If nothing else, the second act of Ted Brown’s professional golf career will have the benefit of perspective.
Brown, the one-time VCU star and member of the Colonial Athletic Association’s Silver Anniversary Team, is looking forward to the New Year with fresh optimism after he earned full status on the Web.com Tour, formerly the Nationwide Tour, for the first part of the 2015 season. The Web.com Tour is the primary feeder to the PGA Tour.
He qualified a guaranteed spot in the first eight events of the year when he placed 35th at the tour’s Q-School at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on Dec. 16. Brown shot 8-under at the six-round qualifier, including a 5-under 67 during the fourth round.
Brown will head to Panama for the first event of the Web.com Tour season in late January. His status for the remainder of the season will depend on the amount money he wins. Slots for tour stops are subject to a weighted lottery, and players who win the most money stand the best chance of receiving a place in tournament fields.
The means there will be pressure on Brown to play well out of the gate to keep his comeback on an upward climb. If nothing else, he’ll look at the experience with a clearer mind than he did before subpar play and a lack of financing all but brought his career to a halt in 2012 and 2013.
“When you step away from it for a little while, it’s a little easier to get a better perspective,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating [that I couldn’t play]. I had plenty of years of doing it. The more frustrating thing was not doing something with it earlier.”
THE ROAD BACK
Brown is perhaps the most decorated player in the history of VCU Golf, a program no stranger to accolades.
He was a member of three CAA Championship teams and won the 2002 CAA individual title behind a conference-record low round of 64. A native of Peterborough, Ontario, Brown graduated from VCU in 2003 and began a pro career that included appearances on the eTour, Nationwide and other small tours.
Brown won two events and placed fourth on the eGolf Tour money list in 2008 and earned his Nationwide Tour card in 2009. In 2010, he appeared in 24 events and recorded one top-10 finish. But Brown missed 14 of 24 cuts and placed 121st on the money list.
While the PGA is replete with TV exposure and sponsorship money, players on smaller tours are usually fight to remain financially viable. In addition to tournament entry fees, golfers need to finance their travel and accommodations for events all over the country. Expenses for a single tournament can top $2,000. Players who don’t make the cut at tournaments don’t get paid. Brown says his financial concerns eventually bled onto the course.
“That’ll affect your game,” he said. “I had more tour status in 2010 than I have this year, but I didn’t have any financial backing in 2010. I was scrounging for each event, and that weighs on you.”
With little to no financing, Brown’s professional career was largely dormant for more than two years. He competed in just two Web.com Tour events in 2011 and none in 2012 and 2013.
Early in 2014, Brown, who lives in Richmond, was able to secure financing to resume regular competition. Now 35, Brown says he’s lost some distance driving the ball, but can rely on his short game and experience to negotiate the golf course. He broke out earlier this year by making eight of 10 cuts while placing in the top 10 at four Canadian PGA Tour stops. In June, he won the eGolf tour’s Sedgefield Classic with a blistering 64-65-68 performance. His 5-year gap between wins on the eGolf Tour is the longest in its 13-year history. He would finish 14th on the eGolf’s 2014 money list.
He capped his dramatic career turnaround by gritting out 108 holes at Q-School, even when his swing wasn’t its best.
“Q-School is about surviving,” he said. “If you can just manage what you’ve got you can get through it.”
A FRESH OUTLOOK
Brown’s future in professional golf is still uncertain. Although he won more than $60,000 on the eGolf and Canadian PGA Tours, he acknowledged that he’ll have to spend the coming weeks rounding up sponsors in order to continue his comeback, but the experience is different for him this time around.
These days he’s father to a 5-year-old son. He’s a little older, a little wiser. He says that he’ll approach the game differently now.
“I used to get in my way a lot in terms of being harsh on myself on mistakes,” he said. “If you harp on yourself, it’s just going to snowball.”
Each year, the PGA awards tour cards to 50 players on the Web.com Tour, the top 25 on the money list and 25 others who survive a four-tournament playoff system. Brown sees no reason why he shouldn’t compete for one of them.
“At a bare minimum [I expect] to be in the top 75 on the Web.com money list. I expect that I should be able to compete for a win here and there. I feel like my game’s good enough.”
The best, Brown believes, is ahead of him, thanks to experience.
“It’s easy to look to the future, but you really have to forget about the past and get to where you are now,” he said. “The shot you already hit you can’t change.”