Edward Loar admits world cultures didn’t excite him much in his school days. He’s still not all that much of a history enthusiast.
“But I can tell you a lot of flight schedules from around the world,” the easygoing Texan cracked.
Everyone has their gifts, right?
It’s fair to say Loar took the scenic route to the PGA TOUR’s doorstep, spending 5 ½ years on the Asian Tour with the occasional venture to Europe. Last week, he came within a shot of making the Chile Classic his second Web.com Tour victory.
His first? That came last year in Panama.
Dig a little deeper, and it seems Loar has something of a leg up when he has to pack a passport or cross a body of water. His top outing in 2011 came in Mexico, and his best finish in 33 PGA TOUR starts was in Puerto Rico.
“Maybe that has something to do with it,” Loar said. “With all my international travel, I’m used to being in other places, other cultures. I’m always able to find something to eat and kind of adjust to things that are new and different.”
Such as the beauty of Buddhist pagodas rising off in the distance. The ancient city walls in Beijing, or the congested high rises of Hong Kong. And at times, soldiers with machine guns guarding the perimeter of the host course.
“I loved every minute of it,” Loar said. “I made a lot of great friends over there that I still keep in touch with, from all over the world. … The world’s a pretty exciting place, if you ask me.”
It wasn’t the 35-year-old pro’s selected path, of course. A member of Oklahoma State’s 2000 NCAA champions and a 1999 Walker Cup participant, Loar figured it wouldn’t be long before he joined teammates Charles Howell III and Bo Van Pelt on the big stage.
But the second stage of PGA TOUR qualifying always seemed to get in the way, leaving Loar to pursue other avenues. He hit the Canadian Tour and various minitour stops, but grew weary of scratching out that existence.
That’s when a buddy, Mike Christensen, suggested Loar go to Asia with him to start 2002.
“It wasn’t really a decision; it was just where I went,” said Loar, whose father Jay was SMU’s golf coach for 13 seasons. “It was my best option after not advancing at TOUR school.”
The lefty’s first start was in Myanmar, still better known as Burma despite a 1989 renaming by its ruling military junta. Two strokes back to start the final round, he wound up losing a playoff to Thongchai Jaidee.
A year later, Loar won the Thailand Open by five shots. He also won the 2004 Korean Open, holding off Ernie Els’ challenge at a time when the Hall of Famer-to-be was No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. “That was a true confidence builder,” Loar said.
Over time, Loar found his bearings away from the golf course as well. One visit to China included a day trip to the Great Wall. He also visited the ancient Schwedagon Pagoda, which dates back some 2,600 years and is the oldest in the Buddhist world.
Loar also developed a taste for Thai food, and found himself with a window to China’s rise in the economic world.
“The first time I got there, everyone would bike [from place to place]. A couple of years later, everybody has cars,” he recalled. “Going to Beijing was like stepping back in time, a very old city. Then you’d go to a place like Shanghai, with huge new buildings and that skyline.”
Through it all, Loar said, he rarely felt like a strange man in a strange land. He gives credit to tournament organizers for arranging hotels and transportation to and from the course.
“If you can get from the airport to the hotel, you’ll be fine,” he said. “People ask me if I can speak any language. I tell them I can say ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank you’ in about eight different languages.”
Loar’s play in Asia even landed him a berth at the 2006 Dunhill Links at St. Andrews, where he tied for second behind Padraig Harrington. That also was the year he finally broke through to the TOUR qualifying finals, earning Web.com Tour membership.
He’s been stateside since, except for those brief forays when the Web.com Tour crosses borders.
“I’m comfortable playing outside of home,” he said. “I enjoy the camaraderie that you feel when we all stay at the same place and are eating together. For that week, you’re more buddies away from the course.”
Loar’s journey finally reached the PGA TOUR last year, though his stay was brief when he struggled to make cuts. Oddly enough, he suggested his adjustment to the big stage was tougher than teeing it up on foreign soil.
“At the end of the day it’s golf,” he said, “but you get a lot of people out there watching and a lot of different distractions. That’s probably been the hardest thing for me.”
Loar’s most bizarre round, in fact, happened not in some Asian outpost but the Magic Kingdom. He was part of Charlie Beljan’s group on that surreal day last November at Disney when Beljan fired a 64 despite the lightheadedness and pounding heart of a panic attack.
“I don’t know how anybody couldn’t characterize that as the most bizarre thing he’s ever seen,” Loar said. “Then for him to return on the weekend and win the tournament, that’s pretty impressive stuff.”
Loar believes good things will come his way, too. The tie for second place in Chile moved him to sixth on the Web.com Tour money list – a prime position, though plenty of season remains.
“I’m still learning,” he said. “I’m 35, but I feel like I’m learning every day. It took me a while to even get out here. Hopefully I’ll get back out there with a little more staying power next time.”