When the time came to make the decision last fall, Mark Anderson was tired. He had just completed his first full season of professional golf, playing 26 Nationwide Tour events and one PGA Tour event, and he felt like he needed a break.
So Anderson, buoyed by the support of his coach, Mike Harmon, made a decision he knew would catch folks by surprise. Rather than go to PGA Tour Qualifying School and try to earn his card, he elected to relax during the offseason and return for a second season on the Nationwide Tour.
It's a move both Anderson and Harmon believe will help the Beaufort resident in his sophomore season, which begins today at the Panama CLARO Championship.
"In today's world, everybody wants everything now," Harmon said. "I don't know if he had gotten the (PGA) Tour card that he would've necessarily played well there this year. There are little steps you have to take. ... There's plenty of time."
Indeed, at age 25, Anderson is already off to a good start. He made $116,183 to finish 60th on the Nationwide Tour money list last year. More important, he learned about the rigors of life on the road, as well as which parts of his game needed work in order to compete at the professional level.
"I learned I need to improve my driving and be more consistent on the greens," Anderson said in an e-mail. "I also learned the importance of not only managing my game, but all the logistics of traveling around and playing all over the world. Proper preparation, planning and budgeting of time are important to stay fresh."
With a new driver in his bag and 10 fewer pounds on his already lean frame, Anderson played his first competitive tournament since October at last week's eGolf Professional Tour Swiftwick Shootout at Palmetto Hall Golf Club, where he tied for 10th.
He came away from the event with confidence in the driver that gave him so much trouble in the second half of last season, and his coach expects him to play well this week in Panama, where he tied for fourth last year.
"I think he realizes it's time," Harmon said. "Last year was kind of a chance to get his feet wet. He's hand-picked his schedule; he's avoiding the ones he didn't like and going to the ones he liked. He knows how many weeks in a row he can play without getting tired now. He's ready. He's more than ready."
After a quick start to last season -- he recorded all three of his top-10 finishes in his first seven Nationwide Tour starts -- Anderson faded in the second half, at one point missing six cuts in eight events. He's ready to put 2010 behind him and use his newfound comfort to improve.
"I've got some pretty lofty goals," Anderson said. "Obviously, I want to win -- everyone does -- but more important to me is getting into the position to win on a regular basis. Being around the top of the leaderboards is a lot more fun than being in the middle of the pack, and I want to give myself the chance to win often."
BY THE NUMBERS
A by the numbers look at Beaufort golfer Mark Anderson's rookie season on the Nationwide Tour in 2010. Anderson embarks on his sophomore campaign beginning today at the Panama CLARO Championship.
17 -- Cuts made in 26 events on the Nationwide Tour in 2010. Of those, Anderson finished in the top 25 eight times and placed in the top 10 three times.
60 -- Anderson's position on the Nationwide Tour money list at the end of the 2010 season. The top 25 players on the money list earn their PGA Tour cards for the following season.
$116,183 -- Nationwide Tour earnings for Anderson in 2010. He also earned $10,203 at the Verizon Heritage, his lone start on the PGA Tour.