BOISE, Idaho -- The question was dripping with delicious irony.
"What's my nickname?'' Brenden Pappas inquired late Thursday afternoon after shooting an 8-under-par 63 in the first round of the Albertsons Boise Open.
|INSIDE THE NUMBERS|
|BRENDAN PAPPAS IN 2007|
Pappas waited for someone to supply the answer, but members of the media conducting the interview with the co-leader gazed at him quizzically instead. He paused. Then he let out a low laugh.
"It's Bubble Boy,'' he said, poking fun at his station in professional life.
Unfortunately for Pappas, the moniker fits like a golf glove. It's one he earned in 2004 when he was chasing money down the stretch on the PGA TOUR in an attempt to keep his playing privileges. It's one he kept in 2005 when he was chasing the almighty PGA TOUR dollar again as the season wound down. Darn if he didn't find himself in the same situation on the Nationwide Tour in 2006.
"I've been about this far away from doing something really good,'' Pappas said, holding right thumb and index finger about a millimeter apart.
So where can you find Pappas as the 2007 Nationwide Tour season as it heads toward the finish line?
You really don't need a hint to locate him. Bubble Boy is hovering near that blasted money bubble again. He is 31st on the list following a tie for fourth at last week's Oregon Classic presented by Kendall Automotive Group, his best finish of the season. He's less than $23,000 out of 25th place, the last spot that earns PGA TOUR membership in 2008 when the money is tallied for the final time following the Nationwide Tour Championship the first weekend in November.
But here's a Bubble Boy bulletin as the Boise Open heads toward Saturday's moving day. Buoyed by his performance last week, Pappas, 37, is nestled near the top of leader board after 36 holes with a 12-under-par total of 130 following a 67 Friday. He trails bogey-free Jim McGovern by two shots.
With Boise offering a purse of $675,000 and a first prize of $121,500, a confident Pappas can burst his Bubble Boy image with an exemplary performance this weekend.
"I feel like I'm the man to beat,'' he said.
That would be a marked difference from the last three seasons when it was Pappas who beat himself up. In 2004 he was well inside the top 125 on the PGA TOUR with 10 events remaining. But he made $95,000 in those tournaments, going into a freefall to 137th.
"I made more cuts (21) than I ever have but I didn't get it done on the weekend,'' said Pappas, who was coming off a solid 2003 season when he rang up $1,307,809 in earnings. "It was a matter of confidence, self-belief.
"That year still gnaws at me. To rub salt in the wound, I forgot to send in my entry to Qualifying School.''
So it was catch where catch could in '05, to no avail. All the while, life changes were taking place in his family.
"It was upheaval then,'' he said. "My wife (Berdene) had the boys (twins Troy Jonathan and Alexander James). My focus shifted.''
Along came 2006. Pappas won the Rex Hospital Open with a final-round 69, one of his only three in the 60s for the season. He was in position to strike headed into the Nationwide Tour Championship but was derailed by a third-round 81. He missed returning to the PGA TOUR this season by two slots and less than $12,000.
"Other than the win, I never played well,'' he said. "I had four other top-10s but they were seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th. I never threatened.''
Pappas was muddling through another mediocre season until mid-summer. He visited his swing coach Mark McCann and had what he called a "good session.''
"I tightened up my swing and started driving it better,'' he said. "That's a key for me.''
Counting Boise, he has made 10 of his last 11 cuts with three top 10s sprinkled in as he steadily climbed up the money ladder, watching the list all along.
"I like to know what a good check will do for me,'' he said.
It will do worlds of good this week, considering so many in front of Pappas stumbled in the first two rounds and will not play the weekend, meaning they'll head into a week off without a paycheck. But Pappas will have none of pulling against his peers.
"This is all about me,'' he said. "I can't control what others are doing. And rooting against others produces bad karma.''
Instead he plans to keep on keeping on, striking solid shots and holing a few putts. He said he felt like he had 7 under in his bag Friday, but a little edginess in his putting stroke cost him a few shots.
"I'll manage to get over it,'' he said. "I'm going to try my best on every shot. I honestly believe if you take care of the moment, the big picture will take care of itself.''