Price keeps competitive juices flowing
Andrew Price hits a chip during a USGA Mid-Amateur round at Knollwood Club on Saturday. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 16, 2012 3:02PM
The size of Andrew Price’s gallery at the USGA Mid-Amateur Championship didn’t match his score.
As Price was finishing up a round of 76 on Sunday, a large group of spectators gathered behind the ninth green at Conway Farms Golf Club, where Price has been a member since 1991. After a difficult two days of stroke play, Price wasn’t going to advance to the match-play portion of the event.
The crowd still offered warm applause as he rolled in his final putt.
“I had some friends out there, which was nice,” Price said. “I wish I would’ve played a little better for them, but it was still fun. It was great to play in the tournament.”
The 264-player Mid-Amateur field was cut to 64 on Sunday night for the start of match play on Monday. There are six rounds of match play, culminating with a 36-hole championship match that is scheduled to tee off at 7 a.m. today at Conway Farms.
Like many of the players in the Mid-Am, the 30-year-old Price spent a few years chasing a career on the PGA Tour. This was the kind of moment he might have envisioned when he gave that up in 2008 to move closer to his hometown of Lake Forest.
A standout player at Lake Forest High School — where he helped the Scouts to a Class 2A state title in 1999 — Price was recruited to play college golf at Kansas. He was a solid contributor for the Jayhawks, playing in 47 events in four years and winning the Kansas Invitational as a junior.
Price has pictures of himself holding a golf club when he was just 2 years old, but he didn’t consider playing professionally when he was younger. That Kansas Invitational victory changed everything.
“It wasn’t always the goal,” Price said of the PGA Tour. “It wasn’t until I started playing good in college toward the end of my years that I thought it might be good to give it a try.”
So he did, turning pro after his senior year and heading to Arizona. Almost immediately, he qualified for the 2005 John Deere Classic — his first and only PGA Tour event. He shot 76-78 to miss the cut by a wide margin, chalking it up to a learning experience.
“It’s an awesome experience to play in a PGA Tour event,” Price said. “It was the first big tournament that I’d qualified for, so I was a little shocked. I wasn’t nearly ready for it at all.”
But Price spent most of his time in the not-so-glamorous world of golf’s mini-tours, where talented players toil in anonymity in the hope of getting a shot at the PGA Tour. There was no defining moment where Price realized that he was done playing professionally — just the steady realization that he didn’t love the Arizona heat and he missed being close to home.
“Your expenses are a lot to make a little, and there are a lot of good players,” Price said. “It’s not like the guys who are out on (the PGA) Tour who play for big purses every week.
“I just wanted to come back. Be around family and friends. I wasn’t playing that great at the time, and it was just like I needed a change.”
Price’s experience is a common one.
Scott Rowe, 37, of Hinsdale also missed the cut at the Mid-Am on Sunday, but from 1997-2000 he played professionally on the European and the Asian Tours. He even won the 1998 Maekyeung Open in South Korea, but ultimately returned to Illinois to work in a transaction advisory group for Ernst & Young.
“It’s a lifestyle choice,” Rowe said. “There are people who are exceptionally talented who love the travel, love what it means and what it takes to be a professional golfer. I just don’t have it. I love the game more now than I ever have.”
Glenview’s Kyle Nathan, 28, spent 18 months playing professionally on mini-tours before taking a job at the Chicago Board of Trade. He shot 80-78 this week to miss the cut at the Mid-Am.
“I didn’t do poorly,” Nathan said of his professional career. “Made some cuts, missed some cuts. … It was just kind of a grind.
“It was a recession and money was tight. My parents were footing the bill, so I didn’t really want to put them under any more pressure than they already were.”
Four years removed from his professional playing experience, Price lives in the Lake Bluff home he bought with his wife two months ago. He’s a fourth-generation employee at Price Insurance, his family’s Lake Forest insurance company, and he has found time to play in a handful of tournaments since regaining his amateur status.
He might not be playing golf professionally, but his competitive urges haven’t subsided. He’s already thinking about next year’s Mid-Am.
“Nothing has really changed,” Price said. “I’ve always enjoyed playing, always loved playing tournament golf.” ~.