GOLF has always been a game of ups and downs, wildly fluctuating fortunes, moments of giddiness, and calamities of teeth-grinding, even though this author has a reasonably high degree of enthusiastic incompetence. During our damn practice swings, some of us probably go through all of these feelings, to be frank.
There is no magic recipe, no easy, universal formula for fulfillment in this highly fickle career, and certainly no fast road to success.
“It sounds boring and there’s nothing exciting or flashy about it, but it’s just hard work and disciplined training,” said Martin Laird, seeking to explain why he has achieved the lofty heights that countless others can’t get close to scaling.
The Glasgow exile is a golfer reborn after bridging a seven-year title gap on the PGA Tour with his fourth win on the world’s most lucrative and competitive circuit in Las Vegas recently. The winning feeling never loses its luster. “Of all my wins, this one feels the best,”Of all my wins, this one feels the best.
“After a seven-year drought, there were many moments when I thought ‘will I ever win again?’ I wasn’t getting any younger, my game wasn’t great for a few years and the standard on tour is getting better. The feeling of winning certainly gets more satisfying with age. Hopefully there are better years ahead. This is certainly not a farewell win. It’s like a fresh start.”
But let’s go back to where this unique American dream originated. It’s been two decades since Laird left his native Scotland in 2000 as a teenager to begin a Colorado fellowship. Combined with the rigors of the U.S. college golf scene, the relaxed atmosphere helped shape a player of great substance, while his own work ethic and rugged stubbornness came to the fore.
“I was talking to my old college coach recently and he said, ‘You trained harder than anyone else and you fought harder than anyone else on the team,'” reflected Laird. “In golf, you’re going to have a lot of ups and downs. It’s a pretty easy sport to get down and discouraged and question what you’re doing. But I seem to have that tenacity to just keep at it and see where it goes.”
The PGA Tour was Laird’s ultimate target, but getting there took a degree of tenacity once reserved for old sailors, through mini-tours, qualifying schools and the second-tier Nationwide Tour.
Laird says of this climb up the pro ladder, “I had won my second tournament as a pro, the Denver State Open, and then made it to the Nationwide Tour,” “I thought naively, ‘oh well, I won a few mini-tour tournaments, so it shouldn’t be an issue for the Nationwide Tour.’ But I went out that first year and ended up in the money rankings somewhere around 160. That was a real wake-up call. You quickly realize you’re not as good as you think you are.
The hard work will definitely be done by Laird. By 2008, he had won a place on the PGA Tour. His unwavering, stubborn resolve reflected on the final hole of the last event of his rookie season.
With only the top 125 qualified to keep their tour card in the money rankings, Laird had to make par on the final hole to play his way to a secure 125th spot in the rankings. While the Scots nibbled with their fingers at the calloused stumps, he splashed out of the greenside bunker and holed a knee-high putt to maintain his eligibility to play.
“He said, “Who knows what my future would have been like if I had skipped that.” “It was so immense. For the next year, it gave me full status, and I ended up winning my first event in 2009.’
A revitalized Laird now hopes there will be a few more unforgettable moments to come.