FARMINGDALE, N.Y. To be a Silva from the old Massachusetts town of New Bedford is to be fishing royalty. The Silva clan originally from Portugal were 19th-century whalers and striped-bass fisherman and scallopers of the highest order in the 20th century. Eventually, they went into other lines.
Dr. Jeffrey Silva on Acushnet Avenue in New Bedford is a dentist. His son Kevin is a professional golfer who has played in two PGA Tour events: the 2008 U.S. Open and the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. He got into both Opens by winning sectional qualifying events on old-line courses like the one he plays at home, Country Club of New Bedford, a sporty 6,400-yard Donald Ross course where Wally Uihlein, the Titleist boss, has played for years.
Titleist is based in Acushnet, Mass., a state that has a long tradition of turning out scrappy golfers, professional and amateur. A short list of them would include Eddie Lowery, Willie Turnesa, Dana Quigley, Peter Teravainen and Billy Andrade, among others. Kevin Silva, 25, short and dark and intense, is threatening to make the list. At Bethpage this week, his locker, by dint of the alphabetical seating chart, was right next to the one belonging to the big Fijian, Vijay Singh.
This year, in the sectional qualifier in suburban New York, Silva shot 70 at Old Oaks and 67 at Century, scores that a fellow New Englander in the field, the Tour veteran Brad Faxon, would have loved to post. Silva was born in 1984, the year Faxon joined the Tour. Do you know how good you have to be to shoot those scores? The short answer is very damn good. Do you know how good you have to be to shoot 139, which is what Silva shot over 36 holes at Old Oaks when he was the medalist in last year's qualifier? About the same.
You have to be pretty damn good to shoot rounds of 78 and 72 in the stop-and-start first two rounds of the U.S. Open at Bethpage, when you're in the same wave as Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh, which is to say the wave that caught the short end of the stick. But in the end Silva's 150 total means he's just another golfer trying to find his way in the game. There are thousands of them. His caddie for the week, Jimmy Hazen, from Miller Place, on Long Island, is another of them.
The two pros the U.S. Open caddie and the U.S. Open player stayed in the caddie's house. Silva used Callaway irons that a friend from Atlanta gave him. (He used Titleist wedges and balls.) He should be able to break even this week with the USGA check he'll cash for playing, even though he missed the cut: $2,000. The last check was for $2,200, two weeks ago for a Tar Heels mini-tour event in Petersburg, Va. The entry fee for that one was $1,075.
If the PGA Tour passes through your living room TV every week, pro golf looks pretty cushy. Every year at the U.S. Open, the qualifying process reminds us that it's not always so glamorous. There were a dozen other Kevin Silvas in the field at Bethpage this year. Some of them even made the cut.
"Mini-tour golf is tough," Silva said Friday night, sitting in the Bethpage locker room. Vijay Singh, who knows a thing or two about tough times, was sitting on a bench right next to him, putting on his shoes for the start of the third round. "I guess you could call me a journeyman," Silva said.
He's no journeyman. He has many years, and many miles, to go before he gets that title. When you have Merle Haggard lines on your face, you're a journeyman. Kevin Silva, of the proud New Bedford Silvas, is a 25-year-old man with two USGA medals for winning sectional U.S. Open qualifiers. Those medals won't pay the rent, but they're more than enough to keep you at it.