This week, Sydney’s Jamie Arnold will tee it up in the Web.com Tour’s Air Capital Classic. He will not be thinking about the U.S. Open, being held simultaneously approximately 1,235 kilometers away.
Jamie Arnold is a proud Web.com Tour member, and after everything he’s dealt with over the last three years, he’s not about to walk away from a Tour for a week—especially since his goals are coming into focus—finally.
Last week at the Rust-Oleum Championship outside Chicago, in his 11th Web.com Tour start of the season, Arnold had himself quite a weekend, shooting rounds of 69-68 at Ivanhoe Club to earn his best-career Web.com Tour finish, a tie for fourth. He pocketed US $24,800 and improved from 96th on the money list to 52nd. At the end of the season, the top-75 players on the money list retain their Web.com Tour membership. Arnold, however, has his sights set a little higher.
The top-25 money-winners at the close of the Regular Season (August 27) will earn 2017-18 PGA TOUR membership. Twenty-five additional PGA TOUR cards will be available for the top finishers at the Web.com Tour Finals—a group of four events that run from early September and conclude on October 1 at the Web.com Tour Championship in Atlantic Beach, Fla., just up the road from PGA TOUR headquarters.
So, no, trying to qualify for the U.S. Open wasn’t an option. “It’s a great tournament. Who wouldn’t want to play in the U.S. Open?” Arnold asks. “But for me, what does it really do? I need to stay on the path that will eventually get me to the PGA TOUR.”
That path, naturally, is the Web.com Tour, and the ready-to-turn 34-year-old Arnold is enjoying some of his best success of his 10-year pro career, the 7-under weekend performance last week in Illinois proof of that. Even as an older player on the Web.com Tour, Arnold, always patient, sees this portion of his career as just another part of his overall process.
“I’ve always been—ever since I was a kid—two years behind everyone. Someone would get on the Web.com Tour at 23. It took me to until I was 25. I was always just a little behind,” Arnold observed. Most recently, a serious injury has slowed his progress. Here’s the recap.
At the PGA TOUR China’s Yulongwan Yunnan Open in October 2015, Arnold had opened 68-68 and was contending midway through his third round. On the ninth hole at Yulongwan Golf Club, Arnold hit his approach shot to the green and immediately knew something was wrong. It was a normal shot. He didn’t hit a tree root or a rock. And his ball landed safely on the green. Yet his left wrist was in trouble. He figured—correctly—that he had torn a ligament.
“I was coming top-10 going into the weekend. I needed the money. I wanted to finish top-10 on that Tour and get to the (Q School) Finals. But by playing on, I did more damage. But with me playing another nine holes, it went from something that might have been three weeks or a month (to heal) to I was out six months.”
Arnold withdrew following the third round, after an even-par 72, and headed back to Sydney. Little did he know that he would spend the next six months sidelined, unable to play.
After seeing an orthopedist who performed an MRI that “looked fine,” noting his injury was “just a sprain,” Arnold flew to Suva for the Fiji International. “I hit one shot on the range, and I just knew it was toast,” Arnold recalls. “I hit my shot maybe 35 meters. The pain was so excruciating. I had to shut it down. So I flew back to the U.S., and I was in an awful spot, really. My wrist took so long (to heal).
“I was pretty scared I wasn’t going to be able to play again,” Arnold continued. “I’m in a foreign country. I have a kid here (Luke). It’s not like in Australia, where I could go get a job. I’m on a sports visa. There was a lot of stuff going through my head.”
Eventually, the wrist healed and Arnold gained enough confidence to hit full shots, no longer scared of the pain or tearing the ligament again. Unfortunately, by then Arnold had no playing status on any Tour, China included. By missing the final five tournaments of the 2015 PGA TOUR China season, Arnold tumbled to 56th on the 2015 Order of Merit. The top-50 players retained their cards.
“The last four or five years, I’ve done whatever I’ve had to do to survive. Basically, during the time of my injury, I thought, If I get another chance at this, I have to seize the opportunity.”
That first opportunity started at the OneAsia Tour Qualifying Tournament in Malaysia, a tournament he won after arriving at the course a day before.
“That was enormous. OneAsia was on the dip, but by winning Q School I knew it would get me into the Volvo China Open, it would get me the Australian Open and a couple of other events. It was a huge boost of confidence.”
That confidence continues today. Arnold qualified for the 2016 Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament outside Orlando, Fla., in December, opened with a first-round 67 and finished with a 69 to tie for 19th and earn full membership for the 2017 season, a first in his career. Oh, and the US $8,500 he won for that finish didn’t hurt, either.
Prior to the Rust-Oleum Championship, Arnold said his goal was to be inside the top 50 on the Order of Merit after this week’s Air Capital Classic. It seemed like a heady goal at the time, but he’s almost there, a mere US $669 behind No. 50 Jonathan Hodge because of the good work he did in Illinois. So far, so good.
“At the end of 2015, I had my son, who was just over a year old. I maybe had (US) $500 in the bank. I had torn through all my savings. I had nothing. The good thing about golf is that when you have events, you can always go out and make money,” Arnold added. “But when you physically can’t [play], and your path to making money isn’t there, that was a dark time.”
The sky has brightened considerably in Arnold’s life, and it has nothing to do with Wichita’s sunny, summer weather.
(Story via PGA Tour. Photo courtesy of the Arnold family)