The long drive from Wisconsin was a bit heated; my A/C wasn’t conditioning my air. Luckily it wasn’t the usual hot and humid August. I’d driven through Springfield, MO many times over the years but never spent more than a night so I didn’t really know what to expect.

A Nationwide event is very good golf; there’s not a lot of difference between the top 50 out here and the bottom 100 on the PGA Tour. There are no courtesy cars for the players. Most of these guys are driving from town to town, you see license plates from all over the U.S. and the trunks are full of clubs, towels, shoes, and training aides. Their Dockers may be a bit frayed not tailored $300 slacks, and they have to wear their golf shirts more than once. A lot of these guys are only a couple of putts away from “The Show” and many of them have played the PGA Tour from time to time.

The Pricecutter Championship is one of the four original Nationwide events, when the Ben Hogan Tour started in 1989 they were playing at Highland Springs just south of Springfield. The course is laid out over some rolling hills and you have to go low if you are going to make any money. All the five pars are reachable, the fairways are generous, and there is not a lot of rough. Many of the previous champions; David Toms, Camillo Villegas, Brandt Snedeker, Stewart Cink, etc. have gone on to great PGA Tour careers.

Brad Ott, my bag for the week, hasn’t teed it up in Nationwide event this year, but was playing this week because he was the 2004 winner, hopefully there are some good vibes flowing. We teed it up in the Monday pro-am but rain washed it out after eight holes. It gave us a chance to get to know each other and the rain delay brought some good fortune.

Rodney and I were making arrangements for a weekly rate at a local Mom & Pop motel when Mike, Brian Delahousye’s caddy, overheard our conversation. Long story short they were playing with a local hotel owner who offered free room and board for the week. The Midwestern hospitality started Monday afternoon and never ended. Our room at the Quality Inn cost us an assortment of new and used golf balls, a dozen hats, and some gloves. Cutting down on the expenses is big out here because the salaries and purses are so low.

Since Brad was a past champion he did some special things for the tournament and the spectators cozied up to him. He’s a good guy who went out of his way for everyone, including me, but his game was a bit rusty. My brother worked for him years ago and warned me about his temper but I saw no outbursts only a very professional focused temperament. Marco Dawson filed a complaint with the tour years ago and then had a heart to heart talk with Brad about his temper tantrums. These guys try to look out for each other even when the situation may be a bit uncomfortable.

Payne Stewart grew up in Springfield and now I know why he was such a nice guy. Everywhere we went the local folks treated us like part of the family. There were friendly conversations with the volunteers during our hot dog lunches every day, and W.F. Cody’s provided reasonable dinner specials that we took advantage of every night. The place was a local institution and everyone had a story about the place. The week was homey; I could live in a town like this.

The golf was good for awhile, we shot three under Thursday, but couldn’t get anything going Friday and shot two over, I think. The cut was low, -5, and the leader was 16 under after two rounds. That’s golfing your ball, no matter how easy the course. Friday the heat got to me a bit, maybe it was the lack of birdies, and I struggled down the stretch. The salt stains on my shirt and shorts were very noticeable; I had a tie-dyed look when I removed my caddy bib. We settled up in the parking lot like the good old days and made tentative plans for next week in Kansas City.

I spent the rest of the weekend looking for a bag but no luck, looks like I’ll be at the Monday qualifier with Brad and see if we can claim one of the 14 spots among 140 entrants. Those odds aren’t good but you never know.

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