If you’ve never been in a PGA pool I recommend you do it.
Whether it’s for money or just fun, it adds a whole new dimension to watching the weekly tournaments.
It might even occupy far more of your time and head space than you’ll realize when you join one.
That certainly happened to me.
Last year I entered the PG Golf Pool. It cost $100 and it was more than worth the cost. The pool, which has been going on for three years, requires picking two players each week. You are only allowed to take one player twice throughout the season, so it requires management, skill and a luck. The point is to have both players qualify for the final 36 holes each week because the money they earn becomes part of a tally for your team for the season. So the point is to accumulate as much money as possible by season’s end.
I had a strategy of picking the best top-ranked players each week and hope they dominated the field. I wasn’t worried about not having them for later in the season because they might have gone cold at that point, laid up with an injury or some other reason which I don’t even remember anymore.
I started off strongly and was in first place at about a third of the way into it and then saw my team fade into oblivion. The winner was Patrick Davis – PDavis was his team name and I wasn’t sure if that was a person, a team or just some made-up name. Maybe it was PDiddy – or Diddy, or whatever he calls himself these days. Whatever, I decided I had to find Patrick and learn more about him and his system.
Patrick is a semi-retired teacher after 27 years of doing it, most recently at Klein Forest High School in Houston where he was also the head coach of the baseball team. Mark went into the pool with his father-in-law, Mark Nilius, a retired Lieutenant-Colonel in the Air Force in which he flew B-52s. He is now living in Phoenix. Patrick said Mark, who at one time was a scratch golfer, still plays regularly and always watches the pro tournaments on TV. So, for purposes of this blog, Mark is the behind-the-scenes counter-intelligence guy.
Patrick was introduced to the pool by Jacob Phillips. He is the tennis coach at the high school in which Patrick coached baseball, and he and his friends have previously participated in the pool. So Jacob is the money analyst who introduced Patrick to this interesting way to cash in on golf tournaments with a minimum investment.
“I’m kind of a golf fan and Jacob said, ‘Hey, you want to be in this pool?’”
Patrick told him it sounded like a good idea.
Patrick and Mark picked one player apiece each week. The plan was to have some of the “big guns” – the ones in the top-10 in the world golf rankings – for the last three tournaments and some of the ones who did well in the four majors. That was contrary to my plan, which of course didn’t work.
They both discussed each other’s picks each week, and if there were any disagreements they talked it over and came to a mutual understanding. Mark spent time each week looking at players and how they had done the year before in tournaments.
In the first half of the tournament, Patrick and Mark were sitting about sixth in the field of 21. I was already smoking a victory cigar.
The turning point – for them and me – was when South Africa’s Garrick Higgo (Titleist Pro V1x), a 22-year-old star on the European circuit, registered his first PGA Tour win in only his second tournament, the Palmetto Championship, in June. He went into it at 45-1 odds. Andy Bankuti, a friend of mine whom I often reference in my blog, had a few dollars on Higgo. Three weeks earlier, Andy picked Higgo in his PGA debut, the PGA Championship, which was part of a pool I do for all the majors. I thought Higgo was a typo and that Andy meant to say Harry Higgs (TaylorMade TP5x). Higgo tied for 64th. I basically dismissed Higgo from my thought process, paying no heed to him playing in The Palmetto three weeks later.
Enter Patrick, more specifically, Mark.
“We usually make our picks sometime Tuesday night and we always look down the list of the players eligible and kind of laugh at each other,” Patrick said. “I asked my father-in-law, ‘Have you ever heard of Garrick Higgo?’ He started laughing and we just laughed it off.”
They were going to go with Ian Poulter (Titleist Pro V1x) and Brandt Snedeker (Bridgestone Tour B330), both of whom had played well in the tournament in the past. All picks are locked in when the tournament begins on Thursday morning, and on Wednesday Mark suggested replacing Snedeker with Higgo.
“Have you lost your mind,” Andy said to him.
“No, I’m serious,” Mark replied. “The guy has been tearing it up on the European Tour.”’
So Patrick begrudgingly dropped Snedeker and took Higgo.
“I did not want to,” Patrick said. “I’m not going to lie to you. I did not want to switch Snedeker. I was almost going to tell (Mark) I couldn’t get it on time to switch the pick. But then I figured he’ll kind of be mad at me.”
Higgo’s win proved father-in-law knows best.
The fact it was Higgo, whom Andy had talked about three weeks before, had me giving myself a head a slap, kind of like the TV commercial in 1978 in which the person slaps his noggin and says, “I could’ve had a V-8.” If you don’t get the reference, you are a youngster as far as I’m concerned.
Next came the U.S. Open the following week and Patrick had Louis Oosthuizen (Titleist Pro V1) and Jon Rahm (Callaway Chrome Soft X). Rahm won by one stroke over Oostie, who made a critical mistake on the second-last hole to lose any hope of catching Rahm.
“Nobody had Oosthuizen in that particular tournament,” Patrick said. “That was a big one and only one other person had Rahm. We made a huge move there and that’s what coasted us into the end.”
As I recall I may have already been fading by then. My cigar had long since lost its appeal.
Incidentally, Higgo subsequently played seven more tournaments, missing three cuts and withdrawing from one more. But for one tournament, he was the best.
The PG Golf pool winner collected $1,200, so Patrick and Mark cashed $600 apiece and had only put in $50 apiece. Now that’s what I call a great return on investment – or ROI for you money guys.
“Picking Garrick Higgo and the guy winning it is just flat-out luck,” Patrick said. “But my father-in-law had him kind of scouted. He dived into it that week and looked at that guy.”
The pool consumed me. I’d spend a few days putting my team together, then would go into a funk if one or two of my choices missed the cut. If they survived the cut, I’d be hoping they either won or finished well enough to earn a hefty paycheck.
“I think (Mark) got pretty consumed with it and so did I, to a point,” Patrick said. “I was always looking on Thursday and Friday to see what’s going on. If you’ve got somebody that’s out of it completely on Saturday or Sunday, I probably said, ‘whatever’ and didn’t pay attention to it. (Mark) was probably watching on Saturday or Sunday regardless, thinking ‘come on, you can make a run here and get us some money.’ He pays attention to it more than I do, but you do get consumed by it. It’s hard not to, especially if you’re in the top-five you’re thinking, ‘I can win this thing down the stretch.’ That’s when it kind of got to me. It’s fun. I enjoyed it. I’m glad I got in to it. It’s a pretty fun deal.”
Sure, Patrick, you won, I faded big time. To coin a racetrack saying, I flashed cheap speed and retreated badly afterward.
The 2022 tournament begins on January 6 and Patrick will start defense of his crown. In the meantime, I will be studying way harder than I ever did for an exam.
Have I learned anything from last year? Yes, a few things. I need to find some dolls that look like Patrick and Mark and put some pins in them. Secondly, I’m going to stop being so hard on myself, especially early on. You can’t win in the beginning, but you can certainly lose if you don’t accumulate some earnings and then finish strongly. Then again, Patrick and Mark basically won off on only two tournaments. Lastly, I’m going to look for that one player who is a long shot and take a flyer on him in a tournament. I don’t know when it will happen, but it will not be Higgo. Ever.
Good luck to all the participants.