At the end of 1993 I missed at second stage of Q-school, so I had no status on the Nike (Nationwide) Tour. There was a rule that if you made as much money as the 55th money winner the previous year, you would gain conditional status and be reshuffled every 5 tournaments according to the money list. If you did this early in the year, you would basically make it into every tournament the rest of the year.
I got a sponsor’s exemption to the first tournament of 1994 and finished 20th, getting me into tournament #2 in Monterry, Mexico at Club Cammpestre. A great old style golf course in the mountains above the city. I played well the first three days shooting 69-68-66 and found myself in the third to last group and only two shots out of the lead.
I was only one under through 8 the final day, but everyone was struggling and I was only one behind and 9 and 10 were par 5’s and 10 was tough to reach in two for everyone but me. I airmailed the green OB on 9, but hit the next one on the green and made the putt for a par. “Eagle for par after an OB” should have been my nickname on the Nationwide Tour, as I seemed to do it every other week.
I hit a good drive on 10 and a spectacular long iron to about six feet. My caddy and I had different reads on the putt, but he was reading great all week so I went with his read in spite of how sure I was. My read was right so it caught the edge and spun out. Birdie, however, had me on top of the leader board with 8 holes to play. I pared 11 and 12 and had a crowd gasping near make from long range on 13. I was now in a three way tie.
14 was an uphill, slightly into the wind, 205 yard par 3. The pin was back for about a 215 and the uphill and wind I figured about 225-230. The course was at slight altitude, so I figured about 215-220. 5 iron was my 205 club and I had hit it the previous three days and over was bad so I hit that. The shot never left the pin, but I yelled bite as soon as it left the club…(I will pick back up here in the next paragraph)
I always knew when I hit an iron that was going over the green or a wood that was going to be a huge drive. I didn’t know what it was then, but I know now. The feel I got when I hit one of these shots was when I over lagged the club with my hands and got out of sync. These shots traveled enormous distances and I had hit hundreds of them over the years. A 220 yard 7 iron into someone’s pool at #5 at PGA West Stadium and a 300+ yard 3 wood on #18 of PGA West Palmer that one bounced off the second story pro shop window, are just two examples.
(Back to our regularly scheduled program)…the ball sailed over the green up against a tree. I was forced to take an unplayable and didn’t get it up and down which was a double bogey. I made three pars and a birdie to finish on the par 5 18th, but the double bogey put me down to an eventual four way tie for fifth.
A win would have gotten me exempt status for the rest of that year and the next. 2nd or 3rd would have gotten me temporary status and entrance into 25 of the next 28 tournaments and a two way tie for forth would have put me in position to only have one more solid top 25 finish to get that temporary status.
You never know what would have happened subsequently had I made birdie, par or even bogey on 14, but those closing holes were very playable and I was confident and calm. Some would say I was pumped up and airmailed the green because of that, but this feel was all too familiar.
The fifth got me into the next event where I missed the cut and I spent the next ten weeks shooting 69-73 on Monday and not getting into any tournaments.
Don’t get me started that someone with conditional status (made final stage of Q-school) who made two cuts all year and finished last both times, got into 9 of the next 10 and 23 of 30 tournaments for the year and thus you understand the inequity of the Q-school system. In other words, playing mediocre one week in November carries way more weight than playing great for two weeks in April. I know I could have played better an earned my way onto the Tour, just feeling a little sorry for myself reminiscing about this.
This story is why forced, out of sync and/or uncontrolled lag is bad. You can’t control your distances when your hands get too involved…both short and long. People who advocate creating lag on purpose with the hands, continue to refuse to understand this concept. It can create a massive shot occasionally, but overall it creates terrible overall consistency and that is what kept me off the Tour. Those without practical experience have no clue they are telling people to play with fire.