Frequent flyer miles aplenty, Nationwide Tour back in U.S.

Garrett Osborn enjoyed his time Down Under, but is happy to be back on U.S. soil this week.
March 25, 2009
Dave Lagarde, Contributor

BROUSSARD, La. -- It's just late March, merely four tournaments into a long and winding season that stretches all the way to the end of October, but already card-carrying members of the Nationwide Tour have logged thousands upon thousands of air miles in their annual quest for an elusive PGA TOUR card.

They visited Panama in early February. An event in Australia and two in New Zealand were next on these globetrotters' agenda, taking them into mid-March. Jet lag and a very welcomed week off to clear the cobwebs followed.

And now, at least for the majority of players, it's the green, green grass of home, save for a couple of detours to Mexico in May and Canada in early July. O.K., so some might argue that this week's pit stop in the heart of Louisiana's Cajun Country -- the Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by Dynamic Industries -- represents another trip to an exotic, out-of-the-way locale. But the truth is, the Pelican State steadfastly remains part of the contiguous 48, even though an alarming part of its shoreline washes away into the Gulf of Mexico each year and a goodly sum of the residents, especially in these parts, speak with an engaging French lilt.

"Good to be here,'' Bubba Dickerson said Wednesday before heading out to the Le Triomphe Country Club practice range to squeeze in a session between pro-ams. "That's a long way to go. It's fun and a good experience, but you really can't set a schedule when you're there. It's like you're playing college golf again, riding buses.

"But it's necessary because those three events (Down Under) represent more than 10 percent of our (29) tournaments this year.''

Tour veteran Craig Bowden, the proud papa of two, admitted to becoming homesick on the trip that lasted more than three weeks.

"It's a long time to be away from the family,'' he said. "Don't get me wrong. I had a great time down there. The people are great and I had lots of fun with Jimmy Mac (McGovern), Bobby Sowards and Trevor Dodds.

"But I won't miss the shuttles... to and from the airport, to and from the hotel to the golf course. Now that we're here we all can do our own thing.''

Dickerson's and Bowden's sentiments echoed those of many of the veterans, who look upon golf as a job rather than an adventure. However, the trips are a totally different story for the majority of the younger players who are making their first foray outside the United States. Rookie Martin Piller, 23, and Garrett Osborn, 24, a second-year player on tour who passed on the journey Down Under in his rookie season, were among them.

Piller, a sports enthusiast, soaked up a lot of local knowledge. One thing he learned was the haka, a pre-game ritual dance done by New Zealand's rugby team. He also became acquainted with the rules of cricket and Australian Rules football.

"I wanted to go to a sporting event so badly,'' he said.

Piller's time was eaten up on the golf course. And that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. He had a tie for eighth in Australia and a solo second in New Zealand that account for the lion's share of his earnings of $81,608, placing him fifth on the money list.

"But at least I was able to get a New Zealand All-Blacks (rugby) jersey and I got to meet Richie McCaw, the captain of the national team,'' he said. "It was pretty neat.''

Osborn had fun despite the fact that he went zero-for-three in cuts made. The failure on Thursdays and Fridays provided him with lots of free time on the weekends. And he took full advantage.

"I bungee jumped from the third-highest bungee site in the world,'' he said excitedly, the memory obviously still fresh. "That was awesome.''

Osborn also made a day trip, riding horses through the New Zealand countryside just before departing. He was particularly impressed with Queenstown, N.Z., site of the Michael Hill New Zealand Open.

"It's like a ski village with so many outdoors activities,'' he said. "It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.''

Osborn would do one thing over given the choice. He'd ride horses a little earlier in the trip.

"I hadn't ridden in a long time and that's not the best thing to do when you've got a 12-hour flight in front of you,'' he said, laughing. "I, um, couldn't get comfortable on the plane.''

Piller admitted he fell in love with the Queenstown area as well. He plans to return one day.

"That's where I'm going on my honeymoon,'' he said.

When asked if he was engaged, his answer was, "No.''



He laughed.

"But that's what I plan to do when I have a girlfriend and get engaged,'' he said.