He is at a golf course every morning at 6 a.m. He wants to be the first person off, and he doesn’t have time to wait behind a foursome of a bunch of hackers. He has too much at stake. He has a swing out of Golf Digest and the mind of a champion. He also has a dream: 23-year-old Justin Bryant wants to be a member of the PGA Tour.
That’s why when he’s done playing his 18 holes, he goes to the range for about 90 minutes and hits some more balls. Then it’s on to the practice green. The short game work will keep him there ’til about 5 p.m. He eats dinner, goes to bed and then starts over the next day.
Bryant knows how to win. He has won back-to-back Metropolitan Match Play Championships and has already played in two U.S. Amateurs. He was an All-Metro golfer at MICDS and later became a starter at Wake Forest. This summer, he turned professional and went to the Nationwide qualifier in Wichita, Kan. He is anxious to take home his first paycheck as a professional golfer.
Then in the fall, Bryant will compete in one of the toughest competitions in sports: Tour Qualifying School. It’s where you have to go if you want to play on the tour.
The odds are not great. A few thousand compete for 25 spots. And all of them have thick golf resumes and beautiful swings.
I caught up with Justin after one of his long days on the course:
BEST PLAYER YOU HAVE EVER COMPETED AGAINST? My Wake Forest teammate and U.S. Open champ, Webb Simpson. One time, we were on the second hole of the course at school. He hits a 9-iron 160 yards about 10 feet from the stick. He says, I bet I can hit my driver even closer. He then slices the heck out of his driver and he puts it 7 feet from the stick. He is amazing.
BEST SCORE ON A PAR 72? I shot 65 at Bellerive last summer.
HOLES-IN-ONE? One last year at Persimmon Woods—220 yards, a 4-iron.
WHAT’S IN YOUR BAG? My irons are Nike Victory Combo and my driver is a Titleist 905. I hit Titleist Pro v1x balls.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? I want to be a consistent player on the tour. I want to be a Steve Stricker-type—always playing well, always in contention. I want to play in every Major.
WHO IS YOUR BIGGEST FAN? My mom.
1. Do I sound like an ugly American if I wish more college scholarships at state schools actually went to American-born kids? State universities get taxpayer money, too. Just a thought.
2. I had a triple cheeseburger at Carl’s the other day and I am not sure if there is anything better in life. The pork steak at Rib City also is worth a try. And I gotta tell you, that salad at The Woman’s Exchange is serious business. I wasn’t there—they brought it home for me.
3. I am convinced after watching the NBA finals that you can call a foul on every play. Every play. The game is much too physical. It’s not football. Bring back the skill.
4. St. Louis used to be known as the soccer capital of the country. It has turned into a baseball and hockey hotbed. It’s because former Cardinals and former Blues players have kids, and they want to make sure they are being coached well. The Junior Blues and the Gamers are just a few of the organizations doing it the right way.
5. I have no real knowledge of the law. However, I know the two former Rams employees who have filed age-discrimination lawsuits against the team. I like their chances of winning. And I’m not sure if the team will have enough money to pay for stadium improvements afterward. Stan Kroenke may have to sell a mutual fund.
Frank Cusumano is a 14-time Emmy Award winner on KSDK-TV,
and he also can be heard on 590 KFNS Radio.