Former Am Tour Nationals champ chases another title, Champions Tour

By Mike BaileySeptember 12, 2014, 1:47 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Paul Erdman wears a brace on his left knee, a reminder of the five knee surgeries and other physical ailments that caused him to give up golf in his late 20s. He wasn't sure if he would ever play again, but one day, someone who knew he used to be a pro asked him to tee it up in a scramble. He thought, "why not?," and to his pleasant surprise, there was no pain. He had caught the golf bug again.

Fast forward a little more than a decade, and Erdman, who regained amateur status, won the Championship flight at the 2011 Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif. Last year, at the same location, he finished second after losing in a playoff in 40 mph winds. Now at 46, he has his sights set on another title, and he's well on his way.

On Thursday, he fired a 1-over-par 73 on the Talon Course at Grayhawk Golf Club. Having already played the previous two rounds at Talking Stick Golf Club at 4-under-par (69-68), Erdman has things pretty much under control with a five-shot lead. He'll be playing his final round on the Raptor Course at Grayhawk Golf Club on Friday with Hardeep Dhani of Poway, Calif. (+2) and Brian Lomeli of Gilroy, Calif. (+3), so he should know where he stands the whole way.

"This will be a new experience, playing with this kind of lead," said Erdman, who works for State Farm Insurance in Golden, Colo. "I've played decent for three days and it's been pretty consistent. I really haven't gotten into trouble. If I can do that tomorrow, somebody would have to really go low to beat, and I'll take the odds on that."

Spoken like a player with a lot of experience.

The long road back

If you're thinking Erdman was one of those terrific high school players who played college golf, then went on to become a pro only to give up the game because of injuries and come back as an amateur, well, that's not exactly what happened.

Erdman played high school golf, but he was nothing special. He was about a 6- to 7-handicap, as he recalls, but when he got to college at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, he improved rapidly. After two years of just playing casual golf, he lowered his handicap by seven or eight strokes, so he had an idea. He visited the school's athletic director and asked what it would take to start a varsity golf team there. After he got his answer, he put everything in motion and basically founded the school's golf program. The team never excelled, but for a couple of years, Erdman played Division I golf at a fairly high level.

And after graduation, he decided to play the mini-tours in Florida while he worked as a club pro in the Maryland-Virginia area. By the time he was 26, he was head pro at the new Great Hope Golf Course in Westover, Md.. He was fully vested in the golf business, but then the injuries came.

"I couldn't swing a golf club anymore," he said. "So I got out the business."

So he started a second career in insurance, and then came the scramble.

"I got out there and started swinging and nothing hurt," recalled Erdman.

He played in everything he could, in Virginia, where he moved to, and in the Carolinas. He was ranked fourth in the state at one point and even found himself in a match against Mike Goodes. Then an amateur, Goodes now serves as an inspiration to Erdman. In 2007, Goodes turned pro and now has more than $4 million in earnings on the Champions Tour. Erdman will be eligible to try his luck on the senior circuit in four years.

"After the Golf Channel Am Tour, where am I to go?" asked Erdman. "I've been competing my whole life. I'm just living the dream."


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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x