Wheatcroft, the Journeyman

Wheatcroft Almost Breaks Through

It’s a horrible word. Whenever I hear it, something in me cramps up or cringes. It’s the thing nobody who is chasing success wants to be called – a journeyman. It’s so ironic that you can go through the grueling process, win your tour card, and still be called such a thing. For me, you get on tour at all, and you’ve done something remarkable.

steveEvery sport has a journeyman, including tennis, boxing, football and golf. The golfing journeyman is that person who became an excellent golfer, but not a great one. He or she is a body taking up one of the spots on the roster for an event. After all, the great golfers need someone to beat every week, don’t they? The journeyman, however, can surprise us. It may not be entirely a matter of talent, but the stories our brains tell ourselves in crisis situations.  So, when Steve Wheatcroft sized up a bunker shot for an up and one to force a playoff in Canada last week, what was going through his head? Was he telling himself a success story, an “oh no, here it comes” story, or a “time to fulfill (low) expectations story?”

I have no idea, but it isn’t fair to refer to someone as a loser, or a choker because they blade a bunker shot over the green into the water on the other side. Steve Wheatcroft has other stories that turned out a whole lot better. such as in the 2011 Melrose Prince George’s County Open – he won it by 12 strokes and pulling away, throwing in a spiffy eagle on the final hole, just as a flourish. Wheatcroft, born in Pennsylvania, is 38 years of age. A graduate of the University of Indiana. He has won twice on the minor tours, but began with a woeful tally of 12 missed cuts, and one top-ten finish. All right, so he’s not Tiger Woods. Neither is anyone else. Still, any player that got onto the tour has a shot at winning on that tour, and the term “journeyman” does him or her a disservice. People who get on to the tour didn’t sign up for serving as another player’s punching bag. They can all play golf.
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Once in a while, a so-called “journeyman” puts together a sensational round or two, and then on some other occasions, they put together a great four days. We should remember that some present greats had trouble with runner-up disease, and were in danger being called the gentle slur, even Phil Mickelson. As for a bunker shot over the green into the depths, such an experience is emblematic of at least one moment in every human being’s life. There isn’t a soul that hasn’t experienced an ultimate breakdown at a bad time in something, a sort of Van de Velde Syndrome.

The career-altering shot is a tribute to the game itself, something that golf shares with tennis and 3 point specialists in basketball. You have to prove your mettle over a long stretch of time, to concentrate for an entire day, four days in a row. Then, when you reach the last hole in contention, destiny dares you to keep it together, and many don’t. If it becomes a habit, we call such a player a choker, or a journeyman who wasn’t really supposed to win in the first place. Baloney! A journeyman has won a golf tournament on many occasions over the modern game’s history, and will again. Steve Wheatcroft has won before, without batting an eye – and he’ll be back.
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