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A Walk Nearly Spoiled (Part Three)
RICHMOND, Va. – Despite his less than stellar performance on The Big Break II show, Scott Yancy’s performance earned him the attention of Hooters Tour which offered him entry into a number of events.
He prepared to tackle the professional ranks, only to have his plans set back by what he deems, “Strange happenings and bad luck.”
In his first event, Scott was sitting at even par after 12 holes when he suffered a pulled chest muscle that forced him to withdraw.
After recovering from that injury, he prepared to enter his second Hooters event when he says it was “almost cancelled because of a possible tornado.” Because his financial backers provided him with very little money, he drove all night for 12 hours, arriving at the event site at 2 am.
This left him with about four hours of sleep before the tournament, where he subsequently shot consecutive rounds of 75 and 79. This left him 12 strokes over par, not nearly enough to make the cut.
According to Yancy, his third tournament turned even weirder. This was a Canadian Tour event – several levels below the PGA – in Mexico, and after getting off to what he considered a great start (three under par through four holes), he says that a spectator shot at him after in retaliation for a stray ball that ended up in the man’s yard during a practice round the day before.
Needless to say, this altered his mindset.
“After being shot at, I was honestly a little shaken up and ended up firing 81 and was out of it.” His final pro attempt was no better, leaving him frustrated.
He says that his financial backer went bankrupt right before he made his first pro tournament cut, leaving him with very little money after expenses. Not seeing a way to continue, he headed back home to Illinois and found work at Victoria’s Secret, the ubiquitous lingerie retailer.
In September 2007, I and a number of other people received a surprising early-morning email message from Scott Yancy. After his rather difficult first attempt at a pro career, Scott indicated that he wanted one more shot at making a career as a professional golfer.
That message hinted at his troubles the first time around, and gave some insight into his life since. Scott told of his coming “back home without a dollar in my pocket,” saying that he was “forced into the working world.” Unable to cope with his seeming misfortune, he claims that he “didn’t play in a golf event for 16 months.”
Scott says that in 2007, the United States Golf Association – the official governing body of organized golf in America – allowed him to regain his status as an amateur, indicating that he no longer warranted consideration as a professional for competition purposes.
With this newfound status, he was able to play in a qualifying tournament for the United States Mid-Amateur Championship, an event featuring some of the best adult amateurs in the country. He finished in 36th place, but considered that a victory since he had not played much in the preceding years.
Although he held respectable employment, the Anderson University business graduate, believes that his life was “in shambles [because] I have to go to work every day knowing that I’m wasting the talent that God has given me to play golf.”
Believing that he still had the ability to play professionally, Scott told of his decision to attempt a return to professional status in January 2009. He asserted that his golfing game would be ready by then for him to pursue his dream.
Had I not initially recognized his name, I would have taken Yancy’s e-mail as spam, regulating it to the pile of messages to be deleted. However, his attempt to reach out, even to writers who covered him in previous stories, seemed an interesting tactic, one asking for a follow-up story to be pursued.
Reaching him via email, Scott was blunt about the status of his professional aspirations. “I’m stuck” he noted, “I’m not playing on tour because I have zero sponsorship. I am currently working as a manager for Victoria’s Secret.”
Compared to most professional golfers, Scott started playing the game later in his youth. He tried out for his high school golf team during his junior year, shortly after taking up the sport, and he claims that he made the team over “125 to 150 kids trying to make the cut for 6 or 7 spots” on what he deemed one of “the best high school squads in America.”
Though he never won any high school or youth tournaments, he says that he played well enough to enough to earn a scholarship offer from Kentucky State University, a historically black institution that sponsored a Division II team.
Feeling that his inexperience was holding him back, he transferred to Anderson University, a Division III school in Indiana, where he says that he felt more comfortable.
At Anderson, Scott would be able to play golf closer to his home and family. The lower level of competition afforded at Division III schools also seemed easier for him to handle.
Coaches at KSU and Anderson did not reply to my repeated phone and email inquiries about Scott. When I asked Scott about this, he attributed their unresponsiveness to negative feelings generated by his testy departures from both schools.
“My coaches aren’t the best people to contact, honestly. I think my Indiana (Anderson) coach never really got over the fact that I am determined to make it with or without him, and my Kentucky State coach is still rather mad that I left there to go back to Indiana. I haven’t spoken to him since I left.”
Scott left school just short of graduation to pursue a shot on the Gateway Tour. He entered several events to no avail and eventually returned to school to finish his undergraduate business administration degree in May 2004.
A year later, he saw the information about the “Big Break” reality show, and to his surprise he made it into the competition. Then followed the series of unfortunate events that he believes landed him in Victoria’s Secret and out of professional golf.
As he said, “three years in the shadow of the Big Break, and I’m still trying to find a way to keep playing and achieve my goal of playing on the PGA Tour.”
Recognizing that his background and formal golf education paled in comparison to the current crop of top-level pros, he believed that he would have to “take an unconventional route,” but he proclaimed that he “won’t stop until [his] name is on top of the PGA.”
In 2008, Scott laid out a plan to reach his goals. Sizing up various competitive opportunities, he intended to play in the Illinois and Missouri state amateur championships and other local tournaments that were not too far from his home.
Then, he would pursue entry into national amateur events.
“My plan is simple,” he said, “I will compete in [regional] US Open qualifying [events], the US Amateur qualifying process, the US Mid-Amateur, US Public Links Championship qualifying, and the Western Amateur.”
He hoped that success in the regional qualifying events would lead to actual entry in the national events to qualify him for the US Open, or he hoped that winning one of the national amateur events would earn him an invitation to the Master’s. If he made the Masters, he “would turn pro and start playing golf again full time.”
For an Illinois mall employee with less than 10 years of competitive golf under his belt, this was an ambitious undertaking. The golf world is full of men and women who labored for years, individuals with more experience, training, and financial support than Scott – men and women who never quite made the big time.
Despite the long road ahead, by the time we talked, Scott offered up that he had won his most recent tournament, a local event with golfers of varying talents. According to him, “It is a local tournament (where) a bunch of the top players in St. Louis get together a few times a year and beat each others’ brains out for bragging rights. It’s been known as the Dave Thomas Invitational. It felt so great to get the juices flowing again and to know that after all this time I can still compete.”
As it turns out, the “Dave Thomas Invitational” is merely a local money game, not an officially-sanctioned event.
A few months later, Scott’s circuitous journey took another detour, this time a southern one. When I inquired about how things were progressing, Scott eagerly informed me that he’d found a home on another organized golf tour.
He said, “I’m still out chasing my dream of playing on the PGA Tour and grinding away. I moved to Warsaw, IN for two months and trained under a great teacher and player, Denny Hepler. My game improved dramatically.”
With the upswing in his game, he headed out for more action. As he says, “I made my way home to St. Louis for a tournament where I won and picked up a sponsor and some endorsements along the way.”
“I am now playing golf on the Tarheel Professional Golf Tour in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia for the remainder of the  season leading up to PGA Tour Qualifying School in October . My first event on the Tarheel Tour will start Thursday, July 10 at the Southern Open.”
Scott confidently encouraged me to keep tabs on his from afar saying, “You can follow my progress on the Tarheel Tour’s website at www.tarheeltour.com.”
I took him up on his offer and began monitoring his play over the next few months. It was interesting.