Professional golfers have gone soft. They are a bunch of aloof whiners who don’t play often enough. Work ethic? Hah, what’s that? Apparently all of this laziness is to be blamed on the “astronomical” rise in purses. At least, that was the consensus of Golf.com’s experts in this week’s PGA Tour Confidential.
Did the Walker household miss the memo?
My husband Jimmy had a great 2013 season on the PGA Tour. He played in 24 events and made 18 cuts with five top-10s and 10 top-25’s. He finished 30th on the money list with $2,117,510. That’s a ton of money, but don’t forget that he had to pay his caddie and swing coach and agent a good chunk of it. He spent more than $100,000 on travel expenses. And we have to pay state income tax in every state in which Jimmy earned a check -- more than a dozen in all.
Since Jimmy is the 30th best player in his profession, let’s compare him to R.A. Dickey, who, according to the folks at ESPN, is the 30th best pitcher in baseball. In 2013, Dickey worked 34 days, winning 14 games for a team that failed to make the playoffs. Half the time he got to sleep in his own bed, and when the Blue Jays were on the road he flew on the team plane and the ballclub supplied a luxury hotel room and took care of just about every other possible expense. Dickey’s season was considered such a success he is guaranteed $12 million in 2014 and 2015. Regardless of his performance! Even if he’s injured! Man, that sounds great. Sign us up! Because golfers aren’t guaranteed squat.
As a reward for his career-year, Jimmy took three weeks off from tournament play. (Dickey’s off-season is five months.) But with the new wraparound season upon us, Jimmy spent his “time off” back at the grindstone. Instead of sitting around and patting himself on the back, my husband went to the gym three times a week. He chipped and putted every day. He either played or hit balls every single day. And all this hard work paid off -- when the new season began he won. For the first time. In his 187th start, at the Frys.com Open. Jimmy is always improving but it’s not like he suddenly became a different player in those three weeks. He hadn’t won before because golf is hard and all these guys are good.
And you know what was the first thing he said to his coach after his win? “Butch, I only hit 40 percent of my fairways. That has to change.” Good enough to win is not good enough for my husband.
Yes, maybe there are a few guys on Tour who are complacent. Maybe there a handful who are satisfied with just making cuts, making their check and heading home. We certainly don’t know any of them. Every guy we know is working as hard as he can to be as good as he can be. That’s because all of them know how lucky they are to make a living on the PGA Tour. It’s a great life, but not always an easy one. A long road trip for R.A. Dickey means flying to the West Coast. My husband was recently gone for nearly three weeks, to Malaysia and China. It killed him to miss our oldest learn to ride his bike. When he left, our 8-month-old was basically a bump on a log. When he got back, he was crawling and pulling up.
The 200 or so men on the PGA Tour are the best in the world at their chosen profession. They represent about .0001 percent of the population. Yes, they are paid well for their talents, but if you ask me -- as opposed to the Golf.com staffers -- they certainly deserve it.
Erin Walker is the wife of PGA Tour player Jimmy Walker. For a humorous insider's take on the PGA Tour, follow Erin on Twitter at @tourwifetravels.