PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) Few other PGA Tour rookies are more seasoned than Zac Blair, who reached the big leagues after a journey that took him from one end of the Americas to the other.
And he even managed to get a degree from BYU along the way.
”My dad has always ingrained in me that if you’re good enough, you’ll get a shot somewhere and take advantage of it,” Blair said. ”It was a sweet route I took, but a little unpredictable.”
That route took the 24-year-old from Utah to the PGA Tour Latin America, the PGA Tour Canada, the Web.com Tour and the PGA Tour in a span of six months.
He also played on the Australasian Tour last year, though that was after he had his card. And he tied for 40th in the U.S. Open, where he had his father come inside the ropes to carry his bag up the 72nd hole at Pinehurst No. 2.
If there’s a message Blair has for college kids, it would be to go through Q-school in the fall (even as an amateur) to try to get some status. He made it through four stages, including pre-qualifying, and earned conditional Web.com Tour status. That wasn’t enough to persuade him to turn pro. He was planning to play amateur golf for seasoning. But then he saw players he beat at Q-school competing in Latin America, and decided to give it a try.
Blair had three top 10s before Latin America took its summer break, and his plan was to return and try to finish high enough on the money list to get a Web.com Tour card. Then he qualified in Oregon for the U.S. Open and, with the PGA Tour Canada in nearby Vancouver, went there and missed the cut.
The big break was in Nova Scotia on the Web.com Tour, where his conditional status made him the 40th alternate.
”It wasn’t even on my mind,” he said. ”But I got a call that week that, `Hey, you’re 10th alternate, you might want to come out.’ I’m not coming out for 10th alternate. Three hours later, I was fifth alternate. I was on my way to Greenbrier for Monday qualifying and they called in another hour and said, `You’re in.”’
He tied for seventh in Nova Scotia. He tied for 11th in Utah – he already had an exemption to his home state event – but that got him to the next stop, and he tied for 25th in Boise. With that, he had full status the rest of the way, and he reached the Web.com Tour Finals. Blair promptly made three straight cuts, and then was runner-up in the finale to earn his PGA Tour card.
And in his first start, he played in the last group at the Frys.com Open and tied for 12th. He also has a tie for sixth in the Sony Open and a tie for 11th at Torrey Pines.
But what a journey.
”It was different,” he said of the first leg of his trip to Latin America. ”It’s not like you’re getting in a car and going out to eat. You’re by yourself. It was good. I learned a lot and it helped me grow up and mature. At that point, it was the best thing I’ve done.”
Right up there with graduating. There was one class he worried about failing. Blair was in the Dominican Republican when his academic adviser called to say he graduated.
”It was the best moment ever, something I promised my parents I would do,” he said.
Which is better – getting a PGA Tour card or getting a college diploma?
”They’re both pretty good,” he said with a smile. ”I would recommend it.”
TOUR CHARITY: The PGA Tour says its charitable donations reached a record $140.5 million last year, which includes all six tours in runs – the PGA Tour, Champions Tour, Web.com Tour and the circuits in Canada, China and Latin America.
The tour said its career charity total now is at $2.14 billion dating to the first contribution of $10,000 at the 1938 Palm Beach Invitational. The tour reached $1 billion in charity in 2005, and the next $1 billion mark in January 2014.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said five PGA Tour events raised more than $7 million in 2014, and that three of them topped more than $9 million in charity – Valero Texas Open, AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
POWER STRUGGLE: Trump National Doral played into the hands of power players last week, and Ryan Moore found out the hard way.
He was paired in the third round with J.B. Holmes and said, ”He’s got clubs in holes that I can only dream of having.” In the 14 driving holes, Holmes was on average 30.7 yards beyond Moore off the tee.
Just his luck, Moore got to play with Masters champion Bubba Watson in the final round. Watson was on average 32.9 yards farther than Moore on each hole.
”He didn’t have to worry about getting clubs off us,” Holmes said.
Moore went 74-76 on the weekend and tied for ninth.
DIVOTS: Puerto Rico Open winner Alex Cejka is the third-oldest player (44 years, 3 months, 6 days) to win for the first time on the PGA Tour. The oldest was Ed Dougherty, who was 47 when he won the 1995 Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic. Ken Duke (44 years, 4 months, 25 days) won the 2013 Travelers Championship. … Fifteen players shot over par all four rounds at Trump National Doral last week. … John Daly tied for 10th at the Puerto Rico Open, his first top 10 on the PGA Tour since the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2012. … Adam Scott has gone 57 straight tournaments worldwide without missing the cut.
STAT OF THE WEEK: HSBC Women’s Champions winner Inbee Park has gone 92 holes without a bogey.
FINAL WORD: ”I won’t be grounding my club anywhere if I miss the fairway.” – Dustin Johnson on the PGA Championship returning to Whistling Straits.