Albany native and golf pro Josh Broadaway is just three weeks away from accomplishing a lifelong dream: earning his PGA Tour card. (File photo)
MIAMI -- In between practice rounds Wednesday at the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club, Albany cross-handed golf pro Josh Broadaway could be found grabbing a bite to eat, relaxing in his room and even taking a moment to sit back and enjoy the picturesque South Florida scenery.
One thing Broadaway wasn't doing?
Want To Watch?
WHO: Albany native Josh Broadaway looking for another strong finish, or win, to keep pace in the race to finish in the Top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list and earn his PGA Tour card.
WHAT: Miccosukee Championship, first round.
WHEN: 5 p.m. today.
TV: The Golf Channel (tape delay).
"Looking at where I stand on the money list," Broadaway told The Herald in a telephone interview before his first round of the Miccosukee Championship -- the third-to-last Nationwide Tour event of the season which has the potential to be the start of a life-changing next three weeks for the Albany native. "I've done a little too much of watching that list in recent weeks, and just like that I dropped from 15th, four or five weeks ago, to No. 23 now. I need to stop worrying about what other guys are doing. I need to just go out, play golf and worry about myself."
Worrying about himself, his golf career, his future and everything else in between is all Broadaway has done during the last couple of months since his rapid ascension -- from nowhere to be found -- to straight to the top of the Nationwide money list, where the Top 25 players at the end of the year automatically earn their PGA Tour card and exemption into the Big Show in 2012. It's a quest the Byne Christian grad has been on since he joined pro golf's lowest-tiered Hooters Tour in 2000, only it's taken him more than a decade to get this close.
And now that he's on the cusp, he'll be darned if he's going to let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity slip away.
"Right now, I'm just trying not to put too much pressure on myself, but I know the pressure's there," said Broadaway, who will tee off on his first round at 9 a.m. today in Miami, where he's enjoyed more success than on any course during his career on tour, twice finishing third. "Once I had that run where I went from (outside the Top 100 in to the Top 15 in a matter of weeks this season), I think I started going out and trying to not play bad, rather than going out and trying to win the event -- which is what I was doing when I had so much success earlier this year.
"But I had a little chat with myself a couple of days ago and told myself, 'Look ... no one's going to give you this thing -- you have to earn it.' Then I went home, saw my family, recharged my battery and now I'm ready to go. I'm looking forward to a big week. And no matter what, I won't be looking at the money list."
Broadaway, who has earned $162,760 this season, is currently right on the proverbial bubble of the Top 25, separated by just $30,000 or so from several golfers who are one Top 10 finish -- or a win -- away from taking his spot and leaving him on the outside looking in. He has maintained throughout this career-defining year that if he could just get to $200,000 in season earnings, he'd be a lock to finally graduate to his lifelong goal of reaching the PGA Tour. But to do that, he'll need to make every cut -- earning money of some kind -- in the final three tournaments, starting this week in Miami, then followed by the second-to-last event of the season next week at the Winn Dixie Open in Ponte Vedra, Fla. and culminating with the prestigious season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship Oct. 27-30 in Charleston, S.C.
So what's the magic number now?
"Like I said, I haven't looked at it real closely in a few days because I've been consciously trying not to worry about what I need to earn, opposed to what I need someone else (behind me on the list) not to earn, and all the different ways of figuring what could or couldn't happen," he said. "But I know that if I can make it to $180,000 over the next three tournaments, I should be in. And if I get a Top 10 finish anywhere along the way, it should be guaranteed. I have a lot of confidence on this course, and I feel good about my week ahead."
Good? In reality, Broadaway should feel great about his chances this week.
After all, considering the type of performances he's put together at Miccosukee in the past five years -- making four straight cuts, while earning nearly $100,000 during that time -- this tournament could not only be the clincher that gets him to the next level, it could just as easily turn out to be the very first tour win of his career.
"I love the course -- it's Bermuda grass, the fact that it's a ball striker's course and less about putting -- it sets up good for me every time I play it," Broadaway said. "More than anything, it's a course that takes me back to my Albany days, playing at Radium Springs. One of my strengths is ball striking, and you have to be able to drive it well to win here. Some guys don't like playing on it, but it's a perfect course for my game."
But whether it has a perfect ending remains to be seen.
Broadaway made the cut in Miami last year, but had a rough final round of 80 that left him in a tie for 61st, and he admittedly hasn't played his best golf in recent weeks. After putting together a string of five Top 15 finishes in six tournaments played between July 17 to Aug. 28 this year -- soaring up the Tour's money list to well inside the Top 25 -- Broadaway has struggled as of late, seeing a steady decline in his results.
He finished tied for 22nd in the Maylan Classic on Sept. 4, then tied for 33rd a week later at the Albertsons Boise Open on Sept. 18, followed by a tie for 49th at the Soboba Golf Classic on Sept. 25 and then eventually missing his first cut in six tournaments Oct. 2 at the WNB Golf Classic.
Then last week at the Children's Hospital Open in Chattanooga, Tenn., Broadaway looked to be turning his game around, shooting 7-under his first two rounds to climb to the top of the leaderboard. But then he closed with a 79-76 in the final two rounds to end 4-over and tied for 76th.
"It was frustrating, for sure. I made some dumb swings, had a bad final round and I think I was a little tired with it being so close to the end of the season," he said Wednesday. "I think more than anything, I was already looking ahead to this week (and its implications) and I lost sight of the task at hand. And because of last week, I had four guys pass me.
"It was a wake-up call, for sure."
Broadaway has had one of those before.
In 2008, he came close to earning his PGA Tour card when he finished 36th on the Nationwide Tour money list. Then a year later -- after ending the year a disappointing 72nd -- he dominated Q-School (a series of qualifying tournaments for those who didn't earn an automatic exemption) and was one solid round of golf away from earning one of just a handful of spots. That's when he blew up during the final round, fired a 78 and missed it by a mere two places.
And that experience is exactly why Broadaway has forced himself to stop looking ahead anymore than one tournament, one hole and one shot at a time heading into the final stretch of the season.
"I saw what could happen if you get ahead of yourself. I'd be lying if I said going into that final round (in 2009) I didn't think I was already in -- already thinking about what it was going to be like playing on the PGA Tour the next season," he said. "I'll never forget how I felt walking off that 18th tee knowing I missed my chance, so that's why I'm trying not to look ahead now. Because I hope when I'm walking off the 18th tee in Charleston (in three weeks at the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship) it will be a different feeling -- a special feeling like, 'OK, you did it. You finally made it. Now you can celebrate.' "
What makes what Broadaway is doing this season -- and the spot he finds himself in heading into these all-important final three events -- even more amazing is that this is the fewest number of tournaments (16) he's ever played since joining the Tour. And although this season started out with him not even being a full-time member for the first time since 2006 -- he lost that status after finishing 98th on the money list last season and actually had to get a sponsor's exemption into his first tournament of the year at the South Georgia Classic in Valdosta after the season was already three months old -- what he's accomplished since then has been nothing short of remarkable.
Sure, he missed the cut at Kinderlou Forest in Valdosta in his first event of the year -- then missed the cut the next week at the BMW Charity Pro-Am, followed by three sub-par finishes in his next three tournaments (tied for 51st, tied for 61st and tied for 50th) -- but when the Chiquita Classic rolled around July 17, Broadaway became the hottest golfer on tour, going from the outhouse to the penthouse almost overnight.
After taking home less than $6,000 in his five previous events, Broadaway finished tied for fifth at the Chiquita Classic and earned $20,075.
The next week he tied for fourth at the Children's Hospital Invitational -- earning $70,400, and marking the biggest payday of his career.
Broadaway then earned nearly $55,000 in three of his next four events after three more Top 15 finishes, vaulting him all the way up the money list to 13th overall -- the highest he'd been his entire career.
And his peers, especially close friend and 2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson, were beginning to take notice.
"Zach was texting me every week, telling me to keep it going and to stay positive and that I was on my way," Broadaway said. "It was nice to have that kind of encouragement from him and all my friends on the (PGA Tour) who were excited to see me doing well."
And if all goes according to plan, soon he hopes to join them.