When a player is faced with having to navigate a stand of pine trees to save par or sink a 20-foot putt to make the cut, he’s all alone out there on the course.
In that respect, golf ranks as one of the ultimate individual sports.
But many players on the Web.com Tour would beg to differ – not to mention their better halves, many of whom will be on hand, in person or in spirit, for the BMW Charity Pro-Am that runs Thursday through Sunday at three Upstate courses.
The support of wives can be integral to a player’s success, and there are plenty of wives who fit that bill.
Life, er, survival, on the Web.com Tour – the qualifying circuit for the PGA Tour – can be challenging at best and downright treacherous at worst. Having the steady support of a significant other can mean the difference between success and failure.
Some wives work during the week, then attempt to join their husbands on the weekend if money and time permit. Still others stay home, focused on kids and skinned knees and school and piano lessons.
“It can be a hard life and people don’t really understand,” said Joe Chemycz, former media official for the Web.com Tour. “Imagine if your life was doing this and you were away from your family for five or six months a year.
“How would you go about holding it all together? When the washer or refrigerator is broken and you’re not there to handle it? There are a lot of things to balance, and they can become very good at that over time, but when they’re first starting out, it can be rough.”
Money is another issue. Income on the Web.com Tour is a fluctuating proposition at best.
Trey Mullinax, the winner of this past week’s Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, North Carolina, strolled off the 18th green toting a check for $117,000 – a tidy sum for four days’ work. But the last-place finisher, Ben Kohles, pocketed $1,476, which might not cover his expenses for the trip.
In those latter instances, it pays (quite literally) to have a spouse who’s working, too, which is what has helped former Furman University standout Matt Davidson feel secure enough to continue to pursue his pro golf dream for a 13th year.
“My wife is a professor at Furman – somebody’s got to make the stable income,” Matt said, laughing.
Matt and his wife, Natalie The, began dating while in school at Furman, and Matt jokes that “she didn’t know what she was getting into.”
Actually, she did.
Being a collegiate tennis player, Natalie was well aware of the demands of sport and the potential stress that could result from pursuing a pro career.
“By the time we got married, we knew the ups and downs to a golf career,” Natalie said. “But we also knew that it was nice to have a steady income. We realized we’d be OK if it was just my income for a period of time.”
That period continues for Matt, 35, who played on the PGA Tour in 2005 and has 15 Top 10 finishes on the Web.com circuit, but is still seeking his first victory.
“I’m still enjoying it,” Matt said. “And I’m at a level where I’m really close to being on the big tour and have been on the Web.com Tour for seven years now. If I ever fell back down to the mini-tours, we’d probably have a discussion or two.”
Natalie typically tries to travel to four or five of Matt’s tournaments each year, although her attendance is confined to the summer months due to school-year obligations, and just got a bit more challenging courtesy of their 15-month-old son, Wesley, who is eager to join in the fun.
“He’s much more mobile – he doesn’t sit still – so it’s a new ballgame this year,” Natalie said. “One of the things we’ve discovered is that Wesley is very vocal and doesn’t quite understand the rules and etiquette of golf.”
Like Matt and Natalie, Wesley and Elizabeth Bryan also began dating in college, at the University of South Carolina.
They were married right after graduation and Wesley quickly began playing the mini-tours.
“Some people thought we were crazy,” Elizabeth said. “There were a lot of things we had to say no to financially. I learned how to ‘coupon’ in college, and we made it work. We became real savvy.
“We knew all along that he wanted to pursue golf and I wanted to go into medicine, and that’s what we did.”
Elizabeth worked for two years as a medical assistant in pediatric cardiology in Columbia, then went back to school, training to be a physician’s assistant in Augusta, Georgia. She’ll finish this summer.
“Wesley was more supporting me for the first 15 months (of school), and that was most intense part,” Elizabeth said. “He did everything – cleaning house, laundry, grocery shopping.”
Now their hard work is paying off. Wesley has two victories and four Top 10 finishes and is the leading money winner on the Web.com Tour this year with $272,120.
“It has been incredible,” Elizabeth said. “We started two years ago praying for him to make it through Q-School. This year we started praying for him to finish in the Top 25 of the money list. We had no idea how quickly that was going to come.
“But I really don’t think it’s going to set in ’til I watch him tee off in his first PGA Tour event.”
Then there’s the curious case of Ben Silverman, a Web.com Tour rookie who gets support from his wife at every turn. Morgan serves as his caddy.
“When she realized how much I’d be on the road, she was like, ‘I want to go!’ ” Silverman said.
And go she has.
Morgan, who had never played golf – let alone been a caddy – before they married in January, has accompanied him to seven of eight tournaments this year, including trips to Panama, Colombia and Brazil.
A chiropractor, Morgan has embraced the role.
“At first she was handing me clubs and not saying too much,” Ben said. “But as she’s learned more about the game, we’ve started to strategize together. Now she’s got her own strategy note-taking book.
“She’s gotten knowledgeable enough that we discuss every aspect. And she’s really good with the mental side of the game and making me think positively.”
A positive approach can go a long way, particularly when delivered by a wife with an earnest love and interest.
Such was the case for Kyle Thompson, whose golfing future was very much in doubt about a year ago. His wife, Emmi, constantly offered encouraging words.
“She was very supportive and kept telling me, ‘Whatever you want to do is great,’ ” Thompson said.
But the 36-year-old Thompson, an Easley native and former University of South Carolina standout, knew better. His time was running out and he realized as much heading into the Rex Hospital Open in May 2015.
“It was the last tournament that I’d qualified for,” Kyle said.
In an odd twist of fate and fortune, Thompson won the tournament, becoming the first person in Web.com Tour history to win the same event three times, and went from the outside looking in to securing his future for at least another year.
“And my wife and kids were there to see it,” Thompson said. “It’s amazing how things work out.”
That support will continue this week.
Emmi, his wife of nine years, is expecting the couple’s third child in early July. But she’ll be at each course that Kyle will play over the next few days, cheering for and supporting a husband whose golf dreams continue to turn into reality.
And Kyle Thompson will notice.
“She’s excited about coming out and watching golf this week, and I’m excited that she’ll be there,” Kyle said. “All I know is that there’s no way to play this game without the support of a great wife.”
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