Another Young Name to Know

By Mercer BaggsMarch 20, 2003, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Its no tall task to pick Charles Howell III out of a line-up. And finding the fashion-lively Aaron Baddeley is no Wheres Waldo? either.
You can probably spot Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Ty Tryon, too. But what about Nick Dougherty? Would you know it if the spiky-haired 20-year-old Brit sat down next to you?
Dougherty is making his PGA Tour debut in this weeks Bay Hill Invitational. He is in on a sponsors exemption, thanks to sharing the same agency (IMG) as tournament host Arnold Palmer.
If I could pick a tournament to play as a first one, this would be it, said Dougherty, who was a spectator at this event in 2001.
Dougherty is in his second full season as a professional, and his first was a tremendous success. He finished 36th on the European Tours Order of Merit (money list) and won the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award.
This year, hes competed in eight events on the European circuit and has made all eight cuts.
Unfortunately thats not one of my goals, just to make cuts, said Dougherty, whose career-best finish on the tour is a runner-up last year in Qatar.
Ive lacked consistency for all four rounds. I keep throwing in the 72, 73 which has blown me out of opportunities to win golf tournaments.
He had one of those rounds Thursday, shooting 3-over 75, complete with six bogeys and three birdies.
While this may be Dougherty's maiden voyage on the PGA Tour, hes not suffering from homesickness.
Ive spent half my life growing up in America, he said.
Doughertys parents have been traveling Stateside since he was 10 years old. They own a home in the Orlando area, and the golf prodigy usually spent up to five months a year in the U.S.
Im pretty used to Florida golf and American golf. Weve got some good roots here, said Dougherty, whose brother lives in New York.
He also has a pristine record on this side of the Atlantic. Hes played in three competitive amateur events over here and won each of them. In addition to a pair of junior tournaments, he helped lead his Great Britain & Ireland team to victory in the 2001 Walker Cup in Sea Island, Ga.
For some reason, my amateur record seems to be a lot better in the States than the U.K., maybe the golf suits me more the way the courses are set up, he rationalized.
Dougherty is spending only one week in town before bolting back home to England, where he hasnt been since November. He hopes to have the opportunity to play in another U.S. event later in the year, and eventually would like to become a PGA Tour member.
Ideally, he would like to follow in the broad, world-traipsing footsteps of Ernie Els.
My goal is to play all over the world, and Id like to spend most of my time here in America, he said before adding, No matter what I do in my career or how much I play over here in the States, I will dedicate a lot of my time to Europe because the European Tour gave me a lot of opportunities.
After I turned pro, they gave me invites to play big tournaments which has allowed me to get where I am. So I owe a lot to them.
He feels the same way about Nick Faldo.
Dougherty has been the older Nicks protg since playing in the Faldo Junior Series. The six-time major winner has helped shape Dougherty into the player he is today.
But theres still plenty to learn. 'Little Nick' doesnt yet have his golfing idols single-minded determination.
Not there yet. Im 20 years old, so I like to enjoy myself still, he said. If I did all of this perfectly now I would be disappointed ' the idea that I can still improve a lot of things makes me hopeful that I can get a long way in the sport.
Dougherty picked up the game when he was four. Thats late now, he said. Children are starting younger and younger. He won his first tournament two years later.
During those formative years, he became an accomplished flutist. His dad gave him the instrument, figuring it would be easier to travel with from event to event than a guitar.
So his father traded in the strings for something more compact. There is a catch, however ' the guitar once belonged to Paul McCartney, and Doughertys father is a huge Beetles fan.
Nick could do little more than shake his head when asked why his father would do such a thing.
You have to ask the old man on that one, he said.
Even better with his metal woods than a woodwind, Dougherty greatly considered going to college in the U.S. He was courted by several top-notch programs, but ultimately decided to go the professional route.
The amount of opportunity I wanted in college golf would be playing tournament golf all year round, which in Britain you cant do. But I was playing international golf ' I was doing that already, traveling all over the world, he said.
Sometimes I regret a little bit I missed out on the college side of it, but I like the social side of golf, and I like my time off. Given how much I like to party in my time off it would not have been the best thing to go there.
Plus, If I had gone, my mom would have wanted me to finish my (schooling) and I dont believe I would have wanted to stay (an) amateur until I was 21, he said. Its a chance we took and it worked out.
Doughertys used to taking chances ' take one look at his hair.
It was red. Its gone pinky and a little bit orange in the back, he described. Golf is not just a sport, its a business; its all about marketingits about creating the right image.
Image isnt everything; talent counts for more. Dougherty may not have a complete hold over the former just yet, but hes certainly got a tight grip on the latter.
Related Links
  • Full-field scores from the Bay Hill Invitational
  • Full coverage of the Bay Hill Invitational
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    PGA Tour:

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    Full-field scores from the Joburg Open

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    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:16 pm

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