Rookie Redux

Lost in the Reshuffle after a poor start, Scott Stallings came from way back to jump-start his first season on Tour
March 27, 2011

Get me rewrite. We have to rip up Scott Stallings's latest blog installment, "How to Launch a Pro Golf Career," in which the Chief Executive Golfer—as Stallings calls himself on his www.Bnet.com--sponsored Web page to help promote his career and his sponsors—responds to a reader's question about breaking into professional golf.

The installment was a case of premature blogging. Had he waited a few days, Scott would've had a more definitive answer. So here's how you really Launch a Pro Golf Career the Scott Stallings Way:

Step One: Gain entry into a PGA Tour event. That should've been fairly easy after Stallings finished 11th in last fall's Q school thanks to birdies on the final two holes. (The previous year he fell a shot short of getting his card.) But the standings from Q school are valid only for the first seven weeks of the season, after which the players who advanced from Q school and the Nationwide tour are reranked based on earnings to that point. It is known on Tour as the Reshuffle. Since Chief Executive Golfer Stallings went 0 for the West Coast, he dropped to the bottom of the list. Or, as Stallings blogged, "The back of the pack, to put it bluntly . . . way back."

Step Two: When Step One becomes problematic, befriend a nice-guy PGA Tour veteran. Stallings happens to have the same agent as Kenny Perry, who happens to have an endorsement deal with Transitions, the eyewear company that happens to sponsor the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook Resort's popular Copperhead course. Perry is a Kentucky country boy; Stallings, who turned 26 on March 25, is a Tennessee country boy by way of Knoxville and the son of a preacher man. The two hit it off after a practice round earlier this year, and Perry promised to "do whatever I can to help" Stallings get started. Bingo! Stallings happens to land a sponsor's exemption into the Transitions. "I'm grateful to know a guy like that," says Stallings, a Tennessee Tech alum. "Kenny has been around here longer than I've been alive."

Step Three: Make the most of the opportunity. All Stallings did during the third round of the Transitions was ace the par-3 8th hole, pour in five birdies on the back nine, shoot 66 and move into a tie for fourth going into Sunday's finale. It's a "perfect six-iron!" shouted Stallings's caddie, Josh Graham, as the ball was in the air. "Go in! Go in!" The top 10 finish earns him a spot in the next full-field PGA Tour event—next week's Shell Houston Open—and his third-place check for $374,000 brings him from "way back" to at least the front half of the bus for the next Reshuffle, which comes after the Masters.

Step Four: Market and promote yourself. Get your face on national TV. Laugh it up with NBC interviewer Jimmy Roberts after your breakthrough round. Wear a big, genuine, happy grin (accentuating your dimples) as you look into the monitor and watch Roberts replay your ace, which you didn't see because of the mid-afternoon Florida glare. Act like a wide-eyed kid taking his first plane ride and tell Roberts, as you watch your ball disappear, "That's pretty cool!" Later, mention how "unbelievable" it was to be interviewed by Roberts, let alone have your ace shown on NBC, but don't forget to cover all the bases. Ingratiate yourself with ESPN by telling a SiriusXM Radio interviewer, "I hope SportsCenter gives me some love." Begging is allowed.

Step Five: Be the aw-shucks rookie for the print media. Everyone loves a Cinderella story, especially one about a PGA Tour rookie who still appreciates the perks that come with competing in the big leagues. "When you're playing a mini-tour or Nationwide event, you're trying to find something to do when you get there," Stallings says. "When you get to a place like this, you are the event. Everywhere you go, people know you're playing in the tournament. I went to get a haircut at Gents' Barber. It was a bunch of 65- and 75-year-old guys who knew all about the Copperhead course. I went there for a 10-minute haircut and spent 45 minutes talking golf. I wondered how they knew I was in the tournament—then I remembered there were Transitions signs all over my courtesy car. That's never happened to me." Cost of haircut: $13. Value of fan interaction: priceless.

Step Six: Work hard and go wherever you must to compete. After pitching that shutout on the West Coast swing and having your status reduced, go to Bogotà, Colombia, to regroup and play a Nationwide event at which you played well a year earlier. Rediscover your mojo and have a putt to get within a stroke of the lead when heavy rain halts play and washes out the rest of the tournament, shortening it to 36 holes. Finish 19th, pocket $6,180 and depart Bogota with a little swagger and the promising news that—yessss!—you're in the Transitions field.

Step Seven: Blog your brains out. Doing so promotes the brand—you!—and creates a connection with your readers. It also defines you. Like the blog you wrote about turning down an endorsement from a picklemaker or the one in which some individuals who were helping sponsor you reneged on a verbal agreement and you learned the hard way to always get those things in writing.

On being reshuffled: "It's a huge reality check. And a little brutal to see. Our names are stacked top to bottom. It's like an extreme performance review that's posted on the Web for everyone to see—with my earnings right next to it ($0, in case you were wondering). I just keep telling myself: All it takes is one good week to move up. Being patient is one of the hardest parts of this job."

On playing a Saturday morning pro-am on the adjacent Torrey Pines North course after missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open: "Not a soul was watching. But when I looked to my left, I saw the biggest group of fans I've ever seen, all with their backs turned toward me. Tiger Woods was teeing off on the South course. I don't think I've ever felt like such an outsider in my life. It was a brutal day and probably the best shot in the arm I could have received. I was angry at myself for not making the cut, so the rest of the day I played golf like my life depended on it. No one was watching but I made 12 birdies and my team won."

Step Eight: Assemble a good business team. Start with a fantastic, understanding wife named Jen, whom you meet in kindergarten and marry right after college. (She went to Tennessee, the only time you attended different schools.) Let her serve as your manager and handle all the travel logistics. Don't forget to credit her on your blog: "She has made a huge sacrifice for me.... One day each week, I don't play any golf so I put away my iPhone and she gets to decide what we do. The deal is, I'll go along with anything. Today—Valentine's Day—I've just been informed that this means we'll be spending the afternoon at Ikea, followed by a low-key dinner that must include an awesome dessert. Done.... It is a truly crazy life that we live but we have been blessed to be able to do it together."

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PHOTOPhotograph by DAVID WALBERGTHIRD WORLD Stallings got within a shot of the lead on Sunday before being waylaid by a double bogey at the 16th hole.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)