Simon says: golf

After missing out on qualifying for the Western Open by one stroke two weeks ago, former Minnesota men’s golfer Simon Nash made his professional debut at the Greater Milwaukee Open over the weekend.

Brett Angel

His professional career is barely a month old, but already former Minnesota men’s golfer Simon Nash has gotten a taste of life on the PGA Tour.

And it’s been bitter.

After carding a one-under-par 69 in his PGA Tour debut Thursday at the Greater Milwaukee Open, Nash struggled to a 74 Friday and missed the 36-hole cut by one stroke.

“It’s a bit disappointing the way I finished, but that’s golf,” Nash said. “It’s unfortunate because I felt like I did a lot of things really well.”

Two weeks ago, Nash narrowly missed earning a spot in the Western Open – a PGA Tour event outside Chicago. He shot 70 in the Monday qualifier and finished sixth. The top four players earned spots in the field.

Nash’s finish over the weekend at the Greater Milwaukee Open was equally tough to take.

He spent the majority of his two rounds at the Brown Deer Park Golf Course in red figures before making a double-bogey seven at the par-5 sixth hole Friday.

Nash made par on every other hole on the front nine, but managed just one birdie against three bogeys in his final nine holes.

He three-putted the 17th after hitting the green in regulation, then slapped the head of his putter in disgust after missing a 12-footer for birdie on the par-5 18th.

Making either putt would have secured Nash a spot in the weekend field and guaranteed him a check for at least $7,000.

“It was just one of those days where things didn’t go my way,” Nash said. “I hit a lot of good putts, but they just weren’t going in.”

Missing the cut was especially disappointing for Nash after such a solid debut in Thursday’s opening round.

As if he was not anxious enough to play his first round on the PGA Tour, Nash was forced to wait most of the day. He was the last golfer to tee off in Thursday’s final group.

After a wayward drive off the first tee, Nash overcame his nerves to par his first five holes.

With Minnesota’s assistant men’s golf coach Andrew Tank as his caddy and a new putter in the bag, Nash ended the day with four birdies and a one-under-par 69 – tied for lowest in his group.

Tiger Woods shot a 67 on the same course in his PGA Tour debut at the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1996.

“I’m really happy with my round (Thursday),” Nash said. “I was nervous for the majority of the round but that’s part of the fun of it.

“Having Andrew here was a big bonus. He helped me do the things that I do well and not get caught up too much in trying to do things that other people do.”

A native of Brisbane, Australia, Nash was paired with fellow Aussie Steve Allan and New Zealander Steven Alker in both rounds.

“He played pretty well generally,” said Allan, who was five-under par through 36 holes and went on to finish in a tie for second.

“He missed a few putts and made a couple bogeys on the back nine (Friday) that hurt him but it looks like he’s got a pretty good game.”

Nash’s agent, Brad Buffoni of SFX Golf, is friends with Greater Milwaukee Open tournament director Dan Croak and helped get Nash one of four unregulated sponsor exemptions to play in this year’s event.

“I think he was very solid, very poised,” Buffoni said. “If you look on the leaderboard there are a lot of good players he beat this week.”

That list includes two of Buffoni’s better-known clients: PGA Tour veterans Tom Lehman (146) and Tim Herron (146) – both Minnesota natives – as well as defending Greater Milwaukee Open champion Jeff Sluman (148).

“I enjoyed it a lot,” Nash said. “But I came here to play my best and contend so I’m pretty disappointed with myself (for missing the cut).”

Nash is planning to play in three professional state events in Iowa in the coming weeks and hopes to earn some prize money while working on his game.

Buffoni said he has sent out letters requesting sponsor exemptions for Nash to every PGA and Nationwide tour event still to be played this year.

It’s unlikely many of those exemptions will be granted to an unproven player like Nash, however, which means he is likely to end up playing in Monday qualifiers until tour qualifying school begins in October.

Brett Angel welcomes comments at [email protected]