Brett Waldman Sheds Caddie Bib, Plays for PGA Tour Card at Q-School
PGA Tour bagmen are a lot like stage props in that they are important and necessary but viewed mostly as background decoration.
Then there is Brett Waldman, pictured (left) with Camilo Villegas.
Waldman caddied this year for Villegas. He has also looped for cousin Tom Pernice Jr., and Ben Crane. That's almost like having your own trust fund.
Villegas won over $3 million last year, including the Honda Classic. Pernice and Crane are winners.
Waldman's percentage of those earnings would be more than enough money to provide Ian Poulter hair product for a lifetime -- which is a way to say he is in no danger of going hungry.
So what is Waldman, 38, doing at this week's PGA Tour Qualifying School's final stage trying so hard to mess up a good gig?
Well, he's playing his caddie bib off.
"Trying to realize a dream," he said.
After two rounds of the six-day, 108-hole qualifying tournament at Orange Country National that will send the top 25 (and ties) from a field of 166 players to next year's Tour, Waldman is 3 under and tied for 24th.
That's impressive enough all by itself. But consider this kicker: He is here almost on a whim. Only after being encouraged by his wife and friends, Waldman submitted his application and $5,000 fee at the very last minute.
"My friends and family encouraged me to give it another shot and chase my dream. I said, 'Sure, why not,' " he said.
"I never once thought about getting to the final stage."
There was good reason for the pessimism -- practice time, or more importantly, lack of it.
Waldman swears that in the weeks leading up to the Q-School process he played only a single practice round.
"A full-time job," he said.
It's not that Waldman can't play. He competed in college for two years each at Kansas State and at the University of Central Florida. After that he played some mini-tours and imagined life on the PGA Tour.
It's just that things sometimes take a turn.
Ironically, it was here at Orange Country National that eight years ago Waldman failed to advance out of second-qualifying, and decided at that time to give up on a playing career and caddie.
He hadn't tried qualifying since -- until this year's sudden decision.
As a matter of fact, except for entering the Monday qualifier at this year's Byron Nelson near his Texas home, Waldman says that he had not played in a professional competition since he was last at Orange Country until beginning the fall's qualifying climb this year.
When he told Villegas his plans to try qualifying, the boss offered quick encouragement: "Cool. Go get, 'em." But now, as the finish line looms, this is getting serious. Depending on how the next few days play out, Waldman could have some serious contemplating to do.
If he finishes among the top 25 and earns a PGA Tour exemption, it's a no-brainer. But if he falls short of that goal, depending exactly where he finishes, there are varying degrees of status on the developmental Nationwide Tour.
Would he walk away from the Villegas' cash machine to play his own ball in the minor league?
"The beauty is this tournament ends on Monday and I can go make a decision after that," Waldman said. "The great thing is I don't have to make a decision today."
Cool. Go get, 'em.
• Chris Baryla, who made only two cuts in seven tournaments this year on the PGA Tour, shot a course-record 61 Thursday on Orange County National's Crooked Cat course to hold the second-round lead.
Baryla is 11 under and one shot in front of Ben Martin.
Baryla earned playing privileges for this year off the Nationwide Tour, but battled a bad hip this year and earned only $24,254 to rank 231st on the money list.
• Martin, runner-up at the 2009 U.S. Amateur, shot 4 under 68.
• First-day leader Kyle Stanley shot 1-under 70 on the Panther Lake course and is 8-under, tied for third with Sunghoon Kang.
• Martin and Stanley are former teammates at Clemson, two of six former Tigers in this week's field.
• Briney Baird had a 13-stroke turnaround from Wednesday's first round, shooting a 5-under 66 after opening with a 79. It moved him to T75.