The opening round of the Valspar Championship got off to a good start with England’s Brian Davis zipping around the Copperhead course at the Innisbrook resort in 6-under par, 65. That gave him a 1-shot lead over Sean O’Hair and Ricky Barnes. He did that in spite of two late bogeys, but he converted on his 18th to go home with a smile on his face. Davis, you may recall, is the player who lost a two-man playoff to Jim Furyk in the 2010 Verizon Heritage because he called a penalty on himself when his backswing brushed growing vegetation in the hazard next to the 18th green.
Davis is an interesting character too for what he had to do to get to the PGA Tour.
I live in Orlando, Windermere. I first came over when I was 18 and that’s where I based myself, played the mini tours. When we came back over as a family 11 years ago, obviously went back to Orlando because that’s where I was used to.
So, yeah obviously had the kids now and they’re American and obviously now we’re American officially so — which happened the end of last year.
That process of becoming a U.S. citizen was not an easy one, even for someone like Davis who was making his living here, always wanted to live here and had no intention of returning to England:
Long one, expensive. We had our visas and then we went to Green Card and then obviously two of my kids were born here so they’re okay but my oldest he was born and then basically I came over, went to the Q-School and we left. He was six months old when we left the UK. Even though he’s English he’s been brought up here.
Now, a lot of Americans are going to Europe to get access to the PGA Tour. They get through the Challenge Tour process of earning their cards for the European Tour, earn World Ranking points, start to get sponsor invites and ultimately win enough money to earn their PGA Tour cards. Davis did it the opposite way:
I think a lot of guys — you know, obviously the landscape has changed. You’ve seen it from Peter Uihlein, you’ve seen it from Brooks Koepka, you know, you go over there, you get quality golf around the world, learn different grasses, learn how tough it can be before you come to the PGA TOUR, traveling around, different languages, different currencies, different grass, different golf courses. It’s different food. I think it’s a really good way to learn, I really do but ultimately everyone wants to be here.
Davis came over here at 18 to play the mini-tours and work his way up to the PGA Tour:
I came over and played the mini tours. Went to the Q-School. I’ll never forget as long as I live, I was playing the last local qualifier and I had a shot to get to the Q-School from second stage and I thought I needed a birdie and went for the green, made a bogey and par would have got me to the Q-School.
Professional golf is strewn with hard-luck stories like that:
If I would have made a par I probably would have got — what was it then, Nike Tour, that would have probably been my route. That year I got in the DHL European Tour event, DHL European Open and I finished 6th.
I joined the Tour, paid my money, whatever it was. Didn’t even think about. I got called by the European Tour, hey, you lost your card, but you’re a member and the money you earn has given you full status because you basically come as a person losing their card even though you only played one event.
And sometimes you have to take steps backward in order to achieve your ultimate goal:
That was a big decision because I wanted to play on the PGA TOUR, but then I know I got the others. I didn’t have any money. Well, what am I going to do?
So I went home to the Europe Challenge Tour. Went to the Q-School, finished 2nd that year, got my card in Europe and obviously stayed there. I was actually going to come to the American Tour School two years before I did, so I put that on hold, I withdrew and I stayed another couple years in Europe and I always wanted to come — I’ve always loved America, I’ve always from young age of Sky Sports picking the early coverage up of the PGA Tour, I just always loved — it’s just me. That’s all that it is.
Some of the guys come over and find it hard to fit in on Tour, to live the life out here. It’s just different. Some people don’t like that. But to me it was an easy choice.
But how in the world did he end up in Orlando?
When I first come over the DHL sponsorship I had I got some coaching from Phil Ritson who was in Orlando. That’s why I came here. Then obviously if you remember Tommy Armour Tour back in the day, that’s where I played on.
So, you know, that was my home. I’ll never forget it my 18th birthday I had a big party and day after I jumped on the plane and left with two suitcases and a set of golf clubs for Orlando.
So how much cash did he arrive with in those suitcases?
Not enough (laughter). I landed in Orlando. I had a person trying to help me find a room and house. That was a bit of an eye opener to say the least. I end up in a really good house and good guys, had a great time and even when I was back in Europe I still came over a lot and had lessons and practiced. I made lot of friends over here when I was here.
One of the things that anchors him in Orlando is his membership at the Windermere Country Club. How he managed that at 18 years old wasn’t divulged. But at least he had a great place to play and practice.
I was a member at Windermere Country Club. That’s the way it was back in the day when I was 18 years old.
But the other anchor was his love of America:
I don’t know, always seems like home, you know, whenever I come here I feel at home.
And now it is home.