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Canadian Nick Taylor: from top amateur to PGA Tour winner

Canadian Nick Taylor: from top amateur to PGA Tour winner

Posted by Juan Gavasa on November 10, 2014

It didn’t happen as quickly as some expected for Canadian golfer Nick Taylor, but it happened all the same.

Taylor, who five years ago was the top-rated amateur male golfer on the planet, yesterday won the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi in just his fourth start as a regular on the PGA Tour. It fulfilled the expectations many had for Taylor when he turned professional in 2010. Since then, Taylor — who grew up playing in Abbotsford, BC — has played a mix of PGA Tour Canada and the Tour before finally gaining status on the PGA Tour this fall.

All of which made Taylor incredulous that he’d pulled off a win that many felt was a long time in the making. “It was always a dream of mine to be on the PGA Tour, but if you’d told me four years after turning pro that I’d be a winner out here—I don’t know if I’d have believed it,” Taylor said in an interview this morning.

Coming off the course, Taylor, 26, was hugged by fellow Abbotsford golfer Adam Hadwin, who is also on the PGA Tour this year after winning the Tour money title for 2014. Hadwin tweeted a picture of the mundane task of Taylor folding laundry only a few hours after his win, joking that it was how the golfer celebrated his win.

“Truly one of the nice guys,” Hadwin added.

The one person who didn’t get to celebrate with Taylor was his wife, Andie, who he met at school. They were married in May and Andie was working at her job as a social worker in a hospital yesterday while Taylor slugged it out on the course. In the chaos that followed his win, he couldn’t immediately touch base with her.

“After the round it was crazy and I was being pulled in six different directions for interviews,” he says. “I lost my caddie and he had my cellphone so I didn’t talk to her for a half hour. She was working yesterday and was crying when I called and was so excited. And my Dad, who is a real estate agent, was showing houses and getting texts all day about how I was playing from my brother, and my wife. It was pretty crazy considering how many people were watching.”

Taylor is one of six Canadians with regular status on the PGA Tour this year, alongside Mike Weir, Graham DeLaet, David Hearn, Hadwin and fellow BC resident Roger Sloan. The victory gives him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and a spot in the Players Championship as well as the PGA Championship.

Many thought Taylor would fulfill his promise more quickly in the pro ranks after four outstanding years at the University of Washington where he was a three-time All-American and winner of the 2010 Ben Hogan Award as the best amateur in collegiate golf. In 2009 he spent 21 weeks as the world’s top-ranked amateur. His list of golfing accomplishments and awards while at university is sprawling and impressive.

But there’s no guarantee that amateur success will translate into wins at any level of professional golf, and Taylor isn’t the first to take time making the transition.

Perhaps Taylor didn’t find success at the professional ranks as quickly as some anticipated because he plays in a way that doesn’t exactly reflect the “bomb and gouge” power game that is so common on the PGA Tour. An exacting player, Taylor went searching for distance off the tee when he turned professional, and struggled with his swing. However, he always had an exceptional short game and an uncanny ability to putt under pressure, something that was seen regularly on Sunday at the Sanderson.

Taylor’s win was the first on the PGA Tour by a Canadian since Stephen Ames’ victory at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic five years ago. It has been a lengthy drought despite the fact Canadians like Mike Weir, David Hearn and Graham DeLaet have come close. Taylor is also just the 11th player to have won on the PGA Tour, joining the likes of Al Balding and George Knudson.

What’s next for the golfer? Taylor says he’s thrilled to be able to play in some of the PGA Tour’s biggest events, and will carefully revisit his schedule. Heading into the Sanderson, he was simply hoping to play well enough to get access to some tournaments once the PGA Tour season recommences next year. Now he’s able to play most of the notable events.

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