At the end of last season, a graph of David Hearn's progression toward golf stardom would have been a straight line heading at an acute angle, skyward.
Even Hearn, or should we say, especially Hearn, knew this wasn't a trend to be trusted absolutely. The Brantford native, while confident in his abilities, has the insight and maturity to recognize that bumps in the road are inevitable. Necessary, even.
So, yes, there is some disappointment that this season hasn't been a seamless transition for Hearn from golf's minor leagues into the majors. But Hearn is taking it all in stride.
To review, 25-year-old Hearn started the 2004 season on the Asian Tour, came back to Canada to play some on the unglamorous Great Lakes Tour, stepped up to the Canadian Tour, where he had played the past two years, and, ultimately, won a Nationwide Tour event in Alberta.
In the end, he finished 35th on the Nationwide Tour money list, earning an exemption into the final stage of the PGA Tour Qualification Tournament. He went into the final day of that six-round marathon tied for second. He came close to blowing his big chance but rallied late to get his PGA card with one shot to spare.
If this was Hollywood, Hearn would have stepped up and taken the PGA Tour by storm in 2005. In reality, the place where Hearn lives his life, not so much.
Well down on the PGA priority list, Hearn has had trouble getting into tournaments. When he did get in, he missed his first three cuts but has made it into the money his past three tries, earning $33,647 US in the process.
He has been supplementing his PGA Tour events with some from the Nationwide Tour. Last week Hearn had his best showing of the year, a third-place finish at the Nationwide Tour's Rheem Classic in Fort Smith, Ark. He closed strongly with rounds of 67 and 65 on the weekend.
"It was nice to put up some good scores. This week we're playing another pretty good course where the scores are usually pretty low. That's good because it all prepares you for where you want to be."
He's back on the Nationwide Tour today at the Henrico County Open in Virginia. After this weekend, though, Hearn is expecting to get a steady diet of PGA events throughout the summer months.
"Obviously I expected to get off to a better start," he said. "It has been more difficult than I anticipated to get into tournaments and when I have got in, I haven't played the way I know I can.
"The good thing is that I still have the majority of my season ahead of me and I'm looking forward to playing more consistently.
So, while his record doesn't speak volumes, he is soaking it all up, awaiting his chance.
"It doesn't take much," he said. "If you get on a hot streak, you can solidify your position very quickly. Just look at Sean O'Hair (runner-up last weekend at the Byron Nelson). He has been able to establish himself. If your game is solid and you're able to get into a good run, anything can happen. It's never far off."
Early in the year, established PGA Tour players play more often, leaving newcomers such as Hearn on the outside looking in.
"I've been told that will change starting with Memphis (the FedEx St. Jude Classic)," he said. "From that point on, I should be able to play wherever I want for the rest of the summer."
From there, it's up to Hearn to make enough money to get in the top 125 and secure playing privileges for next year. Obviously every player without exempt status is aware, on some level, where he stands on that crucial list of money earned. But if he lets it become a millstone around his neck, Hearn knows failure can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"I'm not looking at it any way but this: If I play the way I want to play and the way I know I can play, the top 125 will never be a factor. It's the same way in individual tournaments. If you get a number in your head of where you want to finish, then you'll find yourself out there trying to protect a score, not playing to win."
Hearn is playing this game to win. He has talent. He has a strong work ethic. And, right now when it matters most, he has his feet planted firmly on the ground.