SAN FRANCISCO – Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley quietly made his way to the far right end of The Olympic Club’s driving range Tuesday, seemingly trying to avoid the din surrounding golf’s biggest names.
He dropped his bag at a stall between Stanford golfer Cameron Wilson and England’s Lee Slattery, a one-time winner on the European Tour.
Except for a couple of approaching teenagers who wanted to videotape Stanley’s swing, it was a relatively peaceful place to hit golf balls in preparation of the 112th U.S. Open.
Driving by in a cart, Portland’s Peter Jacobsen stopped to watch Stanley take one swing, then yelled amid increasing wind gusts, “Feels like home, huh? Feels like Gig Harbor.”
Stanley turned to the longtime touring professional and smiled.
He still has fans.
He still has support.
And even after a few turbulent months on the PGA Tour – on and off the course – Stanley knows he still has a very bright future.
To say his season has been uneven since his maiden professional victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in early February might be too kind. Starting in March, he has missed cuts in six of the 10 events he has played, including the Masters in April.
His best finish during that span was last week’s tied-for-49th effort at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn.
Slumps happen. What Stanley could not possibly anticipate was the extracurricular stuff that comes with winning a PGA Tour tournament at age 24, and establishing himself as a coming superstar.
“There was a lot going on,” Stanley said. “I wasn’t happy. A lot of people were kind of involved (in trying to influence decisions).”
It all came to a head after his missed cut at the Masters. He knew changes had to be made.
The key ones:
• Mike Taylor, an instructor at Sea Island Golf Learning Center, has been Stanley’s trusted set of eyes late in his college career at Clemson, and since he turned professional in 2009.
But in the weeks after Stanley’s win in Phoenix, the two parted ways. It was a move the Bellarmine Prep graduate regretted – and later corrected.
“I got back to my old team,” Stanley said.
• Brett Waldman, the bubbly caddie who helped Stanley to that memorable victory, is not on the bag this week. Dave Woosley, a PGA Tour caddie since the 1980s for the likes of Chip Beck, Ian Leggett and Arron Oberholser, is. This may or may not be a permanent change.
• One of the people who has seemed to really impact Stanley the most in recent weeks is Julie Elion, a Washington, D.C.-based mental coach, who worked with Phil Mickelson as late as last summer.
That is the brain trust that is at The Olympic Club this week, trying to help Stanley get over the hump from a brutally trying three-month stretch.
“Yeah, it’s been probably the first time in golf that it wasn’t a whole lot of fun. It felt like a job – and that was the first time it just felt like a job,” Stanley said.
“I have always based everything on hard work. If I play well, there is a direct correlation to my preparation. If I don’t, it is a direct correlation of my preparation. A lot of the (poor play) had to do with the amount I was working. I wasn’t working very hard.”firstname.lastname@example.org