For parts of Monday, the quest for glory was very much alive.
“Yes, it had its moments,” Brett Waldman said. “But then, all that carrying of the bag and all the rust on the game came out.”
The veteran PGA Tour caddie returned to his roots as a player to take on the challenge of a Monday qualifier for this week’s HP Byron Nelson Championship. Given that his boss, Camilo Villegas, is skipping the Texas Swing, and that Waldman is back home (Hurst, Texas), it was perfect timing.
And for much of day, it was a perfect story as Waldman played the front nine in 4-under 32 at Stonebridge Ranch CC in McKinney. He then looked over a 12-foot try for birdie at the 10th.
“Went over the lip,” Waldman said.
At the 12th, a 16-footer for birdie burned the hole but did not fall. With six holes left, Waldman was 4 under, “but I pretty much knew that it would take 6 (under) or 7, so I started pressing.”
It’s never a comfortable position to be in, but Waldman knows the game well enough to appreciate where he was at. Finishing at 67 or 68 was a very real possibility, but big deal. “Ended up that 7 (under) played off for the (fourth and) final spot,” he said.
It was a playoff that did not include Waldman, whose bid took a huge hit when he drove into a fairway bunker at the par-5 13th and made bogey.
“I started pressing then,” Waldman said. “But I pretty much knew I was done.”
Bogeys at 16, 17 and 18 only confirmed the bitter reality: He had come up short. Though an even-par 72 suggests Waldman has game, so, too, is he chagrined that a special chance had slipped through his golf grip.
“Obviously, I’m a little disappointed. It would have been fun to have been with the boys.”
There was a time when Waldman had aspirations of a playing career. He played at Kansas State, then at the University of Central Florida, before taking on the Golden Bear Tour and other minitour circuits. He was good, but he also saw the type of player it took to make it to the next level. That is why Waldman has made such a smooth transition into the caddie business – he knows the landscape so well.
“I still love to play, but just not as much as you need to,” Waldman said.
Still, he gave it a bid, and when Waldman shared medalist honors at 5 under in the prequalifier May 11, one of the first texts came from Villegas.
“He was all fired up,” Waldman said. “He said, ‘That’s sweet. Way to go.’ ”
A good friend took the day off Monday and carried Waldman’s bag at Stonebridge, but it wasn’t to be. Instead, the spots went to two who shot 64 (Bobby Hutcherson and Trevor Fisher) and two who survived a playoff after having fired 65 (Wil Collins and Jason Schultz).
For consolation, Waldman knew he could go home, enjoy some time away from work, and accept the landscape as it exists out there in the world of pro golf.
“I told my wife, ‘Honey, I feel for those guys who want to do that (Monday qualifying). I don’t know if I could do that every week.’ ”
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No surprise, but Sam Saunders has found a sixth tournament in which to hone his young game – at The Memorial Tournament, no less. Then again, do you think Jack Nicklaus would deny Arnold Palmer?
Not a chance, so sponsor exemption No. 6 is on the horizon for Saunders, 22, who has made the cut in three of his five starts thus far in 2010. He was T-70 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, T-17 at the Honda Classic and T-50 at his grandfather’s Bay Hill party.
Earlier, Saunders missed the cut at the Bob Hope Classic and Waste Management Phoenix Open.
What’s left for Saunders in this, his rookie year in pro golf, is a spot in the Greenbrier Classic (July 29-Aug. 1). That will get him to the maximum seven sponsor exemptions for a player without any sort of status.
Arnold Palmer played eight times in Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament, with his best finish a share of 35th. Nicklaus, meanwhile, played 10 times in Palmer’s Bay Hill tournament, finishing top 10 on four occasions. Further, Jack Nicklaus’ son, Gary, played three times in Palmer’s tournament.
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Saunders, however, hardly will feel out of place at The Memorial. That’s because there’ll be at least three members of the field who are younger: Rory McIlroy, 21; reigning U.S. Amateur winner Byeon Hun-An, 18; and 17-year-old Matteo Manassero, who recently turned pro.