Marco Dawson is a month away from his fiftieth birthday and his best days on the PGA Tour are long behind him.
He is exempt this year because he finished T8 in the 2011 Q-School. He’s played in 20 events, made just 6 cuts and earned a mere $62,026. In 2011, including the $25,000 he won for Q-School, he earned $104,407 plus another $156,067 for the 16 cuts he made on the Web.com Tour.
He’s never had what you would call a great year, but his best year on Tour goes back to 2003 when he made 11 of 31 cuts and $601,729. The following year, he played just 5 events in the beginning of the year before withdrawing from the 6th after a first round with a bad back that eventually required surgery.
He was granted a Major Medical exemption which required him to match the winnings of the guy who finished 125th. But with one tournament to go and sitting in the 139th spot, he missed the cut.
That put him in the netherworld of 126 through 150 where you are conditionally exempt and get in when the field hasn’t been filled by the exempt players. And thus began years of bouncing back and forth between the Tour and the Web.com Tour. Most years he would go back to Q-School to try to get back up on the big tour, but all he could manage was another year on the Web.com until that T8 in 2011.
So you would have to say that it has been a long, tough slog for Marco Dawson. But still he persists. It’s no wonder. This guy may not be consistent enough to stay on the Tour, but he is no piker. He shot a 64 just three weeks ago on the Web.com and he has sprinkled his Tour outings with rounds in the mid to high 60s. He just hasn’t been able to piece it all together in a while.
But that changed Thursday in the first round of the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island, Georgia, when he shot a 62 to co-lead the tournament with young sensation Bud Cauley. In the process, he hit two tee shots in the water but minimized the damage to just one bogey. Who would have expected a round of 8-under from this guy?
I kind of did, you know, because pretty much all year I had been playing poorly, and the last three weeks — and the reason was due to my iron play early on in the year. And finally I started playing well with the irons. I started really hitting well about three or four weeks ago and the tee ball and the 3-wood started going south.
So the last two weeks I just — you know, it was one thing and it was another thing and then last week I didn’t read the greens very well, so I didn’t putt very well and just missed the cut.
But this week, you know, I got the ball in the fairway and then I was hitting the irons good like I’d been, and I’d been putting pretty good for most of the year, and today I had a really good putting day. So everything kind of came together today.
But it wasn’t a cake walk by any means:
I obviously putted well, and I hit my irons really well. I think I hit two poor tee shots, both of them in the water. One of them I managed to save par, and the other one I made bogey on, but other than that, it was good from tee to green. Hit a lot of good iron shots. Hit it close, too, so it was easier to putt.
You know, I just made some good putts coming in, you know, since I hadn’t really — I haven’t played well all year, and when I have played decent or had a good round going, I managed to screw it up somehow.
So I kind of got anxious out there a little bit when I got to 6 or 7-under and I made that bad swing, but then I made two birdies coming back. Then I hit another poor drive and managed to save par, and I had a good chance on the last hole. So I kind of gathered myself out there and managed to play in pretty good. So I had some more chances, but I’m really happy with that.
So this is just the first round and there’s a lot of golf left to be played. But it’s a great start. So how has he managed to persevere all of these years?
You’ve just gotta analyze it and figure out what was really the problem, and last week it was my putting and the week before it was my tee ball. And first half of the year it was my iron game. So I know my irons have been a lot better lately, and I figured last week if I could just get the driver in play. And I did last week. I hit the driver and the irons well, but I didn’t putt well.
And so — and I kind of had that feeling, you know, when I go out west, it’s just hard for me being from Florida to kind of read the greens, tell if I’m going uphill or downhill. So I hit some putts that really made me look stupid, so to speak, because I misread them so bad. And so I figured, well, I’m back on Bermuda greens, Bermudagrass. I’m familiar with that. And everything — I figured out these are the two — this week and the week of Disney I should — if my game’s on, I should play well.
“If my game’s on, I should play well.”
How do you sustain that kind of optimism in the face of years of mediocre play? How do you keep yourself going? Why would you keep trying?
You keep trying because you know in your heart that you can play. And after all those years on the Tour, you’ve moved beyond ego considerations. You get to that level for that long and you turn into a dispassionate observer. “You just gotta analyze it and figure out what [is] the problem.”
God bless Marco Dawson. After over 20 years of clinging to life on the PGA Tour, he may not be a great player, but he’s certainly a great example.
And so I am awarding him the first ever Popup Player of the Day in an effort to acknowledge the efforts of those players who give us those, “What’s Wrong With This Picture,” moments when we first skim the top of the leaderboard; it’s a surprise that they are up there that high and yet, there they are.
In time, hopefully the list will grow long enough that other players deep in the process can take comfort in knowing that what they are trying to accomplish is, indeed, possible.