Rearview mirror: Hegarty puts 2011 behind him

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Asking a man to recount the various low points of his year doesn’t seem very Christian as Christmas nears.

But to Tim Hegarty’s credit, he answered every question thrown his way and didn’t offer up any excuses as to why his golf season was, by his own admission, “pretty lousy.”

“Looking back on it, that last (Hooters Tour Winter Series) event at Forest Lake in February, I felt like things were headed in the right direction and had high expectations,” Hegarty, 29, said. “Then I started to play poorly and it was one missed cut after another. I lost more and more confidence with each event.”

Hegarty made seven starts on the eGolf Professional Tour and missed seven cuts. He failed to qualify for other tournaments in his home state of New York over the summer and didn’t make it through U.S. Open local qualifying or PGA Tour Q-School pre-qualifying.

Along the way, he switched coaches and attempted a swing change. He tried working with a sports psychologist. But nothing provided that professional spark.

“I got lost in the swing change,” he said. “I was trying different swings on the same hole.”

This was the kind of mad season that causes contemplation. Am I on the right path? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?

Hegarty had to reflect, had to be critical in his assessment of himself as a professional golfer, and he had to make a determination regarding his future.

“If anything positive has come out of this season, it’s that I haven’t given up,” he said. “This is what I want to do. I really think it’s there. I just have to find a way to get it out of me.”

Hegarty’s back in Orlando, which he will make his home base until May. He’s back playing the Winter Series events, which are contested in Central Florida through the second week of February. But the similarities in his schedule, from 2011 to 2012, end there.

“I’m not sure, but I may chase Monday qualifiers and not play as many mini-tour events – definitely not playing the eGolf Tour next year. It gets really expensive doing that and you’ve got to play really well for a longer period of time.

“Monday qualifying can change your life. If you can get hot at the right time, your career can change instantly.”

Hegarty said he plans on competing in Monday qualifiers when the PGA Tour makes its Florida Swing. He’ll also play some Moonlight Golf Tour events, which are one-day tournaments in the Central Florida area, and key on some Nationwide Tour qualifiers. He’ll then return home to New York for the summer in an attempt to char the remaining memories of this past year.

There is one key, something Hegarty can improve upon to make sure ’12 doesn’t duplicate ’11. It’s something we discussed as an inhibitor in January and February and March, and pretty much every month of this year: being too hard on himself.

“That’s a huge focus,” Hegarty said. “Amanda (his girlfriend) came to one of my tournaments and watched me play and that was the theme of the day: being easier on myself. ‘Talk to yourself as if you were talking to my 10-year-old nephew,’ she would say.

“And she’s right. If he hit a bad I wouldn’t cuss at him like I always do to myself. I’d tell him to get back up, put it behind him. Tell him this is a wonderful opportunity to hit a better shot the next time. I need to tell myself those things.”

“You know,” he added, “it’s never as bad as it seems. I think that’s what I really learned from this year.”

Come Christmas Eve, Hegarty will be back with his family in New York. They’ll all go to Mass and then he, his two brothers and his father will play golf at their home club of Sleepy Hollow. That night, they’ll all open presents and then hope the Jets don’t ruin their night by losing to the Giants.

2011 was a struggle for Tim Hegarty. He didn’t perform well and he had his results publicly showcased in this series. But Hegarty was chosen for this feature as much for his character and personality as for his potential. And he reminded in his final interview that regardless of what happens with his career in golf, the kid will be just fine.

“Outside of golf, I had a lot of good things happen this year. So I’m not going to say it was a bad year. Life is great. I’ve got a healthy family. Got an awesome woman, awesome family, awesome dog. I’m not missing any meals. And I’ve got the greatest job in the world,” he said.

“I just feel grateful for the opportunity to compete. Just want to continue to do it.”