By Craig Pearson
TERRE HAUTE — This may be the year.
Don’t stop reading. This is not one of those sappy Chicago Cubs columns.
The wonderful year of the Bears-Colts Super Bowl and the first-place Chicago Cubs, 2007 may also be the year for Cloverdale’s Chad Collins to earn his PGA Tour card.
Collins, who did visit Wrigley Field for a Cubs game in June, is on track to have an amazing turnaround to his season.
This year, a record 25 golfers will graduate from the Nationwide Tour into the PGA, and Collins, who began playing full-time on the Nationwide Tour in 2005, plans to take full advantage of the opportunity.
Collins, reached Wednesday relaxing at his home in Cloverdale, said he’s hoping to climb into the top 10 and secure exemptions for as many PGA Tour tournaments as possible early in 2008.
“After the [Nationwide] Tour Championship [at Barona Creek], I’d like to be in top 10 on money list,” Collins said.
But at the moment, he’s enjoying some rare time at home since beginning the grind of a 21-tournament schedule on Feb. 18.
“It’s nice to be home and relax,” said Collins, who has earned $187,167 so far this season and bought a used Ranger bass boat a few months ago. “I go fishing, maybe play golf a little bit. It’s more relaxed, a totally different kind of golf.”
Collins will hit the road again in a couple of days after the Nationwide was off this past weekend. Up next is the Utah EnergySolutions Championships at Sandy, Utah.
Collins’ season got off to a rather inauspicious start as he missed the cut in 11 of his first 13 tournaments. But the first two tournaments at Australia and New Zealand are long forgotten.
After missing the cut for the ninth time, Collins made some changes. When he arrived for the Peek’n Peak Classic he gave up his TaylorMade Burner driver for a TaylorMade Superquad.
He switched putters from an Odyssey Whitehawk two-ball putter to a prototype Scotty Cameron style putter.
“I putted with it on the practice green and decided to put it in the bag,” Collins said. “That kind of turned everything around. My tee ball was hurting a little, but I wasn’t making any putts. I wasn’t scoring all that well. The switch of putters was the main thing that turned things around confidence wise.”
Collins tied for 15th at the Peek’n Peak to begin a stretch of six tournaments in which he wouldn’t finish worse than 17th. Not too shabby, but he wrote in his online journal on April 27 that he just had to stay positive.
“This year has been a grind indeed! I’m literally having the roughest start to a year ever in my professional golfing career. I’ve played in six events so far, made two cuts and only $8,000-some odd dollars. It has been a mental grind for sure.”
But now Collins, a three-time Division III NCAA champion at Methodist, ranks 13th on the money list with just eight of the 32 tournaments left on the slate.
In the past two tournaments, Collins has missed the cut and then tied for 66th last weekend in the Pete Dye Classic, but he’s still tied for 37th on the tour in scoring average at 70.86, including a Nationwide career-best round of 62.
“Other than that hot streak, I didn’t feel like I played all that well,” he said.
Collins is ready to get back to the course at Utah, which is followed by a tournament near Eugene, Ore., and then the Boise Open.
“After Boise, there’s a week off, and I’m meeting up with a buddy to go salmon fishing. The fishing’s really good on the Columbia River that time of year,” Collins said.
With some salmon to help recharge his batteries, Collins expects a strong finish to the season, with five tournaments remaining after his final fishing trip of the season.
“The higher I finish the more PGA Tour events I’m qualified for,” Collins said. “I feel like I’m going to finish in the top 25. I’d really like to win a tournament.”
Read more about Collins’ season at http://thegrind2007.com/journals/player4/.
Craig Pearson can be reached at (812) 231-4357 or firstname.lastname@example.org