30 Oct 2012
PGA Tour graduate Cameron Percy.
“It’s a fine line between pleasure and pain, if you’ve done it once you can do it again, whatever you do don’t try to explain, it’s a fine, fine line between pleasure and pain”.
The chorus from The Divinyls hit song from the mid-80’s perfectly summed up the situation for those on the bubble at the Web.Com Tour’s season finale in Texas this past week.
Cameron Percy, one of three Australians to graduate to the PGA Tour was one who had done it once so he knew he could do it again, “I had a plan this year and I was confident I would achieve it.” he said after finishing 13th on the money list.
But for close friend and fellow Victorian Alistair Presnell, the pain of being on the other side of that fine, fine line back in 2009 was very real. That year the big Aussie was 25th on the money list going into the season ender only to suffer the agony of having a Tour card snatched from his hands, when he finished 19th that week “it took the following two years to realise how much that hurt.” Presnell admitted.
Three years on, he now knows the joy of being a PGA Tour member after finishing inside the all-important Top 25 at the end of the Tour Championship.
“This means everything. As a kid growing up watching Norman, Elkington, Allenby and Appleby, the PGA Tour was the dream!” said the 32 year-old.
Scott Gardiner was the other Aussie graduate from TPC Craig Ranch. It took him eight years to punch his ticket to the big time and like Percy, he secured it weeks ago. “I’m excited to get there, it’ll be awesome.”
But in the process Gardiner suffered numerous near misses, most notably 2010 when he finished 26th. However, neither could sum up the nerve-wracking nature of the Tour Championship like Percy did.
“It’s a brutal week. You don’t sleep well, the food doesn’t taste any good and even though family and friends mean well, everything they say seems to annoy you.”
Entering the week 19th on the money list, Presnell appeared safe but was made to endure major nerves as a handful of players outside the top 25 moved into contention.
His anxiety lasted right up to the final few moments of the tournament.
“Everything goes through your mind, all the what if's. It’s an agonising experience but just part of the game.”
In the end Presnell claimed the 23rd of 25 PGA cards on offer. Instead of grinding it out for $600,000 a week, he’ll be playing for purses of $6 million and above. It’s like getting the golden ticket to Charlie’s Chocolate Factory.
“It’s a pretty awesome feeling, I didn’t get my VCE, I didn’t go to Uni, this is my graduation of sorts, my dream and I get to live it next year.”
But every season there’s a hard luck story and this year it was Camilo Benedetti. The Colombian was all set to celebrate his first trip to the PGA Tour only to have it cruelly taken from him by the final play of the year.
American James Hahn got up and down from a difficult position on the last hole to finish outright second which affected the prize money of players around the bubble so instead of getting the final card he came up $940 short. Jim Herman was the beneficiary of Benedetti’s misfortune.
“We are good friends with the Hermans,” Percy added. "My wife was consoling Jim’s wife who was in tears when they thought he’d just missed out and then it all turned to joy when Hahn got up and down.”
Meanwhile, Nick Flanagan, a good friend of Benedetti tweeted “so gutted for Camilo B. so hard to watch. Played an amazing weekend only to be beaten by $940. Brutal as any profession to see.”
Percy knows the fine line between pleasure and pain only too well.
He was robbed of his first victory on US soil earlier this year when Flanagan got a gift off the grandstands at the BMW Pro-Am. He also stood in stunned silence when Jonathan Byrd made a walk-off hole-in-one to beat him and Martin Laird in a play-off back in 2010 at Las Vegas so you can bet he will want to make the best of his second stint on the PGA Tour.
“I know I’m good enough to win and I’ll do it.” The 38 year-old said, adding “I get coached by Col Swatton now and when he watches me hit balls in practice, he says I’m around the top 10 players in the world and none of them hit it any better than you do’ I’ve just got to putt better.”
Regardless of how the three Aussies fare, “2013 is going to be a big year” Presnell exclaimed.
That’s not to say 2012 won’t go down as one to remember either as Presnell gets set to marry his fiancé Lee Wilkinson on Dec 27th.
“We are going to honeymoon for a few days in Hawaii before the first event begins January 10.”
Then it’s back to work but this time as a PGA Tour member.
Luke Elvy has spent time in the United States covering the PGA Tour. He will host the Australian PGA Championship coverage for ONE HD in December and writes exclusively for Golf Australia. His views do not necessarily represent those of Golf Australia. Follow him on Twitter - @elvisgolfA