PINEHURST, N.C. – David Gossett – yes, that David Gossett – is competing in this week’s U.S. Open, but before we get into the circuitous route he’s taken from U.S. Amateur champion to PGA Tour champion to mini-tour player trying to scratch and claw his way back, let’s examine just how he got here.
He played in an 18-hole local qualifier in Austin, Texas, but lost the chance to advance to a sectional qualifier in a playoff. After that, he had to compete in another four-hole playoff, beating fellow blast from a more recent U.S. Open past in Beau Hossler, just to earn alternate status.
So Gossett traveled to the Memphis, Tenn., sectional just hoping that his number would get called – and it did. He then proceeded to shoot 66-69 and, well, here he is, competing alongside the world’s best players for the first time since withdrawing from his last PGA Tour start more than four years ago.
“I hope to win the golf tournament,” he insists. “I wouldn't throw down a $150 entry fee if I didn't think I could win.”
The journey from sectional qualifier alternate to U.S. Open champion would be a script ripe for Hollywood – and it would inversely mirror that of his career arc until now.
Gossett was all-everything as an amateur. He was a two-time All-America selection at the University of Texas, won the 1999 U.S. Amateur and made the cut at the next year’s Masters Tournament. Upon turning professional, while still a member of the developmental circuit that was then known as the Buy.com Tour, Gossett won the 2001 John Deere Classic to claim his full PGA Tour status.
A star, it appeared, was born.
Except it all went wrong within a few years.
In 2002, he made the cut in 18 of 29 starts with three top-10s. Not bad at all. The next year, he made the cut in 18 of 28 starts with one top-10. Still fine. The year after that, he made the cut in two of 25 starts with no top-10s. And it just went downhill from there.
He missed the second stage of Q-School numerous years in a row. One time he missed advancing by about 10 shots. If there was a low point, that was it.
“I kind of got my wires crossed trying to get better and improving my mechanics,” he explains. “I felt there for a while I needed to improve my mechanics to do better than 80th and 100th on the money list on the PGA Tour. I wasn't contending in the majors or having a crack at winning these type of tournaments. I changed my method on what I did, and it didn't go so well. There were a couple of years of playing really poorly.”
He states this matter-of-factly. There is no wistful pining for the good ol’ days, no outward annoyance at having to rehash the story of how his career went south.
In fact, if you ask him, Gossett doesn’t think it’s a sad tale at all. He just believes the second act to his career hasn’t been written yet.
“I'm 35 years old,” he says. “When I grew up, when I was 10 years old, players played in their peak at 35 and they were comfortable, more at ease where they were in life, more experienced and they seemed to win these major championships.
“A few years later, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Tiger Woods came by and kind of rewrote
the experience and now there's a different age group playing this year than it was in 1999 or 1989 U.S. Open. So I absolutely know and believe that physically, obviously, I can do it. It's just a function of continuing down the road and doing it.”
He has three kids now, ages 3, 15 months and 5 months. He primarily plays on the Adams Tour these days, sponsored by what he jokingly refers to as “David Gossett and Company.”
After all these years, after all the frustration and hardship, he still has a sense of humor about it.
“I keep telling my wife the private plane is in the shop,” he says with a smile. “Can't find the mechanic.”
Maybe it’s like the old saying: Gotta keep laughing to avoid crying.
If Gossett has shed tears along the way, they’ve long since dried up. He isn’t here at Pinehurst to rekindle the past, but instead to keep on plugging away toward the future.
The guy who was once a can’t-miss kid isn’t ready to concede that he’s missed. He’s still trying to prove that it’s a work in progress.
“I don’t want to quit,” he says. “I don’t to want to give up on my dream. This is what I want to do. So I’m going to keep after it.”