2002: Ridings’ dream within reach
If Tag Ridings earns a PGA Tour card for 2003 at next week’s Buy.com Tour Championship, the turning point might have been a week off in mid-August.
Standing at No. 49 on the money list with slightly more than $50,000, the 28-year-old had played seven consecutive weeks and was coming off two missed cuts in a row.
“I wasn’t at the stage of panic, but I was beginning to feel a little heat,” said Ridings, who had been struggling with his putting and driving accuracy. “I still knew there were 10 or 11 events left, and if I just went out and played like I knew I could, I would be OK. But at the time I just needed a break.”
Ridings went to Springfield, Mo., to visit friend Tyler Thompson, who plays the Tight Lies Tour and whose father owns an automobile dealership. He bought a GMC Yukon from Thompson’s father, and also “borrowed” a Scotty Cameron Newport 2 Mil-Spec putter and Titleist 975J steel-shafted driver from Thompson’s closet.
He returned to the Buy.com Tour and immediately went on a tear.
Over the next three weeks, Ridings won one tournament and finished tied for second in another, assuring himself a spot in the limited-field Buy.com Tour Championship Oct. 24-27 in Prattville, Ala. And, at No. 17 on the money list, Ridings is within reach of being among the top 15 money earners at season’s end and gaining his ’03 PGA Tour playing privileges.
Most golfers would wait to buy a new, expensive vehicle until after a big victory. But the way Ridings did it has worked out just fine.
“I went up there to visit Tyler. I spent $40,000 on a truck and (then) made over $100,000. Not a bad investment,” Ridings said with a laugh. “I came back ready to play and started putting better and hitting more fairways off the tee. That has been the big difference.”
The break had an immediate impact. The Buy.com Tour rookie came out and shot 16-under-par 272 and then holed out for eagle on the first playoff hole to beat Mark Hensby and score his first tour victory Aug. 25 at the Permian Basin Open in Midland, Texas. He earned $76,500.
A week later, he tied for 46th at the rain-plagued Utah Classic ($1,518) and the following week he tied for second at the Oregon Classic ($25,500).
“Right now, I’m feeling pretty confident,” said Ridings, who credits instructor Mike Abbott for his improvement. “I feel good about my swing and feel I can be in contention every week.”
Still, Ridings doesn’t kid himself. When it comes to golf, he remains a realist.
“I’m not loaded with an unbelievable amount of God-given talent like a lot of these guys out here,” said Ridings, who has been battling tendinitis in his left forearm. “I know that if I’m going to make it, I’m going to have to outwork the other guy. But I think I’m starting to catch up to them.”
That’s the mindset Ridings has had since his days as a junior golfer in Tulsa, Okla., through his college career at the University of Arkansas (1993-97) and for the last five years as a professional.
He has never been a marquee player. In college, he was a three-time, second-team all-Southeastern Conference selection and as a senior was an honorable mention All-American.
His first four years out of college, he bounced around the mini-tour circuits trying to eke out a living. Each year he entered the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament but never advanced past the second stage.
While it was frustrating, he never lost sight of the dream.
“I never got to the point of quitting,” said Ridings. “The way I figured it, as hard as I’ve worked, giving it up would make no sense. I’m totally committed to making it.”
It, of course, is the PGA Tour.
After finally advancing to the final stage of the PGA Tour’s Q-School last year, Ridings finished tied for 54th. While he missed a PGA Tour playing card, Ridings did earn full status on the Buy.com Tour.
Although his first full season has presented some frustrations, Ridings never gave up hope and never quit working.
“Just like everyone else out here, one of my main goals at the start of the season was to get to the PGA Tour,” said Ridings. “I always felt I was good enough to get there.”
A solid showing at the Buy.com Tour Championship would prove it.