Beaufort golfer makes Nationwide Tour debut today

January 28, 2010 

As Mark Anderson would tell you, and both of his college coaches would confirm, patience was not always one of his virtues.

So it seems fitting, not to mention cyclical, that as the former two-time All-American at USC begins the professional golf career he put on hold for a year, it takes place not far from the highlight of his play-for-no-pay time.

The Beaufort native will compete in this week's 2010 Nationwide Tour season opener, playing today at the New Zealand Open at The Hills Golf Club in Queenstown. He and the tour move on to Australia next week for the Moonah Classic, near Melbourne.

Most rookies on the PGA Tour's developmental circuit might be intimidated by having to fly halfway around the world to play their inaugural pro event. For Anderson, it's more akin to deja vu.

This time a year ago, he won the NEC Masters amateur event in Australia, beating out Rickie Fowler, then at Oklahoma State and now the PGA Tour's "hot rookie" for 2010. This week, Anderson flew in a week early to present the tournament winner's green jacket to his successor ... and to play tourist.

"I went to the Australian Open (tennis), which was pretty cool," said Anderson, who turns 24 on Valentine's Day. "(NFL player) Terrell Owens was there, and I got my picture taken with him.

"And I've heard (the New Zealand course) is one of the most beautiful in the world, with high mountains and ski resorts around it. I look forward to seeing that and playing well."

The past year for Anderson was not your typical college star/pro-in-waiting story. He always wanted to make the U.S. Walker Cup team, but he graduated in 2008, a year before the biennial competition. So he took the unusual route of remaining an amateur in 2009.

Though he was not selected for the Walker Cup, "it was a great experience, probably the most fun year I've had traveling and playing golf," he said. "I think, no doubt, it made me a better player."

Hearing Anderson's reasoned, patient words draws chuckles and head-shakes from Puggy Blackmon, his coach his first two seasons and now USC's director of golf, and current Gamecocks coach Bill McDonald.

When Blackmon and the then-freshman first met, Anderson was a young hotshot (he made third-team All-America his first season) with an attitude to match. The coach tells of a tournament round that year that was "vintage Mark Anderson: Fired at every flag, didn't break 80." When Blackmon sat down his player to discuss avoiding such mental errors, Anderson retorted, "I didn't make any mental errors."

The "conversation," Blackmon said, went downhill quickly; Erik Johansen, then a USC senior, nearly had to separate the two. McDonald suggests that until Anderson's senior season, he "put too much pressure on himself, and he wasn't ready for it."

He's come a long way since, and not just to the land Down Under.

His full status on the Nationwide Tour is a result of his top-75 finish at the final stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament in December, another patience-tester.

"Q-school" traditionally weeds out the easily frustrated, but Anderson handled all three stages with aplomb.

"It's a pretty long process, long and drawn out over a couple of months, pretty grueling," he said. "Fortunately, I played well the first two stages and the last four days at the third after a poor (two-round) start.

"I'm happy I battled back and finished strong. And it's nice to have a place to play this year, knowing I can plan a schedule."

That year as an itinerant amateur doesn't hurt, either. "I learned how to travel better, how to budget -- things that, as a professional, are the toughest to learn," he said.

His goals for 2010 are to win, he said, but mostly to earn a promotion at year's end to the PGA Tour. If so, he'd be one of only a few USC players in recent years to do so; besides veteran Brett Quigley and mostly inactive Carl Paulson, both in their 40s, only Kyle Thompson (back on the Nationwide Tour in 2010) has reached the top rung.

"I don't know how to explain" the lack of USC's PGA Tour players, Anderson said. "We have two guys (Johansen and Florian Fritsch) on the European Tour; Kyle's been on and off. I guess we're all racing around, trying to get there."

He added with a laugh, "I'm counting on being there next year."

If that sounds like someone in a hurry, well, Anderson spent an extra year waiting to get to the Nationwide Tour. The PGA Tour, he figures, is worth waiting at least that long.



--

Players with S.C. ties playing on the Nationwide Tour in 2010:

MARK ANDERSON

S.C. CONNECTION: Beaufort/USC

2009 EARNINGS: None

THE SKINNY: Turned professional after spending a year as an amateur in futile pursuit of a Walker Cup berth. Tied for 34th at final stage of Q-school for full status in 2010.

SCOTT BROWN

S.C. CONNECTION: North Augusta/USC Aiken

2009 EARNINGS: $9,865

THE SKINNY: Played five Nationwide Tour events but finished first on the eGolf Professional Tour with $142,362. Tied for 48th at final stage of Q-school for full status in 2010.

MATT DAVIDSON

S.C. CONNECTION: Furman

2009 EARNINGS: None

THE SKINNY: Finished second on the eGolf Professional Tour with $138,269. Tied for 48th at final stage of Q-school for full status in 2010. Former PGA Tour player (2005).

BRIAN DUNCAN

S.C. CONNECTION: Greenville/Clemson

2009 EARNINGS: None

THE SKINNY: Split time in 2009 between the eGolf Professional (placed 53rd with $23,970) and the NGA Hooters Tour (249th, $1,278). Tied for 130th at final stage of Q-school to earn limited status for 2010.

TOMMY GAINEY

S.C. CONNECTION: Bishopville

2009 EARNINGS: $45,982

THE SKINNY: Played limited PGA Tour schedule by virtue of top-150 finish in 2008, finishing outside the top 150 in 2009. Tied for 64th at final stage of Q-school to earn full Nationwide status in 2010.

ALEX HAMILTON

S.C. CONNECTION: Aiken/USC

2009 EARNINGS: None

THE SKINNY: Finished 183rd on NGA Hooters Tour in 2009. Tied for 116th at final stage of Q-school for limited status in 2010.

MATT HENDRIX

S.C. CONNECTION: Aiken/Clemson

2009 EARNINGS: $39,306

THE SKINNY: Played in five Nationwide Tour events in 2009. Will play Hooters and eGolf tours in 2010 while attempting to Monday-qualify for Nationwide events.

KEVIN KISNER

S.C. CONNECTION: Aiken

2009 EARNINGS: $16,342

THE SKINNY: Played six Nationwide Tour events while splitting time between eGolf Professional Tour ($50,557, 22nd on money list) and NGA Hooters Tour ($4,97, tie-158th). Tied for 26th at final stage of Q-school for full status in 2010.

BRONSON LA'CASSIE

S.C. CONNECTION: Charleston resident

2009 EARNINGS: None

THE SKINNY: Finished ninth on NGA Hooters Tour money list ($61,585). Tied for 26th at final stage of Q-school to earn full status for 2010. Native of Australia.

WILLIAM McGIRT

S.C. CONNECTION: Boiling Springs/Wofford

2009 EARNINGS: None

THE SKINNY: Finished 25th on eGolf Professional Tour ($46,292). Tied for 90th at final stage of Q-school to earn limited status in 2010.

STEPHEN POOLE

S.C. CONNECTION: Aiken/Clemson

2009 EARNINGS: None

THE SKINNY: Finished 29th on eGolf Professional Tour ($41,081) and 128th on NGA Hooters Tour ($7,219). Tied for 48th at final stage of Q-school to earn full status in 2010.

KYLE STANLEY

S.C. CONNECTION: Clemson

2009 EARNINGS: $2,248

THE SKINNY: Played two Nationwide Tour events after turning professional following All-America junior season at Clemson. Has no status after failing to reach finals of Q-school, but will receive at least seven chances to play in events, including New Zealand and Australia.

EMMETT TURNER

S.C. CONNECTION: Greenwood

2009 EARNINGS: None

THE SKINNY: Tied for 23rd on NGA Hooters Tour ($38,340) and 49th on the eGolf Professional Tour ($26,474). Tied for 108th at final stage of Q-school for limited status in 2010.

KYLE THOMPSON

S.C. CONNECTION: Easley/USC

2009 EARNINGS: $24,833

THE SKINNY: Played a 23-tournament schedule on the Nationwide Tour in 2009. Will play at least through the schedule's first seven events off Nationwide past-champion status starting with the third tournament in Panama, with another seven in play if he makes a cut.

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service