You hear a lot about PGA Tour golfers that made it to the big show on their last breath. Kenny Perry is one of them. Charley Hoffman is another. These were guys that made it happen with one last attempt before going onto something else, and now look at them, happy as can be with their millions and sponsors and smiles. But what about the other side?
This week I met up with a friend of mine that I haven't seen in a few years. He's a brilliant player, the type that can make 68 look almost too easy, and a golfer I never thought would give up his attempt at golf for a living, but he has. He told he me hasn't picked up a club but once in the last two months, and that he's been interviewing with other jobs in hopes of finding something steady. Mini tour paychecks can only pay so many bills, ya know?
But I asked my buddy, who played golf at Utah and qualified for a Nationwide Tour event as a college kid, about the other "can't miss" guys we used to kick it around with on mini tours. "How is this guy doing?" "What about that guy?"
None of them are playing anymore. One, an Ohio State graduate who never missed a fairway in the many practice rounds I spent with him, is doing what a lot of golfers do when the bug finally stops bitting - he's dilly-dallying in the insurance business, attempting to make a buck for his wife and kid.
The other, a kid from Arkansas that might weigh 150 pounds soaking wet, but shot 68 EVERY SINGLE TIME I played with him, is a yoga instructor, and wants to move his practice back to his home state in hopes that the rednecks will bite on the idea of stretching for exercise.
It's insane what life throws at you. The idea of being a pro golfer is so wonderful, it's so close, that you never think the dream will die. You spend your junior days traveling the circuits with other kids that are lucky enough to compete on things like the AJGA and IJGT. If you're lucky, you get to keep competing in college, and in amateur events at exclusive golf courses that love young studs heading their way.
Then you leave college, and you turn pro, and you grind it out with all different aged guys. You see veterans of certain mini tours that have played for 20 years without making it. You tee it up with 18-year-old kids from Asia that have flown over here for experience, in hopes of making Ryo Ishikawa look like just another kid. The dream is there, and it's fresh, and it's fun.
But a lot of people soon realize that it isn't that easy, and it sure isn't that much fun (especially when you're missing cuts). Life becomes real, and you have things like rent, and credit card bills, and cell phone payments to think about. Now, the university isn't footing your dinner habits, and nobody cares about the 70 you just shot, because the leader is is seven shots south of you and not looking back.
There lies the truth of golf, as evil as it is. Names like Ty Tryon and Casey Wittenberg, people I would have bet my first Scotty Cameron putter on would make it, might never win a PGA Tour event. Hell, they might never make another cut, as crazy as that sounds.
It's life, and golf is just another job at the end of the day. Some win, some lose, and some go to selling insurance, still waking up in the middle of the night with that dream of standing on the 18th green at Augusta National with a putt to beat some legend that your subconscious felt like toying with that night.
The dream doesn't die, but the love can fade. Golf is the evilest of mistresses at times, and hearing stories like this reminds me of that.