Brad Clapp returns to the scene of one of his greatest golfing moments this week, looking for a strong start to 2017 season.
The Chilliwackian tees off Thursday at the Point Grey Golf and Country Club, playing the first of four rounds at the Freedom 55 Financial Open, the first tournament on the 2017 Mackenzie Tour schedule.
Three years ago, as a PGA Tour Canada rookie playing in just his second tournament, Clapp fired a 15-under-par 273 on this same course at this same tourney, finishing second and pocketing $13,200.
Clapp’s played 35 Mackenzie Tour events since, riding a roller coast that’s reached dizzying heights (first place and $31,500 at the 2015 Great Waterway Classic) and rock bottom lows (10 missed cuts).
Last season had far more valleys than peaks for the 30 year old. Playing the full schedule of 12 tourneys, Clapp’s high-water mark was a tie for eighth at the SIGA Dakota Dunes Classic in Saskatoon. He tied for ninth at the Bayview Place DC Payments Open in Victoria and slid into the top 25 in two other events.
But Clapp also missed three cuts and had finishes of 42nd, 47th and 68th. He made $17,230, falling well short of break-even money.
“Last season was a tougher one to take for sure, but it was a good learning experience,” said Clapp, who’s uber-positive personality lets him identify the silver lining in any situation. “Statistically it was my least productive season and it was a nice reality check.
“Part of it might have been the grind of being out on the road that long wearing on me, so I’m taking a lesson from that and changing up my schedule this year.”
Rather than powering through the marathon of the full Mackenzie Tour slate, Clapp will be choosy about which events he plays.
“I’d rather play close to 100 per cent golf in eight events than 40 per cent worn-out golf for 12 events,” he explained. “So I’m cutting back my Canadian schedule, but I’m also looking to do so some WEB.com and PGA Tour Monday qualifiers.
“The end goal is to get to the WEB.com Tour, so I’m just changing up how I allocate the money I have and hopefully I can achieve the same goal in a different way.
Clapp views it as a risk/reward calculation.
A win on the Mackenzie Tour is nice, but the purses are smaller and he’s guaranteed nothing where WEB.com Tour status is concerned. If he catches fire at the right time in a WEB.com qualifier, he can find his way onto the tour and start chasing bigger money — 36 golfers cleared $50,000 USD in 2016 and the top guy (Andrew Putnam) earned $189,072 in eight events.
“This is a full-time job for me that goes well beyond 12 tournaments, and what I made last season on the Mackenzie Tour was a pretty deep loss,” Clapp said. “$17,230 sounds like pretty good cash for playing a game, but the expenses I incurred were probably more than double that, and that’s what motivates me to work harder and not do that again.
“It’s worth it to me to keep chasing this, but do it in a different way, because the fire still burns within me to play on a bigger tour.”
Business considerations aside, Clapp feels good heading into the season opener after spending the offseason working on his short game. Always good with the driver and always one of the more aggressive players on the course, he views putting as his X-factor.
“My putting has really improved this year,” he said. “My speed control and ability to read greens has matured over time.”
A good showing this week would be a boon to Clapp’s confidence, but no matter the result at Point Grey he feels ready for a big season.
“I know the level I have played at and will play at and I’ve played against and beaten golfers who’ve won at that next level,” Clapp said. “I have the confidence that I belong there and it’s just a matter of being physically and mentally healthy, doing things smarter and being more consistent.”
Follow Clapp’s Mackenzie Tour results online at pgatour.com/canada/en_us.html