Maintaining Course

April 1st, 2013

Part two of two: Yesterday – after a long weather delay – D.A. Points held on to overcome charges by better-known Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson and win the Shell Houston Open. This was the 36-year-old journeyman’s second career victory on the PGA Tour. Two years ago, the University of Illinois graduate captured the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

While life on the Tour appears to be all glamour, the truth is it’s a grind. Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy finished playing late Friday. On Saturday, my son and I arrived at Redstone Golf Club as the sun was peaking over the horizon. The practice and putting greens were filled with ‘fellow competitors.’ Phil and Rory – who barely made the cut – walked up within a few minutes, stretched, then started hitting wedges and slowly working through their bags until finishing with a few drives, some putts, and heading to the first hole. Then it was four hours of intense concentration, media interviews, a break for lunch and back to the practice tee.

In reality, the two stars utilized this tournament as a warm-up for The Masters in two weeks. Points, on the other hand, needs to make every dollar he can. It’s been a long road. He tried and failed four times to earn his playing card. In 2005, he finally made it through the torturous qualifying school, then missed the cut in 17 of 32 tournaments. In professional golf, you only get paid when you play on the weekends. Otherwise you go home… and incur all the expenses.

Points lost his card, failed to qualify twice more before making it back in 2009. While he still missed 46 cuts in 103 tournaments through 2012, his official winnings peaked at $2,000,000 in 2011, thanks to the victory at Pebble Beach. This year he was off to a rough start, missing cuts in seven of nine tournaments before breaking through here in Houston.

While being a golf star brings with it millions of dollars, the majority of players struggle to remain among the top 125 money winners each year and keep their playing privileges. To steal a line from the film Trading Places, the PGA Tour is “the last bastion of real pure capitalism on earth.” To survive takes skill, athleticism, stamina, discipline and mental toughness. Spend a day on the course watching even unknown players and you’ll be impressed. You’ll also want to encourage your kids to have Plan B.

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