The Long and Winding Road

Time. You don’t really think about it until you have to wait on it. 

I remember my days in graduate business school when I was taking the capstone, “Business Strategy” course. We had to bring together everything we’d learned to actually run a business. Of course, it was a business in a computer simulation, not a brick-and-mortar business, but the game made it seem like a real business. 

Once a week, each team would gather for their, uh, business strategy meeting and then input our quarterly decisions about all aspects of the business. I remember how brilliant we all felt with our hot-off-the-press decisions…and how interminably long the wait was until we got our results back at the end of the week. It was a great micro-lesson in how things take time to percolate. And sometimes, way more than you bargained for. 

There is a great example of that on the Nationwide Tour this last week in Jason Gore. He won the Miccosukee Championship in Miami, Florida. It has been a long year. Actually, a long couple of years trying to play his way back onto the PGA Tour. 

The Nationwide Tour is the developmental tour for the PGA Tour. Matriculate your way there and you have a real tour to play on week to week. Learn to play on that tour and you can play anywhere because the courses are frequently shorter, causing the players to play aggressively to keep up. Learn how to play with controlled aggression and before you know it, you’re a PGA Tour-caliber player. 

That’s why the Top 25 players are granted PGA Tour cards each year. That’s also why if you win three Nationwide tournaments in a year, you get an automatic “battlefield promotion” to the big Tour.  That’s how Gore got to the Tour in the first place. 

He began trying for the Tour when he went to Q-School in 1997 to no avail, T160 but good enough to get him into some 18 tournaments on the Nationwide in 1998. At the 2000 Q-School he had a T14 that got him on the PGA Tour for 2001. But it was back to the Nationwide in 2002 where he won twice, (the point of the Nationwide Tour), and landed back on the Tour as a Top 25 player again. But it was back down again in 2004. 

This was the period of time when Jason first came to our attention. He was in contention at the 2005 U.S. Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina. In fact, he played so well that he was in the final group on Sunday with Retief Goosen, a U.S. Open winner. Nationwide guys don’t make a lot of money, so most barnstorm the country in their SUV’s and in Jason’s case, with his young family. So on the way to Pinehurst, they spent the night in Ashville, North Carolina, only to come down to the car in the morning to discover that thieves had gutted it. That he was playing well and with good cheer after that happened made him famous. 

Back on the Nationwide for the second half of the year, he stormed to a three-victory battlefield promotion again: back on the big Tour through 2008 where he only managed a conditional exemption for 2009. In 2010, he got into a handful or so of lesser events on the Tour together with some sponsor’s exemptions. But he mostly played on the Nationwide; 19 events. 

With his win last weekend he moved up the money list to 39th with two tournaments to go, this week’s Winn-Dixie in Jacksonville, Florida and the Nationwide Tour Championship in Charleston, South Carolina. Two good finishes get him into the Top 25 and back on the Tour. 

The reason this story is worthwhile is that Jason’s story is the story of so many working tour pros, his better than many. You just don’t hear about them because winning is what’s rewarded on the Tour. He’s been trying to do this for thirteen years and God knows how many mini-tours before that. 

He is a very likeable and sympathetic man with a million-dollar grin, an affable personality and an endearing girth getting out of control from too many meals on the road. It’s hard to know how he swings just looking at him, but he has a syrupy, well-balanced swing that looks like it would never miss a shot. Last weekend, it didn’t miss much; he won by 4.

So while the PGA Tour lights will be burning bright in Las Vegas this week, Jason Gore will be trying to claw his way back there across the country in Jacksonville. It’s a story of persistence, of guts and of belief in himself, no matter what. And the big, million-dollar smile is still there.

The Tour needs guys like Jason Gore.

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2 Responses to The Long and Winding Road

  1. John Monteleone says:

    Bill,

    We do need to know about the back-road struggles of the Jason Gores. They make us think twice about giving up when the rise in the road seems insurmountable and the path is strewn with obstacles. I imagine that doggedness comes in handy when a journeyman is trying to close the deal on the final holes of a potential victory. When you flip your next light switch think about how many times Thomas Edison reloaded and tried again?

    John

  2. Bill Rand says:

    Preeecisely, John. Great minds think alike. Thanks!