While the eyes of the golf world were on the Old Course in St. Andrew's and the British Open last weekend, the PGA Tour was chugging along in Opelika, Alabama last weekend staging the Barbasol Championship.
I had an interest in this event because competing in it was Richy Werenski, the winner of
Golf Channel's "Big Break Palm Beaches" show from last spring.
Part of Werenski's prize for winning The Big Break was an exemption into this PGA Tour event. I always like to track how Big Break winners fare in the Tour events into which they are awarded an exemption. It is usually not a pretty result, but Werenski did better than most.
First of all, he made the cut, and he did shoot even par over the course of the four rounds. That's the good news.
The bad news is that his score of 284 was nineteen (19) shots behind the winning score posted by Scott Piercy, and it tied Richy for third from the bottom (T-72) of all the seventy-seven golfers who made the cut. Werenski cashed a check for $6,825 for his efforts.
Werenski is only 23, and he appeared to me to be one of the better golfers that have paraded through the Big Break over the years, so perhaps he can build on this and carve out a living as a touring pro. I hope so, because he appeared to be an awfully nice kid. On the other hand, at age 23, he is two years older than Jordan Spieth, so he does have a long road ahead of him.
Also of interest in this tournament was the fortunes of Sam Saunders, 27, who happens to be the grandson of Arnold Palmer. Saunders competes on the minor league Web.com Tour in hopes of making it to the PGA Tour. He actually led the tournament after the first round, but ended up tied for 32nd place, eleven shots behind Piercy, and earned $21,219.
Golf Channel was no doubt able to get an exemption of it's winner into this event because they knew that all of the really great golfers would be competing in the British Open last week, and that was certainly the case. Still, it is interesting to go down the scoreboard at the Barbasol Championship and see who actually was competing in that event. Lots of names you never heard of, but also some really familiar ones: Boo Weekley, Aaron Baddeley, Johnson Wagner, Jason Gore, David Toms (a PGA Champion), Duffy Waldorf, Trevor Immelman (a Masters Champion), Charles Howell III, Chad Campbell, Shaun Micheel (another PGA Champion). Some of these guys, in addition to being former Majors winners, have won on the PGA Tour and have, at one time or another, been considered Young Guns and Up and Comers in the world of professional golf, yet none of them are currently good enough to have qualified for The British Open. It just goes to show you how hard it is to compete at the highest level in this sport (or any sport, for that matter), and that for every Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson who win big, hang around at the top for twenty or so years, and earn tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, there are scores other guys who have to compete in a backwater like Opelika, Alabama just to make expenses and try to keep their Tour Cards.
It ain't easy.