Golf's worst nightmare just happened to me. I'm Mr. 126, the guy who missed his Tour card by one lousy spot on the money list. The worst part is a scene that keeps replaying in my head: my ball resting against the base of a palm tree, unplayable.
It happened two Sundays ago at the Walt Disney World Classic. I had birdied the 14th, 15th and 16th holes to get into 20th place, seven under par for the tournament. After starting the week 127th on the money list, I was almost sure to move up enough to keep my card as one of the year's top 125. All I had to do was par in. But then I pushed my drive on the easy par-5 17th hole, and now, staring at my ball behind that tree, I saw my Tour privileges slipping away.
I took a penalty stroke, reached the green in five and took a double bogey. Instead of giving up, I made a 15-foot birdie putt at 18. Suddenly it looked like I might squeak in. Reporters from ESPN and the Golf Channel asked me how it felt—a birdie to keep my card! My parents and my girlfriend, Margaret Mellin, congratulated me. I was shaking when I went into the locker room to check the computer. David Sutherland said, "Way to go, P.H. You're in." But it slowly dawned on me that the numbers told a different story. Blaine McCallister had shot 66 that day to beat me out by $4,795 for the year. I lost my job by one shot.
Now I'm looking for a silver lining. I'm still partially exempt for 1999, so I can play at least a dozen or so Tour events. Another lift came from my big brother, Harry. His legs have been paralyzed since a 1980 auto accident, but his spirit has been an inspiration to me. "P.H., it's just another challenge," Harry said. "In the long run it'll make you a stronger person and a better player."