Golf’s version of March Madness is the Masters qualifying derby, also known as the PGA Tour’s early-spring schedule. The Tour descended on San Antonio last week, and the Valero Texas Open was quick to add a name to the Masters lineup card.
Meet Steven Bowditch, a 30-year-old laid-back Aussie, a first-time winner, a scrambler extraordinaire and a good wind player (as if there’s any other kind of Aussie) whose most recognizable features are his bushy Outback eyebrows. Bowditch is your run-of-the-mill journeyman, except for the bit about overcoming a case of severe depression and a near-drowning incident. In September 2011 he married a Dallas-area television producer. Now he calls Big D home.
More than a decade ago Bowditch was toiling on the Troppo Tour, a pro-am circuit in Northern Australia that he played while camping out in a tent with a friend because he was that broke. Since then he has won three notable titles as a professional—two on the Web.com tour over the past nine years and a New South Wales PGA event in 2010—and he was 339th in the World Ranking until he won at the tough TPC San Antonio. He’s up to No. 134.
Ultimately it was Bowditch’s determination and stellar short game that won this Texas Open. He changed putters after the first round, shot 67 on Friday, chipped in on his first two holes in the third round, then had the luxury of being able to three-putt the 72nd green for the victory. His four-over 76 was the highest final-round score by a winner in a nonmajor since Fred Couples closed out the 1983 Kemper Open with a 77.
“This is a severe golf course,” said Jim Furyk, who tied for sixth. “It’s a lot of fun when it’s calm. The problem is, it’s never calm.”
Bowditch probably won’t be on anybody’s short list of favorites at Augusta National. He’ll be making only his second appearance in a major—he missed the cut at the 2003 British Open—and he’ll be getting his first up-close look at the National. “The only time I’ve played it has been on PlayStation,” he said with a laugh. “So I think I know a few of the breaks.”
Bowditch, who was decked out in a green shirt on Sunday, may have been as surprised as anyone by his win in the Alamo City. He hasn’t given his Masters preparation any thought, but he’ll start by getting directions to Augusta. “I don’t even how to get there,” he said.
But he’ll be there, along with 21 other Masters rookies. Based on what Bowditch has been through, that’s a victory in itself.