If you didn’t come out to watch the Mary Bird Perkins Merrill Lynch Open last week at Santa Maria Golf Course, you may have missed it.
You may have missed seeing the next Bubba.
Seven years before he donned the green jacket after winning The Masters in April, Bubba Watson was crushing drives on stops along the Adams Golf Pro Tour Series.
If the PGA Tour is the major leagues, then its Nationwide Tour is Triple-A ball. Mini tours like the Hooters Tour are Double-A, and the Adams Tour is Single-A.
But everyone has to start somewhere, and sometimes they start out in places like this, digging a glittering career out of the dirt in towns like Baton Rouge and Houma and Abilene and Garden City, Kan.
Watson played in a lot of those places. So did fellow PGA Tour winners Ryan Palmer and Cameron Beckman, along with current PGA touring pros like John Mallinger, Edward Loar and J.J. Killeen.
They come out here mostly from Louisiana and Texas and Oklahoma, but some from as far away as California and Arizona and, in the case of witty Mark Murphy, from Kerry, Ireland.
Hard-core golf nuts will remember that Murphy won the “Big Break Ireland,” a made-for-TV event on the Golf Channel, late last year. That win got him a couple of invites to tournaments on the European Tour, including one to his native Irish Open.
But much of the year Murphy is here, living for now in New Orleans, plying his trade on the Adams Tour.
“We’re all in the same boat,” said Murphy, 34. “Everybody here is striving to get their dream.”
There’s a sense of camaraderie out here that is tangible, and far different from the more button-downed, more somber vibe at PGA Tour stops like the Zurich Classic or next week’s Players Championship.
“On this tour we have a lot of guys who are hard workers,” said Baton Rouge’s Michael Arnaud, who earned his first Adams Tour victory at the Mary Bird Perkins tourney by a whopping six strokes. “We don’t have a lot of silver-spoon kids like a lot of other mini tours.
“We all pull for each other. We’re all trying to get to the same place.”
If anyone needed a reminder of where they’re trying to get, it was right there for them on the scoreboard outside the Santa Maria clubhouse.
On the board, third from the top on the right, was the name Patrick Reed with a big “WD” next to it. “WD” stands for withdrawn, and there’s a big reason for that. The soon to be 22-year-old former University High golfer wasn’t here because he got through Monday qualifying for this week’s stop on the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship, where he’s tied for a lofty 15th going into Sunday’s final round.
Is Reed the next Bubba? Maybe so and you already missed him.
But don’t worry. There’s always next year’s tournament, and another young pro with dreams just as big as the wide world of golf itself.