From cart barn to champion, Potter's patience prevails

July 08, 2012
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Ted Potter Jr.'s favorite movie is "Caddyshack."

You know it, and the lines.


Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac ... It's in the hole! It's in the hole! It's in the hole!

Sunday at The Greenbrier Classic, it was Potter authoring the story instead of Carl Spackler. And while some of the details were a little different, the ending was no less Hollywood, right down to the fact that Potter worked in the cart barn at Lake Diamond Golf & Country Club in Ocala, Fla., after turning pro right out of high school at age 19 so he could put together enough scratch to play the Moonlight Tour.

His story is part Spackler, part Crash Davis, the character from "Bull Durham" who set a record for most home runs in the minor leagues.

Potter's accolades are similarly dubious.

After learning the game without the benefit of formal lessons or a country club lifestyle -- Potter's dad was a golf-course maintenance worker and his mom a Walmart employee -- Potter dominated the Hooters Tour, where he won 14 times, was twice Player of the Year, and racked up $650,000 in earnings, an unusually high amount for a mini tour.

In his first season on the Tour in 2004 (then known as the Nationwide Tour), however, Potter missed every single cut, a not-so-perfect 24-for-24, which meant it was back to the minors.

He'd have to wait three years to get back to that level, and when he did, he didn't fare much better. Potter missed 15 of 20 cuts in 2007.

Those results are enough to lead to a career change. But what was Potter going to do? Golf is in his blood, or at least in his sweat after all those years of toil.

"When you're missing cuts every week, you get down on yourself," said Potter, who finally earned his PGA TOUR card after finishing second on the Tour money list last year. "It's hard to pick yourself back up. But the one plus side for me is I was still young. I was only 20 years old. I knew I had a long road ahead of me."

He just didn't know how long.

Updated standings
Ted Potter Jr. secured his spot in the Playoffs this week. See who else made moves. Standings

Sunday at The Old White TPC, where a man named Justice calls the shots, Potter finally got some of his own thanks to an eagle-birdie finish on his way to a 64 to force a sudden-death playoff with Troy Kelly that he'd eventually win.

Victory took a few holes of sudden-death, and a back-nine meltdown by Webb Simpson, who at one point had gone 59 consecutive holes without a bogey before making four of them in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to close in 40.

But what's an extra hour when you've been waiting your whole life?

"I just like to win," Potter said. "I just always enjoyed coming down the stretch and having a chance to win. It was the thrill of that."

When Potter hit his approach to 4 feet on the par-3 18th, the third hole of the playoff, he finally got to experience that thrill. He was also considerably less nervous than he would be in the interview room afterward. After all, the golf course is always where he'd felt the most comfortable.

"Just a relief," Potter said of what went through his head after sinking the winning putt. "Finally to win, I mean, I know it's my first year out here, but just to win, period, I mean, it was just a big relief."

And a big reward.

Potter's job is now secure for the next two years. He also moved to 51st in the FedExCup standings and will get into some tournaments he otherwise wouldn't have.

That includes the British Open in two weeks, the FedExCup Playoffs this fall and next year's Masters.

Playing at Augusta National had always been a dream of Potter's dating back to his days in the cart barn in central Florida.

"Yeah, I'm very excited about that," he said.

Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former cart barn worker, now The Greenbrier Classic champion.

Potter even got a green jacket for the victory, and now he'll get to play for another one.