If you are reading this section, we’re guessing that you have doubts about your future as a golf pro. Tiger at 16 wouldn’t have bothered with us. He’d already won many, many times, albeit at the junior level. And today, Tiger’s day likely starts with him rolling out of a big bed, hitting balls for a while in his back yard, lifting weights with a trainer, getting a massage, then playing a round under supervision of some world’s-greatest-expert in… whatever part of his game he’s working on. And whatever expenses he has cost a lot less than they might appear – they are all tax deductible.
For Bob Bogey, the day starts and ends differently. Bob is… struggling. He’s 26 now and passed on three offers to get into corporate training programs and one big Wall Street job. They all loved that he was an awesome golfer. They all thought he was pretty smart. And everyone liked him. But he wanted to be… Tiger. Unfortunately, it took him until the age of 26 to realize that he… isn’t. And he’s too old now to enter the normal corporate training programs. (Wall Street will take wet behind the ears over gray behind the ears any day.) So the air is starting to get thinner as he stands over each putt that he hits in practice. He knows that every 6-footer counts. The thrill that was once golf has turned into… work. But he feels anchored to that work and he more or less is: The other options he has available are working in a pro shop or teaching lessons, both of which set him up to receive ridicule and scorn from others doing the same job who likely are bitter and/or angry that they never had Bob’s game… that they weren’t good enough to even dream of playing on the Tour.
Bob was. He made it to the top rungs of college golf and was a First Team All-American. He was at his peak at age 20 - probably in the top 20 amateurs in the country. Which is great. But now he realizes that being in the top 20 amateurs in the country is like being in the top 5,000 “tour pro” golfers, which is like being the best burger flipper at McDonalds. Only without the benefit of free McNuggets. Bob has this nagging, sagging feeling that, at age 26, he is one of the “walking dead.”
These guys need to work on their short game.
As he drives to the local muni range at which he practices (with special privileges of all the balls he can eat in return for 3 hours of lessons for the local pros each week), he relives a dozen key missed putts which would have landed him a Tour Card. He’s hung out just below the bottom of the cut line for the Tour for 4 years now after a short stint actually playing in The Show where he earned $340,000 from 5 tournaments in which he placed. Although that may sound like a fortune to you now, unfortunately, it wasn’t enough money to automatically qualify him for his Tour Card the following year and he has never made it back.
His neck and shoulders are starting to hurt after his 5th bucket of 8 irons. The balls are all going where he wants them but he wonders if they will do so under pressure, especially with all the demons of past failures barking inside his head. He wonders how long he can practice like this if the pain continues.
He breaks for lunch, hits a few hundred putts and then plays his requisite 18 holes for the afternoon, 2-ball worst ball. That is, he hits 2 shots and plays the worse shot. This includes visiting the woods on more than one occasion. He hopes to qualify to play on the Tour again with a combination of Q-school, the giant event that generally qualifies a player if they finish in the top few slots. It is a famously grueling 6-day event which brings many to tears, with Major Championship winners often playing in it, hoping to get their Tour cards back. Bob can’t imagine taking on Lee Janzen, Davis Love or Billy Mayfair – but they have all been to Q-school late in their careers and the process has been ugly. It is where has-beens go to die.
At the end of the day, a retired local pro comes to watch Bob hit some balls with a video camera. (It’s the retired pro with the camera, not Bob. He’s actually opted to go with a 3 wood instead.) The camera is just an old VHS recorder that does happen to have a slow motion feature. But it has none of the 3-D rendering features that Tiger has. No foot-weight-pad-shifters. No laser speed density grids. It’s just a camera. But it does the trick by showing Bob his left elbow is a quarter inch low at the top of his backswing. He kicks himself, knowing that he’s been advised of this flaw several times in the last few weeks. He wonders if the cause is actually the knitting-needle-like stabbing in his left 3rd rib.
It hurts here, here, and here.
He heads home to a lonely apartment, which has an awesome TV, one which he bought with his winnings from his one great season at age 22. With his savings starting to run out (he earns no money unless he wins a pro tournament), he’s starting to have conversations in his head about it not being so bad to be a ball boy who teaches lessons and sells golf shirts for a living… And then, in the corner of his eye, he sees one of his college frat brothers standing at the far end of the range. That guy has an awful swing, but beautiful clubs and a nice new Polo shirt – he went to law school and now defends (mostly guilty) drug dealers – but makes a fortune doing it. Bob feels it’s odd that he feels jealous of the scummy guy. But is it possible that scummy is preferable to crummy?