68, which put him at five under and two strokes out of the midway lead.
Ogilvie has the clean-cut look of a J. Crew model, and a touch of Wally Cleaver in him. He charmed the world's press corps, an embarrassing percentage of whom had mistaken him for Geoff Ogilvy, a promising 24-year-old Australian. Of particular interest was that in the Tour media guide Ogilvie lists financial markets as one of his hobbies and billionaire investor Warren Buffet as his hero. Ogilvie is quite friendly with Buffet. This summer he will play for the second time in Buffet's charity tournament in Omaha. This cozy relationship has made Ogilvie the unofficial financial adviser to the PGA Tour, although his mother, Judy, offers the following disclaimer: "I'm involved with a stock club here at home [in Lancaster, Ohio], and I always call Joe for advice when it's my turn to pick. He's picked some winners, but there have been some dogs, too. A lot of those dotcoms were real stinkers."
The world of high finance is a long way from Lancaster, a town of 40,000 in the heart of Jack Nicklaus country. From age three Ogilvie was a fixture at Lancaster Country Club, but when it came time to pick a college, he said no to Ohio State (which Nicklaus attended) and chose Duke. Unlike most of his Tour brethren, Ogilvie earned a degree, in economics. He also developed a mania for all things capitalist.
A three-time All-ACC player at Duke, Ogilvie turned pro after graduating in 1996 and set out to hone his craft on whatever podunk mini-tour would take him. For two years he wandered across Asia and Europe, played the Dakotas tour and even spent a spell in Colombia. Ogilvie never panicked, having given himself five years to succeed in golf. "Joe has always known that he could go into another profession and make just as much money as most guys on Tour," says Hunter, who is the head pro at New Albany Country Club, about 20 miles north of Lancaster. "That takes the pressure off. He has always played with peace of mind."
In 1998 Ogilvie earned a spot on the Nike tour, and he made the most of the opportunity, winning twice and finishing third on the money list, good for a promotion to the big Tour. In 1999 and 2000 he showed steady improvement, finishing 137th and 92nd, respectively, on the money list. This has been a season of change, both professional and personal. Across the winter and into the spring Ogilvie made substantial alterations to his swing, working toward a longer, more upright action. In April he and Colleen were walking along the beach in one of their favorite corners of the world, Newport Beach, Calif., when she came across a bottle buried in the sand. Joe and Colleen had dated at Duke, and after having gone their separate ways, they found each other again last year. The bottle she discovered had been planted by Ogilvie, and it did indeed contain a message in the form of a question: Will you marry me? The wedding is scheduled for Dec. 8.