Several years ago, I got a phone call out of the blue from a guy I had worked with a few years earlier, but hadn’t seen since he’d left the company. I’ll call him Justin, but that wasn’t his real name.
Justin was quite young when he left, early-to-mid-twenties. He told me he’d spent the last five years in Europe, where he had some family, and that he’d taken up golf and just returned to Canada. I asked him what he was planning to do now.
“I’ve decided I want to join the PGA Tour,” he said.
“Wow,” I said. “As what?”
“As a player,” he said. I laughed out loud for a good ten seconds and said, “That’s very funny, Justin. But seriously, what’re your plans?”
“I am serious,” he said. “I really think I can do it. It may take a couple of years, but I’m determined. And I love the game. I thought you might know how I could go about it.”
Justin told me he had started to break 90 regularly. I still thought he was putting me on, but the tone on the other end of the line was truly dead serious, and I didn’t remember him as being a deadpan comic. He told me he was now 29 years old.
I finally leveled with him and told him in no uncertain terms that he was absolutely crazy to think he could ever be good enough to join the PGA Tour. I told him that to have the skill to join the Tour today, you have to be able to break par regularly, on your home course, by the age of 10. I told him you have to hit golf balls virtually every day, for roughly six hours, from the age of 12.
I told him you have to be able to shoot 65 on any golf course you set foot on, from the back tees, in a 30-mile-an-hour wind, never having seen it before, on a regular basis.
You have to be able to shoot 65 when you tee off at 7:30 in the morning, or 4:00 in the afternoon. You have to be able to hit a drive an average of 290 yards, straight, and hit a 6-iron 190 yards, and be able to adjust your swing to be able to hit five balls three yards apart from each other, with any club, on demand. You have to be able to average 28 putts per round, and basically never miss a four-footer.
You have to be able to hit perfect shots when people cough in the middle of your swing, or a car honks, or a crowd erupts in cheers on the green behind you. You have to be able to stay awake and focused, with no fatigue, during rounds that will last over 5 hours, 4 days in a row, roughly 40 weeks a year, in all kinds of weather.
And once you have all that talent, I said, you MIGHT be good enough to play on the Canadian Tour at best.
I pointed out that no one, ever, has taken up the game of golf at 25 and qualified for the PGA Tour. I said that even if he now devoted the rest of his life to the game, every single day, the chances that he would even qualify for the Senior Tour at age 50, were probably 10 million to one.
Finally, I told him that for every one guy of the roughly 250 people who play at least one PGA Tour event each year, there are probably at least 100 others in the United States alone who think they’re good enough, and probably have some reason for thinking so. That’s 25,000 players who can shoot 65.
“I know, I get it,” said Justin. “But like I said, Jim, I’m determined.”
To be polite, I suggested that he call me again in a few years and let me know how his mission was working out. He said he would. And, of course, I’ve never heard from him again.
The point of this story is, it’s great to have dreams, and it’s admirable to pursue your passion in life. But for heaven’s sake, your dreams have to have some basis in reality.
There’s something about the game of golf -- and in this country, hockey -- that makes a lot of young people suspend their common sense.
God bless ‘em. But God help them.
More columns by Jim Deeks
Jim Deeks is a Toronto-based communications consultant and former Executive Director of the Canadian Open and the Canadian Skins Game. He’d love to receive your comments: email@example.com