Gather ‘round golf friends, looper lovers, those admiring a man who plays this fair game down the middle, tempted not by a flagstick tucked behind a greenside bunker or perched beside a lake.
We have a sad, sad, sad story to tell. Grab a handkerchief. Mix a cocktail, if that’s your pleasure.
Johnny Par ain’t what he used to be, folks. Though mostly played from the short grass, the 2018-19 PGA Tour season was beyond rough for Par and his faithful caddie, Sven Even. The details are disgusting. The weathered companions traveled from coast-to-coast and beyond seeking a tournament or two where par carried real value. They came up empty. Pro golf rewards aggressive, flag-attacking golfers these days, it seems. The down-the-middle pro has been squeezed out. And our man’s middle name is definitely not Sub.
Johnny Par was exempt in 2018-19 and made 34 starts. He shot par, duh, in every round.
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He earned a spot in the field of the RBC Heritage and Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial, but not Memorial. He failed to qualify for The Open at Royal Portrush, however, slipped into the U.S. Open field, claiming one of four available spots at Century and Old Oaks in Purchase, N.Y. An invitation to the Masters or a spot in one of the lucrative World Golf Championship events was a figment of his level-headed imagination.
Save yourself time. Do not scour the strokes-gained statistics or earnings list for Johnny Par. He does not appear in such rankings. He’s simply there, happy in his anonymity, a placebo in place for the others to beat.
On four occasions in 2018-19, Par missed the 36-hole cut by one shot. At the Desert Classic in southern California he missed the 54-hole cut by seven shots and Sven Even was last seen wandering aimlessly in Death Valley, headed toward Badwater Basin — 280 feet below sea level.
As you may recall, Par is boring but generous. He paid Even seven percent of his earnings, bumping the cut to eight percent on a potential top-10 finish and 10 percent on a victory. Alas, the latter two did not occur.
Before diving into the disgusting details, let us begin with a happy tale of reconciliation.
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Prior to last season, Par and Even split, briefly. By their modest standards, it was a messy divorce. Statements were made. The phrase “too conservative” may have been uttered. It’s possible that Even may have, in a fit of rational thought, uttered the dreaded word that rhymes with cared and starts with the letter ‘s.’ Toward the end of the season, Par had considered dropping his putter in the wrong slot in the golf bag or ruffling the towel.
But he resisted and the duo reunited. It was not necessarily beautiful, just necessary.
Like peanut butter & jelly or Fluff & Furyk, they’re meant to be together.
Through all the measured conversation, Even and Par opted to maintain their game plan. Intent to preserve and pursue par, they accomplished their goal with aplomb. On the rare occasion when Par’s approach went awry, he saved his namesake yet again, protecting his heritage and moral path.
When the FedEx Cup points race ended, Johnny Par was 180th in the FedEx Cup standings — 13 spots lower than the previous season. During one stretch on the west coast, the duo missed five consecutive cuts. Par visited sports psychologists and swing gurus, tried every club manufacturer’s latest driver or putter, wore out two launch monitors and six wedges but never wavered. Even panhandled in Pismo Beach, slept with seagulls in Salinas, hitchhiked up-and-down the Pacific Coast Highway, was spotted ambling in perfect one-yard paces down 17-Mile Drive.
The Florida sun was a welcome sight. Par made five of six cuts as the Tour came east. His old reliable ally the wind whistled and gusted, restoring confidence in his steady approach. Par and Even barely missed another solid payday at the PLAYERS, narrowly missing the cut on Pete Dye’s diabolical death trap.
Soon, however, the boys’ optimism faded like a Quarterdeck debutante on a South Carolina Saturday night.
Although the best finish of the season (T-29 at Colonial) loomed ahead, the boys kept losing ground in the FedEx Cup standings. All the major networks overlooked them. Their Twitter feed lost and gained an equal number of followers each week.
MORE MULL: This is how I became I PGA Tour caddie
When the boys returned to California in June, Par made his largest check of 2019 for four days work at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open. Still, the $72,928, while nothing to sneeze at, was a serious disappointment. For years, Par and Even dreamed of earning a spot in our national championship. It represented their best chance for glory, major glory. The USGA was, for decades, intent on defending the Old Man come hell or high grass. Burnt out greens, ridiculous hole locations, 300-yard par-3s, they all played right into Par’s steady hands.
Just not in 2019. It was a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach unlike any other. A marine layer settled over Stillwater Cove on that week in June. The wind spoke only in a whisper. The greens held approach shots. The holes were accessible. Birdies were abundant. Golfers made eagles for Old Tom’s sake and red numbers were necessary to climb the leaderboard on the weekend. Par’s pars generated only a tie for 32nd. After yet another two-putt par, Even gazed into the abyss, beyond the sleepy seals and frolicking retrievers on the shore below, and wondered if selling recliners and king-sized mattresses to South Florida retirees might not be a better career path after all.
As summer took hold, blazing heat and soft greens created birdie bonanzas across the nation. Fearless young guns fired at flags with no fear of bogeys. Most weeks, Par was finished before he fired one shot. Even considered doubling down in a Davenport riverboat, but opted to stand pat.
The end was dark, friends. Up in the booth, the man who once made 18 consecutive pars to win The Open could neither believe what he saw nor find the words to compare himself to a man whose own streak had now reached the thousands.
Par missed seven cuts in a row to close the regular season. Playoffs? Playoffs? Nobody was talkin’ about the playoffs.
For his steady effort in 2018-19, Even earned $85,305 ($1,800 salary per week plus his percentage). He spent, on average $1,300 per week for a net of $44,200, before taxes, insurance, mortgage, etc. To his credit, he stood strong beside his man through all the turmoil, because, by God, that’s what caddies do. There’s always the promise of the next tournament, when all 156 golfers start the week right where his man will finish. Who knows what the future may hold? Poa annua outbreaks, 40 mph wind gusts, 8,000-yard courses with holes cut two paces from the fringe.
On the PGA Tour, each week is a new adventure. Strange though it may seem, Even and Par will return for more tournaments, splitting fairways and hitting the center of greens, lagging for the sure thing, averse to the fluctuation their competitors must endure.
|The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges||T-61||$18,050||4|
|Sanderson Farms Championship||MC||$0||0|
|Shriners Hospitals For Children Open||MC||$0||0|
|Mayakoba Golf Classic||MC||$0||0|
|The RSM Classic||T-76||$12,032||2.35|
|Sony Open in Hawaii||MC||$0||0|
|Farmers Insurance Open||MC||$0||0|
|Waste Management Phoenix Open||MC||$0||0|
|AT& T Pebble Beach Pro-Am||MC||$0||0|
|Puerto Rico Open||T-59||$6,660||3.1|
|The Honda Classic||T-30||$41,310||24.33|
|Arnold Palmer Invitational||T-46||$27,391||9.75|
|THE PLAYERS Championship||MC||$0||0|
|Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Champ.||MC||$0||0|
|Valero Texas Open||MC||$0||0|
|Zurich Classic (played with brother, Tom Par)||MC||$0||0|
|Wells Fargo Championship||T-45||$23,131||10|
|AT&T Byron Nelson||MC||$0||0|
|Charles Schwab Challenge||T-29||$50,735||28.75|
|RBC Canadian Open||MC||$0||0|
|U.S. Open – Pebble Beach||T-32||$72,928||26.63|
|Rocket Mortgage Classic||MC||$0||0|
|John Deere Classic||MC||$0||0|