An Average Joe Finally Makes it to the Big Time


You would have sworn he was the same guy who tried to sell you an insurance policy just last week. Well, okay, at least he could pass as the guy you knew who shoved around boxes at the warehouse 10 years ago.
The truth is, Joe Durant used to be both of those. He sold insurance for a couple of weeks in 1990. Well, 'sold' is much too strong a word. The health-and-life racket was too much for his reserved personality. He wasn't even about to get into property, which takes considerably more time to master.
And you might have even seen him around the Edwin Watts golf warehouse in 1992 if you happened to be in Fort Walton Beach, Fl. He did that, too, for about three months. He was dutifully learning the trade from the bottom up, hoping to get to the next step, selling merchandise inside a store.
Somehow, though, Durant never really committed himself to these noble professions. His mind kept wandering back to the golf course, where he swatted the drives and putted the putts . where he was THE show, not just someone who keeps the show up and going.
Today, it has paid off. With the ever-present encouragement of his wife Tracey - some would call it old-fashioned nagging - he stuck it out until finally, at the age of 36, he made it. He is the only player on the PGA Tour who has won twice in 2001, and he won in back-to-back outings at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the Genuity Championship, otherwise known simply as 'the Doral.'
Just one year ago, it didn't seem like such a good move. Maybe he should have stuck with Edwin Watts. His personality didn't really mesh with being a good insurance salesman, but maybe Tracey didn't really know what she was talking about. Maybe he should have gone into something else and left the stinking golf clubs to themselves.
'I got off to a horrible start last year,' he said. 'I was 0-for-5 on the West Coast. I didn't play Doral last year, but flying down to the Honda, I lost my clubs. The beginning of last year was pretty ugly.
'But then, I think, losing my clubs was almost a blessing in disguise, because at that point I was like, 'What else can possibly happen?''
Sounds like Durant wouldn't complain if he lost his job. Hey, it saves the gas you would use going to and from work, and you certainly could use the extra sleep. Which is roughly the idea Joe had when it came time to think about how he was going to make a living for the family.
Enter Tracey again.
'When I decided I was going to play golf again (some would say he never really decided to quit) which was probably around this time of 1992, she just said, 'Hey, if you are going to play again' - we had talked about it - she said, 'If you are going to play again, you are going to have to improve your attitude.'
'She just basically put the hammer down and said, 'Hey, this how it is going to be,' which was a good thing. I welcomed it, trust me; after the way I played before, I needed it. I needed it bad.'
So Durant banged around in the next few years, plugging along on the Buy.Com Tour and occasionally on the big tour. He even played the Masters in 1998, though he was - typically - hurt when he did it. He had the redoubtable Tracey to thank for this one, too. He had broken a rib throwing around her bag at Pebble Beach. That's one heck of a way to play in the Masters, but for Durant, it was certainly par for the course.
So, at the age of 36, almost 37, Joe is an overnight sensation. And it is a little surprising if you don't know him. Well - it's surprising even if you DO know him.
'I have not always been the quickest product when it came to things,' he said by way of explanation. 'I am happy just to be playing well.
'Who knows what the rest of the year is going to hold? I don't know. I could go out and go 0-for-the-rest-of-the-year. I am just going to try to keep playing the best I can, but it is nice to be playing well. It has been a long time coming.'
And does Durant ever get back to Fort Walton Beach, just for old times sake, just to schlep a few cartons, toss around a few cardboard boxes?
'No,' he says, and the laughter comes easily. 'I haven't been back there since - no.'
He hasn't been back there just to reminisce? It is very close to Pensacola, his home, you know. 'Yeah - lift a box or two,' he says, laughing.
'I am sure I would have to practice to learn how to do it again.'
If he wanted to do it, though, sure he would practice. He would do it. And if he slacked off - Tracey would make sure he did it.