Peter Koutroumpis – firstname.lastname@example.org
RALEIGH, N.C. – Talking to Jason Gore a year ago, you weren’t sure whether he would return and compete at the 2014 Rex Hospital Open or any other professional golf tournament for that matter.
Yet, there he was on Wednesday, coming out of the clubhouse ready to go and fine tune his putting in preparation for the Web.com Tour event that begins play at TPC at Wakefield Plantation on Thursday.
“Yeah, I was thinkin’ about hangin’ it up,” Gore said.
“I applied for the Pepperdine coaching job and now that I look back on it, thank god I didn’t get it. I actually like the game again. I’m finding out that there are certain parts of this game that I remember that I love and I’m trying to focus on them and I think that was a good thing to stick with.”
For a golfer who caught a big wave back in 2005 when he played Pinehurst No. 2 and contended for that year’s U.S. Open title and fell short, but then won three Web.com Tour events as well as his first and only PGA Tour event all in the span of three months, he was all of a sudden treading water eight years later.
During last year’s tournament, the recognizable golfer whose appealing smile complements a somatotype that goes along with that of a football player or wrestler, had just walked off the green after finishing second-round play, carding a 3-under par 68 to add to his first round score of 65 that put him into the lead at the time.
It was a decent result that would have made most players excited about heading into the weekend in contention to win a title.
Gore, however didn’t seem that impressed at the time.
He was still trying to work himself back into not only playing the game, but trying to love playing it, and he wasn’t there yet.
That’s why he applied for the coaching job at his alma mater.
He was looking for an out, but he didn’t get it and instead refocused and started to retool his swing and his mind during the 2013 season.
“I’ve been workin’ with a new guy,” he said back then.
“It’s a heck of a lot better than last year (2012). Last year I wanted no part of playing golf. I even applied for the Pepperdine coaching job. It was just miserable. It wasn’t worth me missing my kids’ sports. I got turned down for the job. I wasn’t angry, but I was like, ‘alright people, somebody’s telling I need to go play golf’. I just put a lot of focus back into playin’ and I’m excited to come to the golf course playin’ every day – good, bad or ugly.”
Gore eventually finished T30 in last year’s Rex Open, finishing at 7-under par overall (277).
He ended last season 58th on the money list, making the cut in 15 of the 21 Web.com Tour events he played in and finished with 1 top-10 finish among six total top-25 results.
On the PGA Tour, he missed the cut in three of the four events he played in and withdrew from the other.
A year later, his patented grin meets everyone he talks to along with a gleam in his eyes that shows he’s happier and things are much better.
He currently sits 12th on the Web.com money list with two top-10 finishes in four events played while ranking fifth in scoring average (69.13).
In the six PGA Tour events he’s played this season, his best finish in the four cuts he’s made was T4 at the Puerto Rico Open back in March.
“I’m understanding a lot more about what makes it work, what makes me work,” Gore said of his swing and his game.
“I’m trying to learn some consistencies and trying to make my bad rounds less bad. When I get on the golf course and I hit a bad shot, I don’t have to panic, not knowing what happened. If I hook it off the first tee, I can go that’s x, x, and y and go to the second tee and not have to worry about hooking it again. Just know why it happened.”
When talking about his return to Pinehurst on Monday where his career took off and remembering what stood out most about that experience, he recalls how the crowd reacted and accepted him for who he was, even after putting himself out of contention.
“It still kind of chokes me up thinking about it – how they were,” he said.
“How everybody was. It’s like, maybe I’m them. Maybe I’m just the average, everyday guy that’s gotta’ win the uphill battle at something I probably shouldn’t be doing. They were amazing then and they’re still great to me now.”
With the name recognition that he has, it’s no surprise that Gore gets larger galleries following him because of the potential he possesses to do great things on the golf course, like he did at Pinehurst and other courses in the years following.
Even while falling upon challenging times over the past few seasons, there’s no doubt that those who follow him at the Rex Hospital Open this week will see a more even-keeled competitor than the one they’ve seen before.
Of course they’ll also see that smile too because he’s truly enjoying the game again.
He understands who he is, what the game is about, and where he stands within it.
“It’s a lot less stressful,” Gore said.
“The pressure’s only on what you put on yourself. In the grand scheme of things, I’m probably goin’ to wake up tomorrow. It’s just a game.”