Broadaway brings atypical grip to PGA Tour

Josh Broadaway hits a shot during the Honda Classic.

Josh Broadaway hits a shot during the Honda Classic.

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – For those who believe there is no blueprint for the way in which golf needs to be played, that it should be saluted as a game of feel and creative powers, then let us introduce an unlikely hero: Josh Broadaway.

Against a backdrop of millionaire golfers with agents, global schedules and massive endorsement deals, Broadaway serves as a reminder that there are still plenty of players who love the game and the hope it provides.

It would be inaccurate to say that Broadaway achieved his dream this past weekend at the Honda Classic, though he did at least earn a taste of what it may someday be like. In his 11th year as a professional, Broadaway finally made it into a PGA Tour event – and for all 72 holes, too. Making the cut on the number (6 over), the 32-year-old from Albany, Ga., eventually worked his way into a share of 43rd and a $17,356 check.

No, that doesn’t mean Broadaway is rich. In a small way, however, he enriched the game just by his presence at PGA National, because he gives hope to countless players who’ve been told that they can’t possibly make it the way they are. You want to put the left hand low on the putter, that’s OK. But for a full swing? Come on, be serious.

“My grandfather, Bill Tanner, taught me how to play the game,” Broadaway said, “but even he told me that if I was going to be any good at it, I had to switch.”

As an impressionable teenager, Broadaway listened and when he was 14 he put the traditional righthander’s grip on the club – that is, right hand low.

“But I just couldn’t get the ball off the ground, so I stuck with it.”

It had seemed so natural, going back to when he was 5 and he first picked up a golf club. He was a left-handed hitter in baseball, but couldn’t find left-handed golf clubs. No worries, the youngster grabbed right-handed clubs, only he kept his hands the way they felt comfortable so that the left hand was low.

“It’s the only way I knew how to grab a bat, so I went with it,” he said.

Through junior golf success, a collegiate career at Troy State in Alabama, and for six Nationwide Tour seasons (2003, 2006-2010), Broadaway has employed the unique grip and chased his dream without ever giving it a second thought. But not until he posted a 66 to get through a Monday qualifier for the Honda Classic did he get a chance to tee it up on the big stage.

And as good as he must have felt, it seems that others got an even bigger charge out of it.

Like Boo Weekley, who missed the cut at the Honda, but hung around Saturday to practice for a few hours. As he worked things out on the putting green, Weekley looked up to see Broadaway headed his way, having just finished his third round.

“Saw you had it to 3 under, way to go,” Weekley said.

Broadaway smiled, then told Weekley that a sloppy bogey had left him with a 2-under 68 for his third round. It didn’t faze Weekley, however.

“I’ve played a lot of golf with Josh,” Weekley said. “The boy can play. Great to see him get a chance.”

Of course, that’s all it was, a chance. In a few weeks, Broadaway – who for added uniqueness turns around putts lefthanded, keeping the lefthanded grip so that he’s traditional for a good part of his round – will be back grinding away on the Nationwide Tour where his best finish is a tie for third and his best money standing is 38th ($172,881 in 2008). But that’s not to say he didn’t prove something to himself by shooting 7 over 287 at as demanding a PGA Tour course as players have seen in years.

Certainly, he impressed some PGA Tour veterans, both for his commitment to do things his way and for the speed in which he does so. You see, besides the odd grip, Broadaway pulls the trigger with so little hesitation that he makes Mark Calcavecchia and Lucas Glover – heralded for their fast play – look like turtles.

“He was so refreshing to play with,” Steve Flesch said, “because he makes his decision, pulls his club, and goes. He might be the quickest player I’ve ever seen.”

Flesch has been at these PGA Tour battles for a long time and still shakes his head at the five- and six-hour rounds. “We have so many guys who can’t make a decision,” he said. “You’d think they were doing brain surgery. But (Broadaway) was so fast he almost caught you off guard. It was refreshing.”

And the fact that Broadaway had posted a third-round 68 alongside Flesch’s 78 was all the veteran left-hander had to see to determine that with a little bit of good fortune, the man from Troy State might someday find his way into the big leagues full time.

“I’ve had chances at Q-School a couple of times,” Broadaway said. “I’ve come close to breaking through.”

But like so many others with big dreams, he hasn’t quite made it. He has, however, generated probably a lot more whispers and comments than most of the under-the-radar types.

Like the lady watching Broadaway play his 18th hole in the second round. She saw him drive into a fairway bunker, then hit a splendid recovery shot that seemed destined for greatness, at least until a furious gust of wind knocked it down some 15 yards short of the green. Though Broadaway got it up-and-down to save par and make the cut, the woman was left talking about what she had seem a few minutes earlier, back near that bunker shot.

“Did you see his hands?” she asked her husband.

Broadaway laughed when told what the woman had said and conceded he gets that “probably at every hole I play.” Then again, even Rory Sabbatini spotted Broadaway hitting balls on the PGA National range and stopped. “He looked at me and kidded me,” Broadaway said. “He said, ‘What the hell is this guy doing?’ ”

What’s he doing? Simply proving that the game has plenty of room for those with a good grip on their passion.

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