Taking a shotBy Sean Landry | 07/29/2014 11:15pm
Former Alabama golfer Bobby Wyatt is currently competing for PGA Tour membership. (CW File)
The golf course at The Country Club of Mobile, designed in 1928 by perhaps the most prolific golf architect of them all – Donald Ross, of Pinehurst No. 2 fame – has seen its share of world-class golf in its 86-year history, according to the Club’s website. The course, enduring multiple category four and five hurricanes and eight decades in the rainiest city in the continental United States, hosts dozens of tournaments annually, and many notable golfers have played those greens.
For former Alabama golfer Bobby Wyatt, the oldest course in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama, holds a special significance. It’s under the pines of this course where the two-time national champion, three-time SEC champion and reigning individual SEC champion got his start in the sport.
Members of the golf establishment might point to the first round of the 2010 Alabama Boys State Junior Championship, when Wyatt carded a 57 on the par 71 course while recording 12 birdies, as the moment things began. For Wyatt, however, his history on that course began much earlier: as a child riding in his father’s golf cart.
“Golf was always a family affair for my family,” Wyatt said. “My dad is a big golfer. He loved it, his favorite thing to do. I’d just load up in the cart with him when I was a little kid, and he’d take me out there and I’d watch him play. As soon as I was old enough to swing a golf club, he had one in my hand. I fell in love with it then, and it was always something I enjoyed doing because my dad and my older brother Ford really enjoyed playing as well so we got to spend some quality time when I was growing up.”
Wyatt said he knew by a young age that he wanted to pursue professional golf.
“I really decided by eighth or ninth grade that golf was something I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to chase it competitively and at least play at the college level and see where it took me.”
That determination, along with familial ties, led Wyatt to The University of Alabama, where he would go on to establish himself as one of the top collegiate golfers in the nation.
“I have Alabama bloodlines,” Wyatt said. “Both of my parents attended Alabama, and my older brother went there before me, so it was certainly a place I grew up going to every now and then in the fall for football games. I always loved Alabama and was a big Alabama football fan. Taking my visits, I really had it down to Alabama and Georgia. I knew I wanted to stay in the Southeast. I just loved Tuscaloosa – everything about it.”
Wyatt came to Alabama surrounded by high expectations. He had won four state championships at UMS-Wright Preparatory School in Mobile and came to campus as a highly touted recruit. Wyatt, however, said nobody’s expectations were higher than his own.
“It never really bothered me because I always demanded a lot of myself,” Wyatt said. “I expected to play well and knew I worked hard enough to play well. The expectations I had for myself were higher than anybody. I don’t think outside expectation ever phased me. I had wonderful people around me in [UA golf coach Jay] Seawell and whoever my assistant coach was throughout my career. I had awesome teammates, we had each others’ back no matter what. We worked hard every day together, so we knew whenever tournament time came around we were more prepared than anyone.”
Wyatt said Seawell’s help throughout his college career helped him deal with the pressure of collegiate golf and making the jump to the PGA Tour.
“You really can’t put a value on what coach Seawell does for his players,” Wyatt said. “That’s why he’s had so much success, people are drawn to him and realize he’s a great guy to play for. He always has his players number one in his priorities in his mind. He wants what’s best for us no matter the situation.”
Wyatt said one of the most important aspects the program helped him develop was consistency in his game. The ability to hit the same shots day-in and day-out is vital to performance on the professional level.
“You have to learn how to scrape out good scores,” Wyatt said. “If you can continue to scrape out good rounds when you’re not playing your best, eventually it’s going to come around, and you’re going to be playing some good golf. Coach Seawell does a great job of that – more than anything, just helping us mature and stay patient.”
Wyatt’s journey to the professional ranks has been unusual for recent college graduates. Most players will join the Web.com Tour, the PGA’s developmental tour that allows its top-25 finishers to earn PGA Tour cards. Wyatt, however, has gone straight to the PGA Tour, playing under sponsor’s exemptions, which allow sponsors of tournaments to select golfers to play in PGA events despite not earning a PGA Tour card.
“It’s kind of a toss-up I feel like,” Wyatt said. “I felt like I had some good opportunities to have some starts on Tour. I felt like my game was more suited for tougher course. Sometimes the Web.com can be a lot of birdies to compete. I felt like that was my better chance to play on the PGA Tour.”
Wyatt played his first PGA Tour event at the Traveler’s Championship in Connecticut last month, where he missed the cut by one stroke. Despite the early finish, Wyatt said the chance to play on the Tour was a long awaited experience.
“It was awesome,” Wyatt said. “It’s cliché, but it really was a dream come true. I’ve wanted to play on the PGA Tour forever – since I was in middle school. To have that dream come true was really neat for me. Certainly, I was a little nervous, as expected. It was a really cool moment.”
Wyatt will need to win a Tour event or string together enough high finishes to end the season in the top 125 of the FedExCup rankings to earn his Tour card. Wyatt made his first cut in his third tournament, the John Deere Classic. Without an official Tour card, however, Wyatt has no way to know which tournament’s he’ll be able to play in for the rest of the summer. Next, he’ll play in Reno, Nevada, at the Barracuda Championships this weekend.
“Time’s definitely running away from me,” Wyatt said. “But one good week can change your life out here. That’s what’s really exciting about it.”