Life’s byways tend to wind, veer, switch back and eventually intersect for siblings. That’s the nature of family.
In many ways, University Place’s Michael and Andrew Putnam are your typical brothers: They love each other. They support each other. They are good-hearted, family-first siblings who share common goals. And in the heat of competitive activities, they can talk a healthy amount of smack toward each other.
Career-wise, they are unlike any set of brothers from around here: They walk the same fairways of tour golf.
Michael, 30, is the second-oldest of four Putnam brothers. He already has played on the PGA Tour on two separate occasions. Derailed by a wrist injury in 2011, he is back to the Web.com Tour. This season, he has won two tournaments and is the tour’s money leader ($386,634).
Andrew, 24, is third-oldest, but is 51/2 years younger than Michael. He is in his rookie season on the Web.com Tour and is 27th on the season earnings list ($85,012).
At the end of the season, the top 25 will earn their PGA Tour privileges for next season.
“Andrew is not clingy, or hanging onto Michael,” said Dan Putnam, father of the two. “The comfort zone between them is nice, but Andrew doesn’t text his brother asking him, ‘When are you playing, when are you playing?’ He is not trying to follow his older brother around; rather, it is more Michael putting himself out there.”
At the outset, the arrangement between the brothers was simple: If Andrew had a question, Michael usually had an answer.
Beyond that, nobody really knew how the tour-life relationship would develop.
Being far apart in age, both brothers concede they weren’t inseparable growing up. Rather, each had his own circle of friends.
“We spent a lot of time together, and did family vacations and did close family trips and hung out playing games at night,” Michael said. “But it wasn’t like we were best friends.”
The Web.com Tour season started in Panama in late February, then moved on to Colombia and finally to Chile for a three-tournament swing south of the border.
The travel dynamic was different than in the States. Golfers usually stayed in the same hotel or resort, which meant the Putnams hung out all the time.
And at the Chile Classic, the two were grouped together for the first time as professionals. It was an instant learning experience.
Both started out well — with 5-under-par 67s in the first round.
“It was like playing a practice round at Tacoma Golf and Country Club,” Michael said.
The next day was completely different. While Michael cruised to another 67, Andrew was up and down the entire second round. And at the end of each hole, his position seemingly teetered from being inside the cut line to outside of it.
“It was hard to watch,” Michael said. “I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to do — make a sly, funny comment or be encouraging or let him be angry. It was the newest situation to be in, and I didn’t really know how to react.”
Once the tour returned to the United States, so, too, did the Putnams’ differing schedule of travel habits.
Because Andrew is in his first year on the Web.com Tour, he tends to try to arrive on Sundays to view the course.
Alongside him is his caddying cousin, Greg Bodine, who is nine months older. Both men are single.
Michael is married with two children — and his family tends to travel with him. Since he has seen most of the course layouts on tour, he tends to come in a day later.
When the two Putnams do play a practice round together, Michael will offer unsolicited advice about how to play a particular hole.
Whether Andrew adheres to it is an entirely different matter.
“Honestly, Andrew is pretty independent and a self-secure guy,” Bodine said. “Michael likes to talk golf during and after a round. And I’ve learned with Andrew, once the round is done, he likes to focus on other things.”
After Michael recorded back-to-back wins at the Mexico Championship and Mid-Atlantic Championship earlier this year, not only did he shoot to the top of the money list, but suddenly he was being marketed as the tour’s budding superstar.
“That is when you began hearing some of the other guys joke with Andrew, ‘Why do you let your brother beat up on you like that?’ ” Bodine said. “And Andrew would always respond, ‘Well, you are $350,000 behind him, too.’ ”
More than advice, what Michael has really shown his brother is how to play at the highest level, and how to win on the Web.com Tour.
“Him having success, it spurs you on to play well yourself,” Andrew said. “It would be less helpful to me if he was 50th on the money list instead of first. If I saw him as a veteran out here not playing as well, then I would probably be more satisfied with what I’ve done, which in golf is a bad thing.”
Since Michael’s victory in Mexico, Andrew has not missed a tournament cut, going 5-for-5 with three top-15 finishes.
His best showing was a tie for seventh at the Rex Hospital Open in late June in Raleigh, N.C., after opening with a career-low 62 in the first round.
“I have joked around that I was his tour guide for those first three tournaments,” Michael said. “Since then, he kind of does his own thing, plays practice rounds when he wants to play them.”
They are still family. On certain nights on the road, they eat dinner together — whether it is just the two of them separately, or with fellow players, or with Bodine and Joel Putnam, the eldest brother who is Michael’s caddie — or even with Michael’s entire household when the family accompanies him on the road.
“He is still an uncle to my kids,” Michael said. “He has to hang out sometime.”
It isn’t unprecedented, but it is uncommon for brothers to play together full time on the Web.com Tour like University Place’s Michael and Andrew Putnam. Here is a list of others who have done it:
Tom and Curt Byrum1994
Oddly enough, each registered his lone PGA Tour victory in same year — 1989.
Chris and Kevin Riley1998
Younger brother Chris won on PGA Tour, played on 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Deane and Brenden Pappas2001
Brothers from South Africa have each won on Web.com Tour.
Jeff and Robin Freeman2003
Robin won two Web.com events in 1998; Jeff is a two-time runner-up.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/golf firstname.lastname@example.org