More than any other sport, golf will raise you up to dizzying heights, then send you crashing to the ground.
From tournament to tournament.
From hole to hole.
From shot to shot.
Consider the case of Brad Clapp, who debuted on the PGA Canada Tour around this time last year, with a sparkling second place finish at the PC Financial Open.
Clapp blazed to a 15 under par at the Point Grey Golf and Country Club, pocketed $13,500 in prize money and an exemption for the 2015 tour.
“After that first event I caught myself being too — I don’t want to say conceited — but I felt like my chin was raised higher than it needed to be,” he said. “I saw some of the guys who’d done it for four or five years and had that demeanor and I was the rookie emulating them.”
And that’s when golf knocks you down.
Clapp, a friendly amiable sort who will spend just as much time talking to one of the 300 volunteers at any given event as he will a fellow pro, was quick to correct himself.
“I’m not sure how I recognized it, but I needed a kick down to reality,” he said. “And nothing does that like missing cuts.”
The remainder of the year helped keep him humble.
Next week he barely made the cut in Victoria, struggling to a four-over-par at the Bayview Place Island Savings Open.
He missed three of the next four cuts.
After striking it rich in his dazzling debut, the Chilliwack Golf Club instructor earned just $3,990 in the next 11 tournaments combined.
“The biggest thing I learned about myself last year is I need to stay a bit more patient,” the 28 year old said. “I found myself pressing the envelope too quickly, worrying about results rather than playing my shot at my time.”
“The biggest thing I learned about my game is I wasn’t a good enough putter,” he continued. “I hit the ball just as good as anyone, but my short game wasn’t anywhere close. When you play against some of the best players in the world, something like that is magnified a thousand times.”
Many weeks, Clapp felt two or three putts could have been the difference between a top-10 finish and a missed cut, and he’s spent hours and hours working on it this winter. He just bought a house and installed a nine-and-a-half by 24 foot putting green in one of the rooms.
“I’ve never dedicated myself to this part of my game as hard as I did this offseason,” he said. “I’ve been out there three or four hours a day, hitting the same 10 footer over and over and over again.”
It took Clapp a while after last season ended to want to go back, look at his scores and self-analyze.
He didn’t have time to do so during the season, with hours at a premium.
Between four rounds of golf, practice rounds and pro-am appearances, May to September was a big, chaotic blur. When things finally settled down in early October, he wasn’t sure he wanted to self-assess.
“I was scared of what I would find, if I’m being truthful with myself,” he said.
Clapp knew he’d done some good things, including a 10-under-par 39th place finish at the ATB Classic in Calgary and a nine-under-par 36th place finish at the Wildfire Invitational in Peterborough, ON.
He competed well at the year-end Tour Championship (36th overall at one over par) and chose to look at the season as a four month lesson in ‘what it takes.’
“Everything about it is fine if you handle yourself the right way, but I found myself doing things that are outside my normal,” he explained. “I’d see a guy that I respect hitting hundreds of balls on the range and I found myself practising because I felt I was obligated to, not because I needed to. I stepped out of what got me to where I am.”
That’s not to say Clapp didn’t feel a need to step up his training. But he felt he got away from quality in favour of quantity.
“Putting more time and dedication into it is fine, but I want to make sure I’m spending that time on the right things,” he elaborated. “My putting was the worst part of my game. I was beating drivers on the range when I couldn’t make a four footer.”
Having hit the reset button, Clapp is ready for his sophomore season.
He’s healthy, mentally and physically, ready to tackle this year’s opener, back at Point Grey May 28-31.
Last year he had an eight foot putt to win and just missed. But that tournament and that moment showed him he’s got what it takes to compete. It’s a matter of dialing it up week after week after week.
“I hit the ball better, I feel, than anyone on the tour and there’s no way I lose any strokes off the tee,” Clapp said. “If I miss a green my chipping is fine. It’s just making putts when I need to, and that’s all I’ve focused on is getting my short-game ready. In the few tournaments I’ve played so far this year, my putting’s been a strength.”
Clapp believes he can golf against the best of the best. The PC Financial Open is his first chance to prove it.
“Nothing’s ever really concrete in golf because there are so many variables that change shot by shot and hole by hole,” Clapp said. “But a concrete expectation for me would be for me to put myself in contention every Sunday — to be on the back nine knowing it’s up to me to win or lose the tournament.”
Follow Clapp and the tour online at pgatour.com/canada/en_us/tournaments/schedule.html