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Nothing like the present

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Moms always know. Maybe they just pay better attention than everyone else.

Home in Iowa, following a second-stage exit from PGA Tour Q-School and facing another year in the minors, Jack Newman found a book on his bed.

“’The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. My mom left it for me,” he said. “She knew it was something that would be good for me to read. I start laughing sometimes at how similar things in the book are to the way I’ve been thinking.”

Without getting metaphysical, the book offers a simple philosophy: Live in the present.

That’s something Newman failed to do on a satisfactory basis in 2011. In reflection, he noticed it in January, through to his final event of importance.

After advancing past the first stage of Q-School, in just his second attempt, Newman got off to a 74-71 start in Stage 2. A strong finish to the second round led to Day 3 promise, but then …

“I got way, way ahead of myself. I was striking the ball really well and I started thinking about making a Biblical comeback,” he said. “Didn’t stay in the present.”

Newman finished well outside the desired top 21, thus officially ending his 2011 campaign.

He spent most of the year playing the Hooters Tour, with occasional attempts at Monday qualifying on the Nationwide and PGA tours. He played 11 times on the Hooters Tour’s Winter Series and 20 more events in the primary Professional Series. He totaled 16 made cuts and $33,337.08.

He logged, by his estimate, more than 30,000 miles in his “steel” green Ford Taurus, traveling to places like Daphne, Ala., and Pearland, Texas. His best result, a tie for seventh, came in Miami, Okla.

Along the way, he attempted a swing change with noted instructor Mike Bender. It didn’t take, but Newman said the experience was positive.

“I’ve got to experiment if I want to get better,” he said. “You have to know what works for you and what doesn’t.”

On a scale of 1-10, Newman rated his on-course performance this year “a 2 or 3.” In terms of learning, however, it  was “an 8 or 9.”

Newman spent much of 2011 learning what didn’t work for him, and that’s not to be taken negatively. He’s 24 and entering his third year as a professional golfer. He’s building his foundation, and foundations are solidified by mistakes and failure.

He learned how best to practice by doing that which led to poor rounds. He realized that he needed to focus on himself by spending too much time worrying about others. And, most importantly in his mind, he determined that he needed to be more with family by isolating himself.

“That’s the biggest thing for next year – spending more time with my family and friends, the ones who really care about me,” he said. “I got away from that this year. I was too focused on my career and what I was trying to do. Golf became my No. 1 priority. I am a big family person and I’ve got to stay in touch with the people who mean the most to me.”

Upon leaving home and heading back into the professional world, Newman stopped in California for some club fitting with Cleveland Golf before traveling to compete once again in the Winter Series.

It’s back to ponying up $1,250 for a Hooters Tour membership and another 800 bucks per event. Back to playing in anonymity in towns you never knew existed.

His 2012 schedule is similar to that of ’11: compete primarily on the Hooters Tour, try and Monday qualify for Nationwide Tour events, try and get through Q-School.

His mindset is different.

“I’m enjoying myself a lot more right now. There are things I need to improve on – wedges, getting up and down – same things I’ve always worked on – but I made a lot of progress this past year. The mental thing is a work in progress, but I’ve had some time to reflect and really assess what did and didn’t work for me,” he said.

“It’s very easy to put too much pressure on yourself. You see guys like Keegan Bradley (go from the Nationwide Tour to PGA champion in one year) and Ted Potter (go from the Hooters Tour to the PGA Tour in the same season), and you compare where you’re at to where they are.

“But you can’t do that. You have to stay within yourself. I learned that this year – I learned a lot this year. You have to focus on yourself. And you can’t worry about the future. You have to focus on the present.”