The past week has provided us with a couple of glaring examples of why it’s fun to look beyond golf’s premier events such as the upcoming U.S. Open and take a wild roller-coaster ride with developing players who may one day be regulars at those marquee tournaments.
Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., will be at Erin Hills after he went so low with a 61 in the first round of sectional qualifying last Monday, then followed up with a 67 at Springfield Country Club in Ohio, where he topped the field by three shots to earn his ticket into the U.S. Open.
His first place finish at sectionals was not a surprise, considering Conners was a runner-up at the U.S. Amateur three years ago and has been in or near the top 25 on the Web.com Tour’s money list who will graduate to the PGA Tour at the end of the season.
Nor is it surprising that Conners would miss the cut at the Web.com Tour’s Rust-Oleum Championship in Ivanhoe, Ill., on the weekend, where his scores were decidedly different as he went 70-75.
The only thing that’s predictable about a developing player is unpredictability.
The physical skills are unquestionable, but dealing with the weekly grind of life as a pro and experience helps develop the required mindset to take that next step to the PGA or LPGA Tours, or an event such as the U.S. Open, where Conners joins Adam Hadwin as the only Canadians in the field.
Hadwin has often spoken about the adjustments he needed to make in his approach to the game after he captured the nation’s attention with his tie for fourth at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, yet struggled for an extended time on the Web.com Tour.
Everyone knows that wasn’t a life sentence, with Hadwin shooting a 59 at the CareerBuilder Challenge earlier this year, then winning his first PGA Tour event at the Valspar Championship. Not only is he off to the U.S. Open, but the British Open a few weeks later.
The ups and downs of a developing player are currently being illustrated at Whistle Bear Golf Club in Cambridge, Ont., where Brittany Marchand of nearby Orangeville arrived earlier this week in 37th spot on the money list for the Symetra Tour, the LPGA Tour’s feeder circuit.
The unheralded Marchand is certainly drawing attention to herself at the Manulife LPGA Classic.
She’s doing much more than that after shooting a five-under 67 on Saturday, her second such number of the tournament, wrapped around her second round 70 on Friday.
At 12 under, she is tied for ninth, five shots off the lead at a tournament where many might have said she’d be doing well just to make the cut and to be in top 10 after three rounds would be out of the question.
Nor is it out of the question that Conners shows well at the U.S. Open. In both cases, he fact that it isn’t out of the question is why both Marchand and Conners been recognized for their potential.
If it doesn’t work out that way on Sunday for Marchand or at Erin Hills for Conners, they can draw confidence from their performances over the past week, while hopefully realizing at the same time that sudden bumps in the road are common for even the best players in the world.
Learning to iron out those highs and lows in their minds is the key going forward. It’s what makes observing developing players so interesting as they turn into the players they were expected to become.