Jason Allred made his second shot on the par-4 15th hole at the Barracuda Championship, the PGA Tour’s opposite field event in Reno, Nevada. It’s for those players not in the limited field at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.
The tournament is played under Modified Stableford scoring; Allred’s eagle was worth 5 points and together with his birdie on 18, shot him up the leaderboard into T2 with Nick Watney. They are at 32 points, 3 behind the leader, Geoff Ogilvy at 35, and they’ll all be in the last group on Sunday.
I first met Allred when I had a chance to play with him on our Apache course here at the Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. He had lost his PGA Tour card the year before and was down on the Web.com trying to earn it back. Despite his blatantly obvious talent — you should see this guy hit a driver — it didn’t go well. And then it got worse.
And then he was reduced to trying to Monday qualify on the PGA Tour because he had no reliable place to play, which he famously did at this year’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera in Los Angeles. Not only did he get in, he was right there on Sunday, finished T3 and won $388,600, a princely sum, no doubt, for a guy who’s been down on his luck.
The Golf Channel’s on course commentator, Jerry Foltz, had a chance to speak with Allred after his round Saturday. And what struck me about what he had to say was how much he was living his life in gratitude. These excerpts from Foltz’ interview reveal a man with a whole new perspective on his good fortune to be able to play a game he loves:
Q. [Tied for 2nd and] that’s after a big Saturday. What was it, six birdies, an eagle, three bogeys, 14 points? It all adds up. It’s been a roller coaster career in some respects. Maybe at the pinnacle of it right now and you’re on the verge of something even better. How do you keep that out of your mind tomorrow?
“Good question. You’re right. On one hand I feel fortunate I still get to play this game, because I have had some ups and downs.”
“What a gift to be here on a sponsor’s exemption. And I spend so much of my career trying so hard to do all the right things, I almost get in my own way.”
Q. What’s different now?
“Like you said, even a chance to do something crazy tomorrow rather than try to block it out. I’m just going to do my best to enjoy it and have a blast with it. It’s a given I want to do well. When it’s all said and done, what else can a guy do except play his heart out, see what happens.”
Q. Your story is something I think a lot of viewers can relate to. You started the year with bad Web.com status. It was an uphill battle just to get in there. Went on to qualify, third place, you’re eighth or ninth, on the verge of earning special temporary membership on the PGA Tour. Is that just a sign of a crazy game, a sign of what a little self worth can do for you?
“Yeah, it is a crazy game. It’s a great game. When we were talking a minute ago, I have a ton of growing to do. But to feel like by God’s grace I’ve grown a little bit and can believe in myself and the talents I’ve been given. I can’t tell you how excited it is to feel that out on the course. And I can’t wait to try again tomorrow.”
Q. Jason, comment on today’s round for me.
“Well, let’s see: Another beautiful day [how many players start there?]. So starting out, thankfully I hit a couple nice shots and happened to make a nice twirl and putt on the first hole, for an unexpected birdie, really.”
“And I don’t know, I mean, there’s a mix of good nerves and also nerves that might be counterproductive. But I get, from the get‑go, hope to settle me in. And having so many friends and family here, grew up not too far from here, it’s been a blast to enjoy it and embrace it.”
“I felt really in control when I had a lot of things going well, good breaks, good putts went in…It felt great to kind of right the ship, so to speak.”
Q. Not to get ahead of yourself, but a win anywhere would be great, but what would a win here mean to you?
“Gosh, on one hand I have no idea because I haven’t been there before. But I’m sure, it sure would be a blast to do that.”
“I think whether it happens tomorrow or not, I sure hope it does. But I feel like I’d really enjoy it. Feel like I’ve been through the ups and downs enough, I love this game. So grateful for the chance that I have still to do it.”
“I think it would be a blast, whether it’s here or sometime down the road.”
I watched this interview live and it was filled with the joy that you would expect from a man who has come back from the abyss.
Joy. Not a bad way to play the game.