Toward the end of a summer spent further discovering his passion for golf, Calvert Hall senior Grant Burton will play at the place where the sport began.

"Basically, everything I've ever done with golf has led up to this point," said Burton, a Fallston native who is one of 14 amateur players aged 19 or younger representing Team USA in the International Junior Golf Tour's Euro Cup, beginning Wednesday in historic St. Andrews, Scotland.

The three-day competition includes six rounds (three practice, three competitive) against the Canadian Junior Golf Association and the FIFE (Scotland).

Burton said he received the invite earlier in the month after participating in a week-long training program at the Hank Haney IJGA Academy in Hilton Head, S.C.

"It's a privilege," Burton said. "It makes you feel proud. Now you're no longer representing yourself. You're representing your country."

Since finishing his junior year as part of Calvert Hall's MIAA A-Conference title win over Gilman in May, Burton has attended amateur events around the country.

"It's like everything in my life revolves around golf now," said Burton, 17. "It feels like that's what I'm supposed to be doing. I don't know if it's the competitive part I like, I don't even know. Something just feels right."

Two summers ago, that wasn't the case. Following his freshman year, he racked his clubs and thought to put the game behind him.

There were family photos of him as a kid just learning to stand with a club in his grip, but he wanted to shift his focus on football.

"I think his temperament wasn't as good when he was younger," said his father, Jeff Burton, an active golfer today and a member at the Baltimore Country Club who introduced his sons to the game. Grant's brother, Jason, played at Loyola University.

"Golf was a tough thing for [Grant] because, you know, you have one bad shot and everything's right there out in front of you," Jeff Burton said. "And then he might have played a little too much tournament golf when he was probably 13 or 14."

Said Grant Burton: "I was just completely done. I was so burnt out from golf. I just didn't want anything to do with it. I was just kind of pissed off."

With competition, he came to realize a side to the game beyond calm afternoons at the range.

"Golf's just kind of brutal," he said. "Once you're down, no one's gonna help you get back up. You've got to find it within yourself."

After a seven-month hiatus, he was pulled back. In the winter, he took his clubs down to his basement and swung balls into a net.

"It felt like I was missing something," he said. "Something wasn't right after a while."

Calvert Hall coach Drew Forrester said Burton differs from many players his age.

"Some kids might play it and it's fun," Forrester said, "and then other kids really love it. He really loves it."

In his first year coaching at Calvert Hall, Forrester said he saw growth in Burton, the "rare spirit" with a blend of competitiveness and light-heartedness in practices who went on to play a key role in the Cardinals' playoff run.

Burton sealed the Cardinals' conference crown by winning his final two holes at Caves Valley to go ahead by 2 ½.

"Had we had [a playoff MVP], he probably would've been it," Forrester said.

As Burton looks to play in college, Forrester views the summer as a pivotal time for the soon-to-be senior.

"At some point you've got to make the decision as a young man or a young women [who] wants to go to the next level of golf: Are you willing to immerse yourself in golf?" he said. "It can be very frustrating, it can be very defeating. You lose a lot more in golf than you win."

The summer's constant competition has helped in more ways than honing skill, Burton said.

"Now that I've gotten older, it's like, 'All right it's not the end of the world,'" he said. "You've just got to hang in there."

Burton said he never would've expected an opportunity to see another part of the world this summer. From Scotland, he's interested to see where else golf can take him.

"I'm just trying to get to the next point," he said. "Just trying to keep my head really."

sboster@baltsun.com

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