Patrick Reed, our controversial cover star
REED ON Patrick was in good spirits for our interview and for our round together long ago.
Forgive me my one Patrick Reed story.
The year was 2010. I’d just finished a two-month road trip across the country where I blogged “60 Stories in 60 Days” for GolfDigest.com. The idea had been to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the magazine’s founding by visiting Americana like the biggest golf ball made of yarn and such. I played everywhere and by the end understood the term “over golfed” for the first time in my life. It’s a mental condition, though all the miles and fast food surely didn’t help.
As a sort of culmination for my return home, I’d signed up for a 36-hole U.S. Amateur Public Links qualifier. Nothing was more Americana than this championship, which was founded in 1922 on the simple rule of no silver-spoon country clubbers, and whose winners had included everyman heroes like Bill Wright, Brandt Snedeker and Colt Knost before the event was discontinued in 2014. But being back in the office felt suddenly so cozy, and like a coward, I called the USGA to withdraw.
Credit to Senior Editor of Equipment Mike Stachura, who overheard my voicemail, and across the barrier between our desks launched into a rousing speech that was a mix of insult and inspiration. Mike’s message: Go play, and don’t be a wimp.
PGA Tour player Sungjae Im recently told us about shooting 77 in his first junior tournament when he’d never broken 90. Sometimes competitive focus helps you make a quantum leap. That’s what happened to me. After a 75 in the first round, somehow I shot 65 (six under) in the second to qualify on the number. To that point in my life, I’d never managed any score in competition better than even par.
Watch our sitdown interview with Patrick Reed below:
So who do I get grouped with at the championship in Greensboro, N.C.? None other than Patrick Nathaniel Reed, a rising junior who had just won his first of two NCAA team titles with Augusta State University. Husky with a curly mullet and a cool-guy necklace, he had an insouciance that I’d never witnessed in tournament play. After well-struck drives, he’d say “See ya!” as he held his finish, then saunter back to his bag like it was a men’s league instead of a national championship with a Masters invitation on the line. His every chip and putt either went in or looked like it would. Reed cruised to 68-66 (eight under) and finished one shot off medalist. It remains the best golf I’ve ever played next to.
The memorable moment came just five holes in. There was a logjam because a player had lost a ball greenside and was calling for a ruling. As we stood on the tee, the group ahead was sitting on towels in the fairway. Reed sighed, then flatly predicted, “This round will take five and a half hours. There are always people who don’t deserve to be here. They lucked out and shot a career round to get in,” Reed said. “Today they’ll shoot 84 and take forever.”
This prophesy made it awkward four holes later when Reed confirmed my scorecard at the mandatory nine-hole check in: “42 sound right?”
I nodded it did.
Although he was busy making birdies, I sensed some contrition from Reed on the back nine for the painful accuracy with which he pegged me. He started complimenting my good shots and rooting for my bad ones to stay out of hazards. When I tapped in for a 34 and a face-saving 76, he shook my hand a full second longer and said, “Nice comeback.”
With reputations, comebacks are even harder. I’ve watched Reed’s career since and know the same basic facts as everyone. The greatest golf writer ever, Dan Jenkins, had a line about liking people who liked him. Reed was nice to me when we played, and this memory has probably shaped my interpretations of his controversies to a degree. At the very least, I believe Reed is owed a forum in which to speak his truth.
I also wanted to hear his short-game tips.