Firing on all SindelarsPGA 'warrior' enjoying long-awaited security that comes with making cuts
By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun
One day last January, Canadian Glen Hnatiuk was standing on the practice tee at PGA West, preparing for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
He was talking about the grind of being a touring pro, a grind that has gotten progressively tougher over the years, as the golf mill keeps churning out talented young players looking for a piece of the pie.
"This is a tough, tough racket," he said. "You hear a lot about all the top guys and the money and the fame, but there are hundreds of guys -- good players -- out here busting their butts to make a living."
Hnatiuk gazed down the line and his eyes settled on a middle-aged guy with the body of a sportswriter.
"Look at that man right there. Now that's a warrior, grinding it out, week after week, month after month, year after year. How can you not admire a guy like that?"
He was looking at Joey Sindelar.
If you've been coming to the Canadian Open for the past 21 years, you'll probably recognize the name because he's been here all but one of them. He's back again this year and on a rain-soaked Thursday, he caught a little lightning in a bottle.
With half the field still to report a score in Round 1, Sindelar leads the Canadian Open by two shots at five-under-par 66. A few minutes after his round ended, the 46-year-old, sat in an easy chair in the press room, his enthusiasm oozing from every pore.
"It took me 20 years to get into this building," said Sindelar. "I've had other good finishes here but I just seemed to sneak in late, never making myself obvious."
He's been a fulltime pro since 1984 and a regular in the top-50 money earners in the early years. By 1990, he had six Tour victories and six runner-ups. And then .... nothing.
NO WINS IN 14 YEARS
He went 14 years without a victory, all the while churning out paycheques that would put him in the top 125 and allow him to keep his Tour card year after year.
Then, when he figured he was probably biding his time until he could join the Legends tour, Sindelar scored again, at this year's Wachovia Championship.
"Winning has done everything," he said. "It wasn't even the money to be honest. It's knowing I have a job for a couple of years after. I can now take six weeks off and miss the next five cuts, then show up the next five weeks and they've got to take me.
"It's pretty cool. I haven't experienced that in a long time."
There is a big difference, he says, between simply surviving and really competing.
"It's easy to get lost out here. It's hard. You're under the gun every week and all of a sudden the cut becomes the big thing. Unless you make the cut, you can't play on the weekend. You need to get to the weekend, because that's where the money is.
"And that's what's important, being able to play without having to make the cut; playing with freedom."
Typically, Sindelar took his freedom a little for granted yesterday, pulling into the parking lot at Glen Abbey about 40 minutes ahead of his tee time.
"And I had not eaten anything," he said.
"But I function better -- just one of those goofballs -- when it's a mess. If I'm standing around with a lot of time to burn, I go crazy."
This is a man who clearly knows himself because he handled the tough conditions at the Abbey better than anyone else.
As a result of winning this year, he's earned $1.3 million, more than double what he's made in any year since 1988. He says he owes it all to the realization that nothing is more important than a good short game.
"All of a sudden it dawned on me a couple of years ago that Vijay and Tiger and Ernie, as great as they play tee-to-green, they don't pummel me. They don't smear me every week because of tee-to-green differences. I'm not saying I'm as good as them, just that it's not a huge gap.
"The huge gap is that they hit the ball great and have fabulous short games, and I didn't. So I've been on a two-year journey, quizzing these guys. These guys, the Tour players, are incredibly generous. They will help you if you go to them."
Maybe. But it probably helps to have their respect before you ask.