Stegmaier eyes Tour card, trying to stave off 'real job'


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – You don’t have to convince Brett Stegmaier that every dollar counts on the Tour.

Stegmaier shot a 4-under 66 in the second round of the Tour Championship, and he heads into the weekend at the season finale with a chance to challenge for the top spot on the Tour Finals money list.

It’s an opportunity that seemed light years away as recently as last month.

After a globetrotting season that featured more missed cuts than five-figure checks, the 32-year-old was pinching pennies. He had missed five straight cuts entering the final regular-season event and was outside the top 75 on the money list, the cutoff point for even qualifying for the Finals.

“I like to eat out a lot, but I had been doing extended-stay places and just making food in the room, or something like that,” Stegmaier said. “I think I missed six out of seven cuts, so the money goes pretty fast.”

Stegmaier, who has played in every event this season, finally found something at the Winco Foods Portland Open. He finished seventh to jump inside the top 75 in earnings and promptly opened the Finals with a pair of top-10 finishes.

In the span of three weeks, he went from a date with the second stage of Q-School to a PGA Tour card.

“Obviously Portland saved my season, probably my career,” he said.

It has been a circuitous route for the former University of Florida standout, who quit the game for more than a year in 2009-2010 after a pair of surgeries on his left wrist. He took a job as an assistant pro, but the lure of life inside the ropes proved too strong to pass up.

“I didn’t want to have a real job, to be honest,” he said. “I enjoy playing, obviously, but I enjoy the fact that I can play golf and make money at it, and not be stuck inside a pro shop answering phones.”

Stegmaier entered this week at No. 8 on the Finals money list, and his focus remains on topping those standings to earn fully exempt status next season, along with a spot at The Players Championship.

“I know there’s still a lot of work ahead of me. You can’t just relax and say, ‘Oh I’ve got my Tour card, it’s all over,’” he said. “There’s still a lot to play for.”