Zach Bixler and Kevin Tucker both dream of playing on the PGA Tour some day.
But they’re both realistic too, and they know things just don’t happen overnight.
So for Bixler — a Richland High School graduate — and Tucker, a Kennewick High grad, the Canadian Professional Golf Tour will do for now.
The two Tri-Citians earned exempt status for the tour last month when they finished in the top 30 at the Canadian Tour Qualifying School tournament, played in San Jacinto, Calif.
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Neither golfer made the cut in the Tour’s first tournament — The Times Colonist Island Savings Open in Victoria. Bixler shot a two-round score of 153, while Tucker missed the cut by one stroke at 143.
But they’re both doing what they love.
“I’ve had aspirations of playing pro golf ever since my junior and senior year in college,” said Bixler, who played at the University of Washington.
But Bixler spent the last few years caddying for Spokane’s Alex Prugh, a teammate of Bixler’s at Washington who was on the PGA Tour.
“I devoted most of my time working for Alex,” said Bixler. “It was tough, but he was nice enough if I wanted to play an event or get ready for Q-school.”
But even though Bixler didn’t swing a club much, he learned a lot by watching.
“A lot of it was from Alex and being with him,” said Bixler. “A lot of it was seeing guys and what they hit on certain holes. Alex said ‘Try to learn something every day.’ I thought I could aply that.”
Bixler, 26, recently moved down to Scottsdale, Ariz., with his girlfriend so he could work on his golf game year-round. He decided to take a shot at the Canadian Tour.
“When it comes down to it, this is where I want to be,” said Bixler. “I’m excited to play week in and week out.”
As for his first tournament, “I still feel fine,” he said. “The course wasn’t set up for my game. I just didnt get anything going. My confidence is still there. The one thing I liked when I joined this tour is that if I played bad, I get to play in another week.”
Tucker couldn’t say that last year.
He was a non-exempt player on the Canadian Tour last year. That meant he had to wait around to see if tournament officials had room for him, and if so, he’d have to get moving on a moment’s notice.
“Being non-exempt was tough,” said Tucker, a former Washington State University standout. “I would drive the whole tour. I’d have a travel partner, we’d split costs, eat at Subway.”
He got a first-hand look at what life is like on a minor tour.
“Entry fees are definitely the cheapest part of the Canadian Tour, because sponsors put up the whole purse,” Tucker said. “The travelling, hotels and food are what cost you the most.”
The 24-year-old said his second round in Victoria cost him.
“I got off to a rough start in the second round,” he said. “I played solid, but I ended up bogeying the 18th. I can’t dwell on it.”
And in golf, letting go of bad things is key.
“Really, it’s all mental,” said Tucker. “That’s what seperates the guys on the PGA Tour all the way down. Really, it’s just who has a short game and who has the best mental game.”
Which gives Tucker confidence coming into this season.
“I feel great,” he said. “I’ve come a long ways from last year. I have a sense of what pro golf is now. I think right now probably my iron play is my strength. I need to get off the tee better. But my putting has always been really solid.”
And if those things aren’t enough to give Bixler and Tucker hope for the future, maybe this nugget fromTucker will: “There are actually eight guys from last year’s tour who have made it to the Nationwide and PGA Tour this year.”
Note: The next Canadian Tour event for Bixler and Tucker comes June 21-24 in Edmonton.