I knew my chase of the Champions Tour was coming to an end in the summer of my ninth year of trying. Through all those years of unsuccessful, relentless attempts, I was continually bolstered by my commitment in the matter. People would ask me how long I was going to keep trying and I always answered, “Until I can no longer be committed to it.” For as enervating as all my efforts were, I never thought that day would come.
There is a difference between wanting something for yourself and being completely committed to its accomplishment. Commitment raises the quality of results by another order of magnitude because of all of the incessant work in support of your commitment.
So on that summer day, I was playing our Renegade course here at Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was around two in the afternoon and it was hot. But with our low humidity and riding in a cart with iced water bottles, quite tolerable.
I was playing a practice round by myself and I had put everything into being there for that round of golf. I put everything into everything I did for that nine years.
One of the things I so enjoy about our six courses here is their scale. You’re down on the floor of the desert and you see a small mountain in the distance and before you know it, there you are playing by that mountain. It gives you the sense of being out in the wilderness working your way back to civilization.
Because of the heat, I hadn’t seen a soul for hours, it was like having my own private, personal golf course. The desert was beautiful, the incongruous wildlife was everywhere and the course a beautiful green oasis. But I was angry.
I was angry because I was working on routinely shooting in the 60s so that it made sense to keep going. But I had just hit another bad shot precluding any chance of that happening until the next day. And there had suddenly become too many bad shots and too many next days. That had never bothered me before because I knew that mastery was a process and I had been playing better and better. It’ll come, I kept assuring myself, because the mounting evidence was there and I could feel it coming together.
And now, it was like a light switch had been flipped: I was angry and even worse, bored. On a beautiful desert course all by myself and I was bored. I never imagined that it would come to that.
That day came rushing back to me as I read the transcripts this week for Jimmy Walker and Jason Gore.
Walker is a huge hit now with his three victories in eight tournaments, but he had some encouraging and angering moments himself.
I’ve been playing really well. Been playing real well for the last couple years and just biding my time, waiting around and good stuff happened.
He was committed. He was into it. He saw the dream drawing closer.
I’ve been doing it a long time and I’ve done lots of different things out here, and some of them weren’t winning, but everybody’s got their little battles throughout their career and stuff.
But even so, there were long stretches of time when he began to wonder.
I think it was about three or four years ago, I kept finishing 120th, 125th 100th, it’s a lot of work. It’s tough. It’s a grind. It’s a long year. You’re playing a lot of tournaments when you’re kind of finishing back there and it was tough.
I really wanted to make a shift and really try to get better because I wasn’t having much fun playing golf, and I feel like I was out killing myself and didn’t have a lot to show for it and I wanted to win and it wasn’t happening.
I said, I really have to figure out how to get better. Just through looking at things a little differently and pulling new people in, getting my body in better shape and healthy and getting my neck feeling better and having the confidence that I could stay healthy for the year.
I slowly just started a nice little trend up, and my numbers have gotten better and better and better and better, so I think all the stuff we did was good work.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Jason Gore successfully Monday qualified for this week’s Northern Trust Open at famed Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. But he’s had a similar malaise he’s been dealing with for the last couple of years.
Gore is the affable guy with the big grin who was good enough to have played in the final group of the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. He became famous for that, but also for his durable affability when he was nonplussed by his car being gutted by thieves at the Nationwide event the Sunday before.
And so while the years wore on him too just as they had for me, he finally had a sobering epiphany. What was it that triggered that?
You honestly want to know? I found out I was unemployable. (Laughter).
But all that’s changed now and he was tough enough to get through a Monday.
I think just a lot of things have kind of gotten my focus away from golf, and you know, family is one of them. But I kind of figured out that I’m still pretty good at this game and I can provide a heck of a life for my family and what better way to do it than that, doing something that I love and something that I have loved to do for a long time.
Fortunately for Gore, that love has got him right on the cusp of returning to the Tour after a long hiatus.
Not saying money is be-all, end‑all, but you know, I went through a rough time, and I’ve got the greatest family in the world, and I’d love to be the rock and the support. I’m just a lucky guy. Now that I love what I do again, things are going well.
It’ll be nice to see that renewed optimism rewarded with a shiny new Tour card.