While most of the world was paying attention to the British Open last week, Scott Stallings was quietly notching his second win on the PGA Tour. The True South Classic at the Annandale Golf Club in Madison, Mississippi, was the opposite-field event to the Open. With all the highest rated players overseas, the rest of the Tour “needed a place to play.”
You’ll recall that the runner-up in the John Deere, Troy Matteson, propelled into the Open by his performance, while more than happy to accept the exemption, lamented that he wouldn’t be able to go the Mississippi again. Not a lot, it was just the fond memories. It’s called graduating.
Anyway, back to Stallings. He won for the first time at last year’s Greenbriar after an awful year. It was his rookie campaign having qualified for the Tour by finishing T11 at Q-School. But that was just punching his ticket; there was no guarantee that he’d play well again. And at some point during those first five tournaments where he missed every cut, he had that reinforced.
And then out of nowhere he finished 3rd at the Transitions in Tampa. $374,000 has a way of calming the nerves…which he would need as he went on to miss seven more cuts before he hit the jackpot with his Greenbriar win. And then he missed three more and didn’t finish lower than T28 in the remaining regular Tour events.
But with his win came the two year exemption, the automatic invite to the 2012 Masters and inclusion in the 2012 Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Maui, the first tournament of the year reserved for winners-only from the previous year.
So he rolled into this year with a T22 in Maui…and then proceeded to miss all the cuts through the West Coast swing and Tampa (he withdrew from Pebble Beach). He made his first cut at Bay Hill at the end of March and finished T48. He followed that up with his pilgrimage to Augusta finishing T27.
Then he missed six cuts in a row, T25 at Memorial, missed another cut, defended his Greenbriar championship with a T56 and then missed yet another cut.
And that’s where he stood on the eve of the True South Classic: not a lot to show for the year and trying to figure out how to make a cut. And then he wins…by two…at 24-under par.
Opposite-field event or not, everybody in that tournament can flat out play the game, even though some have struggled recently like Stallings and others have been having troubles longer. But the low round of the tournament was 63, there were six 64s — two belonging to Stallings — and everybody who made the cut finished under par.
Getting to the reason we should care: here’s a guy who intractably believed in himself not withstanding the fact that he couldn’t score. And he was willing to endure long periods of disappointments — believe me, six cuts in a row is a long time on the PGA Tour — as a stand for himself.
He even did a year — 2010 — on the Web.com Tour when he didn’t get through Q-School on his first try. It was a case of an inch is as big as a mile: he finished T26, one stroke away from getting his card. But it surely must have inspired him to work harder. Getting that close over six rounds is no accident. (Let’s hope that the new Q-School format where everybody goes to the Web.com before they can get to the Tour provides the same sort of drama and inspiration.)
So congratulations, Scott Stallings, and hooray for all the players who gut it out and gut it out because they know the truth about themselves. They can play.
And nice things happen to those who can play. Stallings is in the Canadian Open this week and will be paired in the first two rounds with Brandt Snedeker, who finished T3 at the Open and Kyle Stanley, “Mr. Redemption” for his vindicating win in Phoenix this year after collapsing in San Diego the week before.
Golf is so great at flushing out magnificent demonstrations of the best in the human spirit.