Have you ever set your sights on a big goal only to … miss it?
When we’re young, we aim high. Writing that hit novel, winning the Stanley Cup, flying to the moon or singing on Broadway – those are the big dreams of ambitious youth. But what happens when those dreams don’t come true? Is that the end of it? Time to aim lower?
North Vancouver’s Taylor Durham had those dreams. Durham’s golf career started young on the North Shore’s pitch and putt courses before he began tagging along with his parents to Gleneagles Golf Course at age 10.
“I just got addicted,” he said. When he was a high school student he joined Marine Drive Golf Club’s junior program and played on the Sutherland Secondary team. He wanted to get a scholarship, play golf for a major NCAA program, shoot low scores, win big championships, earn his tour card, make it to the top.
“The PGA tour was every kid’s dream,” he said. “You’re making putts on the putting green, pretending to win a tournament.”
But then … it didn’t happen.
He could shoot “reasonable scores,” he said, but he didn’t have tournament wins on his resume, no headlines to grab a recruiter’s attention. Those big schools – they never came calling. The small schools didn’t come either.
Durham got a job, and it wasn’t as a PGA player.
“I’m a full-time commercial real estate broker,” he said.
But he kept playing, kept working on his game. Real estate broker is a career that allows for some time on the course – “you get to golf with clients,” he said – but it’s not the life of a pro. He played as much as he could, and he got better. There was no secret sauce, no miracle change – he just kept working, kept improving.
He won the club championship at Marine Drive twice in a row, earned an invite to the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. It wasn’t the PGA, but it was high-level golf.
And then on May 12 of this year, Durham teed it up in a regional qualifier tournament at Ledgeview Golf Club in Abbotsford. It was a rare opportunity – 124 players shooting one round of golf, the winner earning a spot in the RBC Canadian Open.
It didn’t start particularly well for Durham.
“I wasn’t making a bunch of birdies or hitting amazing shots,” he said. “I missed a couple of close putts, which I thought at the time may have put me out of position to win the tournament.”
Then he got to hole No. 9, a reachable par five, and he birdied it. And he birdied the next one. And the next one.
To say that he was “in the zone” would be underselling it. He birdied five in a row, then a par, and another birdie – that’s six out of seven. He was unconscious.
“When you do something like that, you blackout a bit on the course,” he said.
Just before 1 p.m. he finished his round with a score of five-under-par 65. He was assuming someone would shoot lower, but as the hours ticked by, no one did. The last score came in at around 7 p.m., and it wasn’t enough to beat Durham. He won. At age 29, he’d earned his first ticket to the PGA. On Thursday, June 8, he’ll tee off in the opening round of the Canadian Open, a venerable tour stop that was first contested in 1904.
“I’m kind of speechless,” Durham said about qualifying for a PGA event at this point in his golf career. “To actually be in one doesn’t feel real.”
Those big dreams? They’re worth fighting for, said Durham.
“It may sound like a cliche, but you just never know when your opportunity is going to come up,” he said. “Practice is a big part of this. I spend a lot of time on the golf course with friends, late nights practising. It’s not an easy thing to do, but I think my story kind of proves that it’s out there for anyone.”
Andy Prest is the acting editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly.