WEB.COM TOUR INSIDER
How Andrew Novak conquered the Bear Trap
March 06, 2018
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
- Andrew Novak played PGA National's treacherous Bear Trap in 2 under par at this year's The Honda Classic. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
Andrew Novak’s second PGA TOUR start came at last week’s The Honda Classic, on the strength of a successful Monday qualifying effort.
From the Wofford alum’s play though through the famed ‘Bear Trap’ on the Champion course at PGA National, you’d think Novak was a seasoned veteran.
The 22-year-old navigated the water-logged stretch, Nos. 15-17, in 2 under par, making two birdies and 10 pars. He was the only player in the field to complete the stretch without a bogey for four rounds, ultimately finishing T57, his first PGA TOUR paycheck.
When asked to reveal his secret for success around the Bear Trap, Novak indicated a direct approach.
“Step 1 on any of the holes is to keep it out of the water,” Novak said. “I was just lucky enough to hit good shots each time … kept it out of the water, got up and down a few times. Those holes are so tough, with the wind going … you’ve honestly got to get a little lucky a few times.
“I think one of the things that helps me on those holes is that I like to play a fade. The pin was kind of irrelevant … it really didn’t matter that much to me where they put the pin. I hit it to the same spot, looking to the left-center of the green on the two par 3s, and then I was going to putt to the pin.
“I was looking to do similar things on each shot, so day-to-day, it made it a lot easier, because I was just trying to repeat what I had done before.”
Novak had previously Monday qualified into The RSM Classic in November, and memories of these successes – as well as his play through the Bear Trap – will serve him well as he navigates his rookie Web.com Tour season.
After a standout collegiate career at Wofford, Novak turned professional last summer and played the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada, teeing it up in 11 events and finishing No. 81 on the money list.
A Raleigh, North Carolina native who spent most of his upbringing in Charleston, South Carolina, Novak earned Web.com Tour status by virtue of medaling at Second Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament in Dothan, Alabama.
Despite a second-round 65 at Final Stage, Novak finished three shots outside the number to secure guaranteed Web.com Tour starts in 2018, meaning he would have to rely on a combination of Monday qualifiers and sponsor invitations to gain entry into Tour fields this season.
Based on his ability to qualify for two TOUR events, though, he has proven his ability to do so.
Arriving at Wofford for his freshman year, Novak was intrigued by the idea of playing professional golf, although he knew “I had to work a lot harder to get a lot better before I realized I could maybe do it.”
A consistent progression from eighth grade – where breaking 100 marked a good day – led to a Wofford career where he became the only Terrier to qualify for NCAA Regionals twice, and set school records for lowest tournament total (13-under) and most career wins (four).
Novak has been inspired by the successful TOUR career of fellow Terrier William McGirt, who won the 2016 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, and he hopes to follow suit.
“The fact that McGirt had gone through and proven it could be done, going to a small school like Wofford … seeing it could be done, guys that worked for it, made it seem like it could be achievable to me,” said Novak, who played famed Seminole GC with McGirt the day prior to The Honda Classic.
“He’s been great to me. He’s been super helpful in asking questions; he can give me advice.
“I did get my degree (in business economics), but as far as a Plan B, I haven’t really thought about it. I want it to seem like this is an ultimatum, like I have to make it (as a professional golfer).”
A flair for the dramatic won’t hurt, either. As a college junior, playing Ol’ Colony GC in Alabama at NCAA Regionals, Novak closed a round with a putt that exceeded 100 feet.
His teammates caught the putt on video, and the highlight was featured on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays.
“It was crazy lucky, but that was pretty cool,” Novak said. “That’s the best putt I’ve ever hit, probably the best putt I’ll ever hit. You just don’t get putts that are that long. Greens aren’t that big.
“The biggest thing I was worried about was putting off the green, into the water. I wanted to lag it close and make par; just didn’t want to do something really stupid. It was just kind of hit-and-pray.”
As was the case at the Bear Trap last week, things worked themselves out.