I was finally able to figure out the status of Delco’s adopted favorite son on the PGA Tour, Sean O’Hair, as he spoke to the region’s top golf writer, Mike Kern of the Philadelphia Daily News, during a promotional appearance for TaylorMade at his new home course, White Manor Country Club, this week.
I knew O’Hair, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, had to go through the Web.com playoffs to regain his tour card, a process he had successfully grinded his way through in 2013. But when he missed the cut in the first two events, I didn’t think his chances were very good.
But apparently he played well enough in the final two events to earn his playing privileges with the big boys again in 2014-15. I don’t think the tour does a very good job of spelling out where guys like O’Hair stand when they are trying to navigate their way back to the tour through the Web.com playoffs, but maybe that’s just my lack of Internet savvy showing.
When I spotted O’Hair showing up in the first couple of events of the new season, I wondered if maybe he had just enough status to sneak into these fields that the top players tend to ignore. But the interview he did with Kern made it clear that O’Hair is indeed still a card-carrying member of the PGA Tour.
And he gave himself a big boost of confidence with a third-round 64 at The McCladrey Classic last weekend in Sea Island, Ga. that helped him finish in a tie for 17th after he backed up the 64 with a final-round 68.
O’Hair’s name first came into my consciousness when something called the New England Pro/Cleveland Golf Tour started sending results to the Daily Times in the summer of 2003 with a frequent contender from Aston, Pa. named Sean O’Hair. The name didn’t ring a bell to anyone on the Daily Times sports staff.
But when I finally reached O’Hair on the phone, the mystery was solved. He had married the former Jackie Lucas, an All-Delco golfer at Sun Valley, the previous November and she was touring with him as both new bride and caddie. Asked where he lived when he filled out his application for the New England Tour, he said to his new wife, “Where are we from, Jackie?” And so, Aston, Pa. was it.
I didn’t make the connection then that O’Hair was the talented youngster who had reached the semifinals of the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1997 at Aronimink Golf Club before being coerced to turn pro at age 17 by a father who, in a “60 Minutes” piece on pushy sports parents, referred to his son as a “commodity.”
O’Hair was close to rock bottom when he met Lucas, who had transferred after two years at Monmouth to a Florida college because she was seeking better competition to improve her game. She became O’Hair’s partner on a golf journey that has had a lot of twists and turns in the last decade-plus.
Mostly, it’s been good times. The O’Hairs have four children and Sean has banked in the neighborhood of $13 million on the tour.
Oddly, after reaching as high as No. 12 in the world rankings, O’Hair’s game started to slide in 2011. He got a big boost by winning the Canadian Open that summer for his fourth tour victory, but he has struggled mightily the last two seasons.
Somehow, though, O’Hair seems to be at his best when his back is up against the wall. And he sounded determined at the still relatively young golf age of 32 to turn things around.
“There’s no doubt in my mind my best golf’s ahead of me,” O’Hair told Kern. “I don ‘t look at myself as an obsolete golfer. Once you lose the belief, you’re screwed. And there’s a million guys waiting in line who are willing to put the time in.”
Here’s hoping O’Hair can get his game back on track in this 2014-15 season. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll have the path to qualifying through the Web.com playoffs figured out by next September, so I’ll be in the same boat if O’Hair has to take that complicated route back to the big tour again.