Jack Newman waited. And waited. And waited. He went back to his hotel room. He sat in his car and listened to music. He played games on his phone. He talked to friends. And finally – finally – he got the message he was patiently waiting on: he was in a five-man playoff for three spots in the Melwood Prince George’s County Open.
Newman’s 5-under round was just good enough during qualifying last week for the chance to compete on the Nationwide Tour.
He sent a text message at 5:36 p.m. ET saying that he was waiting – and waiting – on everyone to finish up their rounds to see if his number was good enough. At 7:57 p.m. he sent his next message: Sank a 40 footer for bird on first hole. Boooooom baby!
“I hit a 3-wood into the rough and had 155 (yards) to the hole,” he recounted this past Monday. “I had a gnarly lie so I hit down on an 8-iron and gave it everything I had. It just got over the first bunker, in front of the green – there was also water there.
“I had 40 feet. It was right-to-left, about 4 feet, with a 2-foot ridge. I hit a decent putt but didn’t know if it was enough. It went in with about a half-a-ball roll left.”
Due to inclement weather, the qualifier was pushed to Tuesday. With a pro-am on Wednesday, Newman was able to play but nine holes prior to competition, before walking the back nine.
He didn’t make the cut, shooting 73-77. Steve Wheatcroft won the tournament with rounds of 66-60-65-64.
“That was incredible,” Newman said of Wheatcroft’s tour-record 29-under total. “Most players on the PGA Tour wouldn’t have been able to beat him that week.”
Two weeks prior, Newman shot four under-par rounds to tie for 16th in the Hooters Tour’s Cherry Blossom Classic in Georgetown, Ky. That gave him confidence heading into his 2011 Nationwide Tour debut. But confidence is fickle, especially when you are still trying to put together the pieces of a new swing.
“It’s still just a matter of trust,” he said. “A good example is during the qualifier, on one hole it should have been 4-iron-sand wedge, but I hit a poor tee shot and had an 8-iron into the green. I knocked it to 7 feet and made the putt.
“During the tournament, though, I expected every shot to be perfect. I wasn’t accepting of a poor shot. Instead of rolling with the punches, like in the qualifier, I was trying to be perfect and getting upset when I wasn’t.”
It’s easy to relate. From weekend hacks to the greatest of professional players, no one is exempt from the pressures of live competition. Hitting the ball well on the range is one thing; taking it to the course is another. Even Tiger Woods, holder of 14 major titles, can attest to that.
Newman didn’t cash a check in College Park, Md., but he gained some valuable experience. He also got a close-up look at the differences from playing on a mini-tour compared to that of playing on the PGA Tour’s developmental circuit.
“It’s a lot different out there than on the Hooters Tour,” Newman said. “There’s more people. The fairways are firmer, the greens are firmer – not faster, but harder. The rough is higher and, there is a lot of talent on the Hooters Tour, but these guys are just one step away from the PGA Tour.'
From Maryland, Newman traveled to Greensboro, N.C., for another shot at qualifying on the Nationwide Tour. He didn’t make it, but he was far from disheartened as he was making the car trek back to his home base in Oxford, Ohio.
“I feel really good about my game. I feel like I’m definitely headed in the right direction and getting better,” he said. “I just have to have confidence in myself – not doubting what I’ve been working on when I put it into play.
“When you’ve done something your whole life, and now you’re doing something different, it takes time to find your comfort zone. I’m trying to hit the ball both ways now, left to right and right to left. My (swing) plane is different. I know that no one ever really owns their game, but I’m working to get as close as possible.”
And so the road continues – literally.
“I’m at 2,176 (miles) right now on this trip,” Newman said. “I went from Oxford to Kentucky to North Carolina to Maryland back to North Carolina and now back to Oxford.”
After a return to Ohio and a week’s rest, it’s off to Oklahoma for a Hooters Tour event and then to Texas for another. He’ll then head to his true home in Iowa and try to Monday qualify for the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic in nearby Silvis, Ill., where he received a sponsor’s exemption to play in 2009, the same year he competed in the Masters Tournament after winning the ’08 U.S. Public Links Championship.
“I’m staying positive,” he said. “You have to. Even when you’re not playing well, if you keep working at it, things will pay off eventually.”