Loar's long road
Edward Loar's career has had its share of tough times, but at 40 years old he's still pursuing a PGA TOUR card
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Fourteen years ago, an American walked onto a bus in South Korea with $72,000 stuffed in his plastic Subway sandwich bag. It was his reward for winning the country’s national championship over a future World Golf Hall of Famer.
The tournament paid its victor in cash, using the currency of his home country. His plastic bag, which had held that day’s lunch, was filled to the brim with rolls of $100 bills. He stuffed the money under his seat for the 55-mile trip from the tournament's host city, Cheonan, to Seoul.
The next day, he headed to the bank to wire home his winnings. The teller quickly recognized the 6-foot-4 Texan who’d just beaten Ernie Els, then the world’s third-ranked player, at Woo Jeong Hills Country Club.
Edward Loar had envisioned beating players like Els during his years starring for collegiate golf’s powerhouse program, Oklahoma State. Loar’s achievements seemed to portend quick success on the PGA TOUR, but now he was yet another example of professional golf’s unpredictable nature. He had taken his talents to Asia after failing for several years to put down roots on the PGA TOUR.
Loar is now nearly two decades into a professional career that has taken him around the world, but not to the heights he hoped for in his earlier years. And yet, he lacks the cynicism that unmet expectations can so easily produce. At 40 years old, as he prepares to embark on another season on the Web.com Tour, Loar embraces the challenge with a gregariousness that helped him earn the nickname “Big Ed.”
This year’s opportunity is especially gratifying because his career was on the precipice. When he left for the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament last month, he had a wife, 6-year-old triplets and the financial stresses that come from spending the past two years on golf’s mini-tours, waiting for him at home. He needed to have a successful tournament to justify his continued pursuit of a PGA TOUR card.
Earlier in the year, he sat at his kitchen table, tearfully mourning his current lot. He felt out of place competing alongside college players, club pros and 20-somethings at the Texas State Open.
“I was the guy that I never wanted to be, … almost 40 years old and still trying to eke it out on the mini-tours,” Loar says. He started telling friends and family that he may need to find another line of work if he didn’t earn Web.com Tour status by the end of the year. “I’d have to find something to do to make some money.”
He tied for 30th at Q-School to earn starts in the first eight events of the upcoming season. His career resumes Saturday, in the first round of the The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
“Whether or not I’ve achieved what I thought I could up to this point, which I haven’t, I still get to try,” he says. “I’ve always been excited to go play the next week because there’s always an opportunity.”
Loar isn’t the first player whose professional success pales in comparison to his exploits as an amateur. But there aren’t many players who have persevered as long in the face of such a disparity.
Loar was one of seven collegians who represented the United States in the 1999 Walker Cup. Only Loar, Jonathan Byrd and Matt Kuchar are still playing professionally.
The other two have combined to win 12 titles and $60 million on the PGA TOUR. Loar has spent just two seasons on TOUR since turning pro in 2000, earning little more than $219,000 while missing 41 of 54 cuts. His T18 in his professional debut, at the 2000 B.C. Open, remains his best finish.
He doesn’t hesitate when asked how many countries he’s competed in, recalling the number immediately. Twenty-eight, on nine different tours, he says.
“The credit in this story goes to his tenacity,” says Loar’s college roommate, two-time TOUR winner Charles Howell III. “At age 40, he's still clawing his way back. ... I’m not sure if I could have done that.”
Loar has faced the gamut of experiences during his unique playing career. There was the time he almost won at St. Andrews, finishing second at the 2006 Dunhill Links while playing in the second-to-last group with two Hall of Famers, Els and Vijay Singh. He beat both his playing companions while finishing five shots behind Padraig Harrington, a three-time major winner.
Loar also has appeared on a U.S. Open leaderboard and owns two wins apiece on the Web.com Tour and Asian Tour. He finished second in his first tournament in Asia, the Myanmar Open, while competing on a course lined by soldiers carrying automatic weapons.
Experiences like the 2012 Q-School sit on the opposite end of the spectrum. He needed to finish par-bogey to earn his PGA TOUR card, but hit it into the water on the final two holes instead.
A clerical technicality kept him from a European Tour card after he nearly won at the Home of Golf. Had he paid something called an “affiliate fee” before the tournament, he would’ve earned a European Tour card. His bank account had been hit hard by Q-School entries, so he didn’t pay the four-figure fee. It was the only thing standing between him and European Tour status.
His hardest year was 2014. After finishing fourth on the Web.com Tour money list, and contending at the 2013 U.S. Open before finishing T32, he thought he was prepared for the PGA TOUR. He missed 16 of 19 cuts instead.
“I’ve gone from having a couple hundred thousand in the bank to having none, then back to having some and then to having some credit-card debt,” he says.
Loar has spent the past two years pushing his own cart on the mini-tours, joking that he’s logged enough miles to have the tires rotated. Like most golfers, he still believes he can do better, buoyed by the memory of good shots and low scores.
“I know what I can do, and what I have done, and I know there’s still more inside me,” Loar said. “Maybe that’s what has helped me get through pushing my pushcart in 105-degree weather at a Monday qualifier.”
Forty-year-olds like Loar don’t garner much attention at Q-School. Most of the focus is on the prospects for whom the Web.com Tour is a steppingstone on the path to bigger and better things, players like Maverick McNealy and Sam Burns.
Few knew the high stakes for Loar last month at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Arizona. That’s why Ellen Loar could be excused for checking her phone one last time before the Dec. 10 service at the First United Methodist Church of Rockwall, Texas. She may have been better served waiting to look at the live leaderboard, though.
Just before putting her phone away, she saw that her son made double-bogey on his third hole of the final round. “Damn,” she muttered, according to Edward’s father, Jay.
“It’s going to be what it’s going to be,” Jay told his wife. Their son made two birdies while they were sitting in church, and another two by the time they finished lunch.
He birdied nine of his final 15 holes to shoot a final-round 66. After sitting in 68th place at the tournament’s halfway mark, he birdied 13 of the last 23 holes. His emotions were captured in an on-camera interview shortly after he signed his scorecard.
“I was kind of to the point in my career where I was really going to have to evaluate whether or not I could still do it,” he said on the video. “But I sucked it up and played awesome golf.”
Fifteen seconds in, Loar looks away from the camera and grabs the back of his hat. He spends the next 11 seconds trying to hold the tears at bay.
“I’m obviously just really happy right now,” he added. “I’m really happy for my wife and my kids. They’ve supported me. What else can I say? They’ve just been awesome.”
Loar calls his wife, Melaney, the family’s “leading money winner” over the past few years. On the first night they met, she asked her future husband, “So, what are you going to do when you grow up?” after learning his vocation. The job title “Professional Golfer” sounded a bit dubious, considering she’d never seen him on television. Now she works as a real-estate agent to help her husband fend off a day job.
“I will absolutely never be the reason he has to give it up or be the one to say, ‘OK, buddy. Time’s up,’” Melaney says. “He’s told me that if he ever felt tired or that he couldn’t do it anymore, he would absolutely give it up. But he still believes that he can do it and he still loves it.
“As long as that’s the case, we can make it work.”
Edward Loar grew up in a golf family. His father was a pharmacist by trade, and a scratch golfer on the side. He later became the head men’s golf coach at SMU, where he coached his youngest son, Nick, and three U.S. Amateur champions (Hank Kuehne, Colt Knost, Kelly Kraft).
“He had a nice, natural swing,” Jay says of Edward. At 10 years old, Edward shot 30 from the forward tees at their home course, The Shores Country Club. He hit his blue-headed 6-wood about 150 yards, the perfect distance for the 300-yard par-4s and 150-yard par-3s, and holed everything with his wood-shafted Otey Crisman putter.
His natural talents served him well through college, where he’d watch seven college football games on a Saturday while Howell headed out to practice. “And then … the next week we would go play a tournament and he’d beat me,” Howell recalls. “And it just drove me bonkers."
One of those victories came in 1999 at the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur, where Edward beat Howell by five shots (and then defended his title the next year). He also won the Southern Amateur, the Southwestern Amateur and five collegiate titles at Oklahoma State. He was a four-time All-American, played in the 1998 Palmer Cup and was a member of the Cowboys’ 2000 NCAA title team.
“I would’ve tagged Ed early on to win a whole bunch of PGA TOUR events,” Howell says. “He always had a wonderful short game, he’s a big guy, he can hit it forever.
“But in this crazy game, you just never know what’s going to happen.”
If there was one shortcoming, it was a full swing that was too reliant on timing and resulted in a big miss, often at inopportune times. After failing to make it to Q-School’s Final Stage in his first attempt, Loar headed to the Asian Tour. He spent five seasons in Asia, each year returning home for another unsuccessful Q-School attempt. He won twice in Asia before finally earning Web.com Tour status for the 2007 season.
“In hindsight, (playing in Asia), kind of masked some of my inefficiencies,” Edward says. “I was good enough to, once or twice a year, get into contention, so I thought I was improving. I don’t know if I was improving as much as I needed to. I was playing somewhere that I was just good enough to play.”
He finally made it to Q-School’s Final Stage in 2006, playing his first Web.com Tour season in 2007. He didn’t keep his card, and spent the next three seasons playing “anywhere they’d take my money.” He bounced between the Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR from 2011 to 2015 before returning to the mini-tours for the past two years.
Edward still has optimism for his latest opportunity, thanks in part to his work with Las Vegas-based swing instructor Joe Mayo, a teacher whose Twitter handle (@trackmanmaestro) contrasts Edward's reliance on natural talent. He admits that he may have waited too long to learn more about his swing, which featured too much clubface rotation through impact. Mayo has helped Edward keep the clubface squarer.
He calls the upcoming season “the best chance I’ve had in four years.”
Edward wasn't bitter watching new pros like Lee McCoy, McNealy or Burns find quick success at Q-School while his career was hanging by a thread. Even though he once sat in their shoes, only for his career to take unexpected turns away from the PGA TOUR, he isn’t overwhelmed by cynicism.
“I remember the enthusiasm for turning pro. Honestly, I still feel that or else I wouldn’t still be doing it,” Loar says. “Obviously, I look at the guys who I grew up playing with and how successful they’ve been. I think that still kind of drives me. I know I can do better.
“I just want to have another good shot at it.”
Being honest about his failures doesn’t dampen his excitement for the future. A healthy sense of humor helps him keep things in perspective. His self-directed sarcasm seems to be cathartic, allowing him to avoid a pratfall too common in professional golf: taking oneself too seriously.
“Ed’s always had this larger-than-life personality, and he has a larger-than-life physique to go along with it,” Howell says.
He has even inspired a Twitter feed devoted to tracking his progress. @EdLoarTracker is run by a Florida resident who has met Edward just once, but appreciates his subject’s everyman qualities. The handle began as joke, spoofing Edward's tweets about food and his light-hearted approach to professional golf. Edward often engages with the handle and plays along with its jokes. The 1,050 followers, known as “Loar Loonies,” are following a story that has the successes and failures, promotions and demotions, that are common to the human experience.
“There are way more guys who can relate to the journey I’ve been on than the guys who get on TOUR in six events,” Edward says. “At the end of the day, it really is just a silly game.”
One that Edward Loar has devoted his life to, through the good times and the bad.