Fifteen months ago, Andrew Putnam made the first set of life-changing decisions for his professional golf career.
He moved from his family in University Place to be alone to work in Scottsdale, Arizona. He hired popular statistics-junkie swing instructor Mark Blackburn, of Birmingham, Alabama, to help smooth out some flaws. And he also hired his first full-time personal trainer — Jason Glass, out of Vancouver, B.C.
All of that led to a great 2014 season on the Web.com Tour — the best of Putnam’s career.
He had 13 top-25 finishes, earned $320,438 and won his first professional tournament at the WNB Golf Classic in Texas. All of that earned him a PGA Tour card for 2014-15.
“Last year was the best year of golf in my life so far,” Putnam said. “You don’t really know by making changes if it will work out — it is a risk for the player as much as the instructor — but I am glad it went the right way.”
Blackburn is a big proponent of giving feedback to his students through an analytical device called “TrackMan.” It measures things such as club-head speed, angle of attack, ball flight and direction.
“As a pro golfer, I only have a certain amount of time to work on my game,” Putnam said. “I feel like I wanted to have numbers to prove one way or another that I was working on the right things — or going in the wrong direction.”
TrackMan has become a standard teaching tool for PGA Tour golfers, but Putnam cautions there is a danger in the amount of data it offers.
“I don’t completely understand it all ... but I don’t want to know everything because I don’t want to get too technical with my swing,” Putnam said.
“A guy like Kevin Chappell (another Blackburn student), he is technical and wants to think through the numbers, and it works great for him.
“It depends who you are. I have a struck a great balance with it.”
With his runner-up finish on the Web.com Tour’s 2014 regular-season money list, Putnam has been included on the short list by many golf pundits as a PGA Tour rookie-of-the-year contender.
“Hype is great as long as you live up to it,” said Putnam, adding his top goal this season is to make it to the FedEx Cup playoffs. “You try and do the best you can, see how you play and think you can do good things.”