Rabalais: Golf career the right fit for Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed holds up the Sam Snead trophy after he won the Wyndham Championship golf tournament in a second hole playoff  at the Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
Patrick Reed holds up the Sam Snead trophy after he won the Wyndham Championship golf tournament in a second hole playoff at the Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

It was career day at St. Aloysius School, 2005, with kids dressed up in the professions they think in elementary school they want to find themselves in one day.

There were plenty of doctors, of course. Suited lawyers and businessmen, musicians and cowboys and soldiers.

There was one kid dressed in slacks, a golf shirt, and bouncing a ball expertly on a sand wedge like it was a paddle game.

His name was Patrick Reed.

He had game back then, game and dreams, but that doesn’t make him different from thousands of other junior golfers all over the country.

Reed also had determination, the will to work 12 hours a day on his game. Countless others have that too, but still few of them ever get to see their dreams fulfilled.

In an instant, Sunday afternoon in the Wyndham Championship, Reed jumped over to the other side.

One point five seconds. That’s how long it took for Reed’s playoff-winning putt to travel seven feet from his putter face into the cup.

“It was a life-changing moment, that’s for sure,” said Reed, who lived in Baton Rouge from seventh through 11th grade and also attended University High.

There are golf tournaments virtually every week of the year, so seeing someone make the last putt and hoist a trophy seems like a pretty ordinary achievement.

That’s hardly the case at all.

There have been 36 tournaments so far this season on the PGA Tour. In those 36 events, 253 players have earned money by making the cut.

Probably hundreds more have failed to make the 36-hole cut or get into tournaments by claiming one of four spots available in Monday qualifiers (something Reed did a remarkable six times last year) and came up short.

Of all those hundreds of players, 29 men have won PGA Tour events this season, or about 11 percent of those who managed to earn a check.

There were several moments Sunday when it didn’t look like it would be Reed’s time.

“I couldn’t feel my body Sunday before I got to the first tee,” Reed said. Still, he tamped down enough of his nervousness to go from a tie for first going into Sunday’s final round to a one-stroke lead with three holes to play.

“To be in that position … I realized how tough it really is,” Reed said. “The nerves got me on 16. I had a 20-foot uphill putt, a basic putt, and decided to hit it 30 feet. I missed the 10-footer and made bogey.”

Reed slipped into a sudden death playoff with fellow rookie sensation Jordan Spieth.

On their second playoff hole, Reed drove into trees on the right side of the 10th fairway and at first was told the ball went out of bounds.

That’s it, he thought. Dream over. He would have to hit off the tee again with his third shot.

But the ball wasn’t out of bounds. His tee shot came to rest under a tree against a TV cable.

Fighting his natural draw, and with the ball in a hooking lie above his feet, Reed punched a shot straight and true under one tree and past two others that landed seven feet below the hole.

Moments later, he was kissing the Wyndham trophy with his wife and caddy, Justine.

“You never really know” if you can win on tour, Reed said. “I’ve knocked on the door a couple of times this year when I played great. I knew the time would come at some point.”

Reed had a really good rookie year going before the Wyndham, but winning opens so many doors for pro golfers. It’s a key that opens a door into the club within a club, if you will.

He now has a two-year exemption from qualifying. He’s in the 2014 Masters and PGA Championship, which will be his first two career appearances in majors. (Reed said he played Augusta National three times while leading Augusta State to a pair of NCAA team championships.)

He’s earned just shy of $2 million this season and rocketed from 78th to 22nd on the FedEx Cup points list going into this week’s FedEx Cup playoff opener at The Barclays just outside New York. He has piled up so many points that he’s in the field for the first three playoff events even if he finishes last or doesn’t make a cut.

If he continues his good play — the 23-year-old Reed is one of the tour’s hottest players with three straight top-10 finishes — he’ll play his way into the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

“One of our goals was to get into the playoffs,” Reed said, referring to himself and Justine.

“To be here (in The Barclays) means a lot. To be able to come here and have a shot to get into East Lake, especially in my first year out here as a full (tour) member, it means a lot. It shows our hard work is paying off.”

It also shows Reed picked the right career.