Halloween Comes Early


The Buy.Com Tours latest chapter in the mystery novel known as the Season of 2002 proved to be the final straw for me.
Professional golfers will tell you that there are many lessons that they relearn from time to time. Those lessons usually run along the lines of remembering that the total score is of utmost importance, as opposed to getting so easily sidetracked by the myriad of distractions that surround a professionals day-to-day activities. Various instructors working the range, manufacturers representatives wholl do anything to get their equipment in your bag, and the cluttered mental outlook from weeks or months of struggle, all combine to interfere with whats ultimately important ' score.
Now Im learning that for former professional golfers, its much the same. Since my livelihood became covering golf, the one lesson Ive learned repeatedly is that the only thing surprising about a surprise is that its surprising. OK, so Aristotle Im not. The point is that predictability, the bread and butter of an analysts job, is all but forgotten this year.
A week ago, at the Monterey Peninsula Classic, the Bayonet Golf Course was supposed to be the great equalizer. Its the toughest course of the year, thus far, and conventional wisdom is that the tougher the course, the higher the likelihood that the best players clutter the leaderboard. Well, almost.
Aaron Baddeley finished second, and hes arguably the best player on the Buy.Com Tour. But it was Roland Thatcher, at 112th on the money list, who hoisted the trophy.
Dont get me wrong, Roland Thatcher played incredible golf and deserves every accolade hes received. But the odds-makers would have lost a boatload if sports wagering were legal in California.
And now, on a golf course that played completely opposite of the Bayonet course, an even longer long shot took home the oversized check.
David Branshaw, the 137th ranked money earner, displayed poise, heart, and above all, talent on his way to a four-stroke victory.
On the PGA Tour, when Tiger Woods wins a tournament, we expect it. When Gene Sauers wins, were surprised. On the Buy.Com Tour, when Jason Gore wins a tournament, no one bats an eye. When Aaron Baddeley finishes second, nobody questions the likelihood. But when David Branshaw wins by four shots, heads begin to turn as if theyre on swivels.
David Branshaw has been a member of the Buy.Com Tour on two different occasions including this year. In addition to those years, hes also Monday qualified for a few other events here and there. His best finish ever was 27th. In 1997, he played 10 tournaments on the Buy.Com Tour and made just over $1,900. This year, coincidentally, he averaged roughly $1,900 per each of the 10 cuts hed made in 23 starts. The last tournament hed won was a team tournament played in conjunction with the Canadian Tour. As a matter of fact, Branshaw had never won a 72-hole tournament.
Im not trying to give the impression that Branshaw just fell off a turnip truck. Thats not the case at all. Im just trying to describe exactly why the Buy.Com Tour has the greatest stories in all of golf.
This year alone, players who started the year as either non-members of the Buy.Com Tour, or non-exempt members have won 14 of the 26 tournaments played. PGA Tour veteran members Gary Hallberg and Jay Delsing each won once while Jason Gore and Cliff Kresge combined to win four times. Gore and Kresge are members only because of a relatively new policy that gives access to players who finish between 151 and 200 on the previous years PGA Tours money list. And the real kicker is that the last two tournaments have been won by two guys who were just a matter of days away from teeing it up at the first stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School. If unsuccessful at either of the first two stages, they would have been relegated to those tours whose qualifying process consists of being able to write an entry fee check that doesnt bounce.
To me, David Branshaw epitomizes an overlooked value of the Buy.Com Tour. Hes 33 years old, hes been chasing his dream for many years only to watch it outrun him, and believe it or not, hes got quite a bit of talent.
Theres a large number of tremendous golfers out there grinding away at the mini-tours just waiting for their shot to prove that they belong. They arent a year or two removed from an All-America college career, and theyve never won U.S. Amateurs. Theyre just guys who believe that they have what it takes to someday make it.
David Branshaw is just the latest person to give every one of the countless so-called journeyman dreamers a reason to keep dreaming. You see, even though Branshaw seemingly had no reason to think he could win at this level, the fact that he was still chasing his dream meant that he believed in himself.
Todd Fischer did the same thing last year as a 32-year-old journeyman, and now hes on his way to the PGA Tour next year as a Buy.Com Tour graduate. And Zoran Zorkic, who recently turned 36, won the first tournament of this stature earlier this year at the Buy.Com SAS Carolina Classic.
Professional golfs talent pool no longer has a shallow end. Todays cell phone salesman could be tomorrows PGA Champion. And todays cocky young talents could be tomorrows David Branshaw. Success has no timetable. And dreams have no expiration date.
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